2003 April 07 Monday
John Keegan: Events In Iraq Have Not Been A Real War

John Keegan, whose assorted books on military history (e.g. The Face Of Battle and The Mask Of Command) demonstrate his familiarity with battles and wars, argues that what we have been watching unfold in Iraq has been such a total debacle for the Iraqis that it can not properly be called a war. (free registration required at the Daily Telegraph)

Because the war has taken such a strange form, the media, particularly those at home, may be forgiven for their misinterpretation of how it has progressed. Checks have been described as defeats, minor firefights as major battles. In truth, there has been almost no check to the unimpeded onrush of the coalition, particularly the dramatic American advance to Baghdad; nor have there been any major battles. This has been a collapse, not a war.

Keegan ticks off a list of things that Saddam should have done had he been intent in slowing the allied advance: destroy the Umm Qasr port facilities, blow up bridges as his forces retreated northward, use paramilitaries for harassment instead of for direct attacks, and use forces more talented than the Baath Party members to hold cities.

Some attribute the punishment that the totalitarian regime has meted out to anyone who doesn't follow orders exactly as an explanation for why the Iraqi soldiers in the field didn't take obvious actions to slow the US advance.

This chronic lack of initiative may also explain why vital bridges across the Euphrates and Tigris were never blown up as the US forces advanced closer to Baghdad.

Commander of British forces in Iraq Air Marshal Brian Burridge thinks the degree of improvisation involved in fighting in Iraq makes war more like jazz music.

"In the cold war, you knew who the enemy was; you knew his kit; you knew his doctrine; you knew his training. All you had to do was to play the music, set down in notation and conducted from the front.

"Now, there's a constantly moving kaleidoscope, and you have to improvise. War used to be like symphony music - now it's like jazz."

Update: Keegan examines the question of why did so many pundits call the war so wrong?

When the history of the campaign comes to be written, that to which it may be compared is the German blitzkrieg in France in 1940. The distances covered are similar; so is the speed of advance; so is the extent of the collapse.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 07 04:50 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War

Jake said at April 7, 2003 8:22 PM:

It is possible that Saddam tried to do everything he should have done. But the special ops guys prevented the Iraqis from carrying out their orders.

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