Assessing the Conflict in Iraq

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 21, 2004 | Go to article overview

Assessing the Conflict in Iraq


Byline: Mackubin Thomas Owens, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In the immediate wake of the first Gulf War, a number of "instant analyses" of the conflict were published. Some were better than others, but in general, they were not very good. An expert analysis of the decisions and a detailed description of the framework within which they were made had to await the publication of "The Generals' War" by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.

Mr. Gordon and Mr. Trainor are at work on a book about Operation Iraqi Freedom, but this time we don't have to wait for a first-rate description and analysis of that conflict, thanks to the publication of "The Iraq War: A Military History," written by the first-rate military historian Williamson Murray and by retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert H. Scales, Jr., who brings not only his operational experience to the book but a Ph.D. in history from Duke University.

Mr. Murray and Mr. Scales are proponents of what has been termed the "new military history," an approach that places decisions about policy and strategy into their social and political context. War, after all, does not occur in a vacuum.

The authors are also "Clausewitzians": They take their analytical bearings from the Prussian "philosopher of war" Carl von Clausewitz who taught, among other things, the subordination of war to political purposes; the persistence of "general friction" as a structural component of combat; and the seeming impossibility of eliminating uncertainty from war. In the past the authors have cited increasing evidence suggesting that war is by nature a "non-linear" phenomenon.

"The Iraq War" is arranged topically. It begins with a discussion of the 1991 Gulf War. Then it addresses the origins of the recent war and the military potential of both sides. It deals separately with the ground campaign in southern Iraq, the British war in Basra and the south, the air war, and the end of the campaign.

The authors conclude with a useful analysis of the war's military and political implications. The volume contains some excellent maps, a selection of stunning color photographs, and an appendix describing the weapon systems available to both sides.

Mr. Murray and Mr. Scales offer primarily an operational-level assessment of the war. While they certainly don't ignore political and strategic factors (and they couldn't even if they tried), they focus on the war as a campaign, the series of movements and combats designed to achieve a strategic goal within a theater of operations.

The authors clearly had access to major military decision-makers and after-action reports. But as seasoned military historians, they go far beyond mere reportage, offering concise judgments about both the planning and the conduct of the campaign.

Most chapters and sections in "The Iraq War" begin with an epigraph, sometimes from a contemporary writer but more often from one long dead, e.g. Thucydides, Tacitus, Clausewitz, and Winston Churchill. These epigraphs serve to remind the reader of Clausewitz's dictum that technological advances may affect the guise of war, but the nature of war is basically immutable.

War remains a violent clash between opposing wills, each seeking to prevail over the other. In Clausewitz's formulation, the will of the combatants is directed at an animate object that reacts, often in unanticipated ways. This cyclical interaction between opposing wills occurs in a realm of chance and chaos.

Operation Iraqi Freedom differed considerably from Operation Desert Storm. While the latter took place sequentially, the plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom sought to cause paralysis and the collapse of the regime by means of the simultaneous applications of air, ground, and special-operations force against the pillars of Saddam's power: the Ba'ath party, internal security forces, and the Republican Guard.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Assessing the Conflict in Iraq
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.