Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A sobering look at the Iraq invasion--skill or luck?

Was the American victory in deposing Saddam Hussein the result of superior technology, brilliant war planning, and strategic superiority or more the result of luck and improvisation on the ground? A recent report from the US Army points in the later direction.

David Zucchino reported in the LA Times (registration required)

American soldiers who defeated the Iraqi regime 15 months ago received virtually none of the critical spare parts they needed to keep their tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles running. They ran chronically short of food, water and ammunition. Their radios often failed them. Their medics had to forage for medical supplies, artillery gunners had to cannibalize parts from captured Iraqi guns and intelligence units provided little useful information about the enemy.

These revelations come not from embedded reporters or congressional committees but from the Army itself. In the first internal assessment of the war in Iraq, an exhaustive Army study has concluded that American forces prevailed despite supply and logistical failures, poor intelligence, communication breakdowns and futile attempts at psychological warfare.

The study, titled "On Point" and aimed at "lessons learned," is at odds with the public perception of a technologically superior invasion force that easily drove Hussein from power. In fact, as the authors point out in their battle-by-battle narrative, there were many precarious moments when U.S. units were critically short of fuel and ammunition, with little understanding of the forces arrayed against them.

The study credits a relatively junior commander — Col. David Perkins of the Second Brigade of the Third Infantry Division — with shortening the war with a bold armored strike into the heart of Baghdad on April 7. Perkins' "thunder run" surprised Baghdad's defenders with its speed and firepower, collapsing the regime from within before Iraqi forces could draw the Americans into a protracted urban war.

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