The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons

The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons

The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons

The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons


"In the spring of 2003, a stunned world watched the armed forces of America and Britain conduct a lightning-last military campaign against Iraq. Confounding predictions of failure, the Iraqi regime was dismantled, and much of the conventional wisdom about modern war was irrevocably altered. Yet as U. S. and British forces occupied Basra, Tikrit, and Mosul, the Iraqi nation slipped into anarchy - and the phrase "shock and awe" began to sound more appropriate as a description of the war's aftermath, rather than its opening. Such has been the twisted trail of the Iraq War's dramatic events. But like so many other conflicts, the war ultimately seemed to pose more questions than it solved. This book is the first in-depth analysis of the second war against Saddam Hussein's regime. What are the repercussions of the pre-war political fights in Washington, Paris, and the UN? Was victory really due to the brilliance of Anglo-American arms, or had Saddam's regime simply been too degraded to fight? Why didn't Baghdad become a second Stalingrad? Why weren't the occupying forces prepared to impose order? And then there is the mother of all questions: Where are Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?" "Respected military analyst Anthony Cordesman incisively examines the key issues swirling around the most significant American war since Vietnam. Beginning the search for answers is essential to understanding America's awesome power and its place in a new age of international terror and regional conflict." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


It is important to begin this analysis with an admission of ignorance. It is almost as arrogant to rush to judgment on the lessons of a war before all the data on military operations become available as it was to rush to judge the war plan before the success of coalition operations became apparent. History is filled with efforts to make instant judgments about the lessons of war that ultimately proved to be based on false information and assumptions.

Some important lessons of the war are clear. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, the commander of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) and the overall commander of the coalition forces, summarized these lessons in testimony to Congress on July 9, 2003. Secretary Rumsfeld summarized the key lessons as follows:

…In less than a month, they [U.S. military planners] had developed and
were executing a war plan for Afghanistan employing a range of capabili
ties—from the most advanced (such as laser-guided weapons), to the an
tique (40-year-old B-52s updated with modern electronics) to the
rudimentary (a cavalry charge)—they and our Afghan and coalition allies
drove the Taliban and al-Qaeda from power in a matter of months. The
plan they developed for Operation Iraqi Freedom was even more innova
tive and transformational—employing an unprecedented combination of
speed, precision, surprise, and flexibility.

The Iraqi regime very likely expected the war to begin, as did the 1991
Gulf War, with a sustained bombing campaign. Instead, General Franks
started the ground attack before the air campaign—sending a large force of
Special Operators into Western Iraq, followed by thousands of coalition
forces streaming across the Kuwaiti border. Instead of a long march
through the South, with pitched battles for each city along the way, they drove
through to reach the gates of Baghdad in a matter of weeks—liberating the
Iraqi capital and toppling the regime in less than a month.

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