What does the "American Way of War" mean? Historians of my generation will be gratified to know that at least as of today the number one Google entry for the term is Russell F. Weigley's book that first popularized it. But continue Googling, and you will soon stumble into a controversial and often acrimonious debate that has little to do with Weigley's thesis. Gaffney, or others—is a vibrant and evolving discussion about current and future U. If senior American military historians have difficulty understanding this hijacking of "their American Way of War," then other scholars must be completely at a loss.
|Published (Last):||26 February 2019|
|PDF File Size:||2.53 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||13.40 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Grant to destroy Robert E. Lee's army in , by John J. Pershing to wear down the German army in , and by the U. Army Air Force to pulverize all the major cities of Germany and Japan in In this view, the Civil War, World War I, and World War II were won not by tactical or strategic brilliance but by the sheer weight of numbers -- the awesome destructive power that only a fully mobilized and highly industrialized democracy can bring to bear.
In all these conflicts, U. Much the same methods characterized the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, though with decreasing levels of success; the former being a costly draw, the latter a bloody failure. The first Gulf War was much more successful, but in many ways, it still fit the traditional, firepower-intensive mode: more than five weeks of relentless bombing was followed by a massive armored onslaught. Although the "left hook" that swept around Iraqi forces entrenched in Kuwait showed some operational flair, it was hardly a gamble -- the eight-division allied force was so heavy that it simply crushed everything in its path.
As with all generalizations, this view of the American way of war has always needed some qualification. There have always been some generals, such as Stonewall Jackson and George S. Patton, who favored dazzling maneuvers over costly frontal assaults. And there have been many "small wars" in America's past that were carried out in a far more modest manner.
But as a description of the main U. Its time is now past, however. Spurred by dramatic advances in information technology, the U. It seeks a quick victory with minimal casualties on both sides. Its hallmarks are speed, maneuver, flexibility, and surprise. It is heavily reliant upon precision firepower, special forces, and psychological operations. And it strives to integrate naval, air, and land power into a seamless whole. This approach was put powerfully on display in the recent invasion of Iraq, and its implications for the future of American war fighting are profound.
This new American way of war has been a long time in the making; its roots trace back to defense reforms of the s. In recent years its most high-profile advocate has been Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Around the Pentagon, his mantra of "transformation" has become a bit of a joke -- a buzzword that is applied to just about any weapons system or program championed by any of the services.
The army claimed that its canceled Crusader heavy howitzer was, you guessed it, "transformational. They are referring to a change of mindset that will allow the military to harness the technological advances of the information age to gain a qualitative advantage over any potential foe. The transformation of the American military was showcased in Afghanistan in Instead of blundering into terrain that had swallowed up past invading armies, the United States chose to fight with a handful of special operations forces and massive amounts of precision-guided munitions.
This skillful application of American power allowed the Northern Alliance, which had been stalemated for years, to topple the Taliban in just two months. Although generally successful, the Afghan war also showed the limitations of not using enough ground forces. Osama bin Laden and other top terrorists managed to escape during the battle of Tora Bora, and even after a new government was established in Kabul, warlords were left in control of much of the countryside.
The second Gulf War has proved to be more impressive than the Afghan war because it was a truly combined-arms operation. An examination of the conflict shows the potential of the new American way of war and offers some lessons for the future. Coalition forces in the second Gulf War were less than half the size of those deployed in the first one. Yet they achieved a much more ambitious goal -- occupying all of Iraq, rather than just kicking the Iraqi army out of Kuwait -- in almost half the time, with one-third the casualties, and at one-fourth the cost of the first war.
Many will argue, in retrospect, that Saddam Hussein's forces were not all that formidable to begin with, and there is no doubt a great deal of truth in this. But they were capable enough when they fought the Iranian army to a draw in the s and put down Kurdish and Shi'ite insurgencies in the s.
And, on paper at least, the Baathist regime's military enjoyed a big numerical advantage over U. Although the Iraqi army was much degraded from its pre heyday, it still deployed more than , troops, including paramilitary units, the Republican Guard, and the Special Republican Guard, whose loyalty had been repeatedly demonstrated. Traditionally, war colleges have taught that to be sure of success, an attacking force must have a 3 to 1 advantage -- a ratio that goes up to 6 to 1 in difficult terrain such as urban areas.
Far from having a 3 to 1 advantage in Iraq, coalition ground forces which never numbered more than , faced a 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 disadvantage. That the United States and its allies won anyway -- and won so quickly -- must rank as one of the signal achievements in military history. Previously, the gold standard of operational excellence had been the German blitzkrieg through the Low Countries and France in The Germans managed to conquer France, the Netherlands, and Belgium in just 44 days, at a cost of "only" 27, dead soldiers.
The United States and Britain took just 26 days to conquer Iraq a country 80 percent of the size of France , at a cost of dead, making fabled generals such as Erwin Rommel and Heinz Guderian seem positively incompetent by comparison.
This spectacular success was not achieved easily, however. It required overcoming the traditional mentality of some active and retired officers who sniped relentlessly at Rumsfeld right up until the giant statue of Saddam fell in Baghdad's Firdos Square on April 9, Winning the war in Iraq first required rooting out the old American way of war from its Washington redoubts.
The battle over how to take Baghdad reached full intensity in General Tommy Franks, a stolid artillery officer who ran the Central Command, initially proposed sending a large force, akin to that used in Desert Storm, and paving their way with a two-week air campaign.
Secretary Rumsfeld and his advisers wanted to build on the lessons of Afghanistan by sending a much smaller force and starting air and ground operations simultaneously. In typical Washington fashion, a compromise was reached, calling for about , personnel.
But by the time the war started on March 19, , the force deployed was closer to Rumsfeld's "transformational" model than to the traditional heavy force advocated by army planners. Fewer than , allied ground troops entered Iraq. The invasion force was lighter than expected because Turkey refused to let the Fourth Infantry Division land on its soil.
Franks had insisted on keeping the Fourth ID's equipment anchored off Turkey until the last minute, in part because there simply was not enough dock space to unload in Kuwait.
The division was not redirected to Kuwait until after the war had started, and it never deployed in time for the fighting. It is not clear why Franks did not wait for the Fourth ID to start the war.
One possible explanation is that he wanted to use the division as a feint, figuring that the Iraqis would not expect the invasion to start until it had landed. Another likely explanation is that he did not want to delay the start of the war until mid-April, when the weather in the Persian Gulf region heats up and makes operations in chemical warfare suits difficult. Whatever the case, Franks' willingness to start the war without overwhelming ground forces showed that he was far bolder than his more flamboyant predecessor, "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf.
The improvisation extended to the start of the war. President Bush's hour ultimatum to Saddam expired on March The war plan called for giving special operations forces a couple of days to work quietly in Iraq before bombing started on March A ground invasion was to come nine hours later. That schedule was thrown out the window when the CIA discovered the location where Saddam and his sons were believed to be meeting on March After several hours of deliberation at the White House, President Bush made the decision to launch an air strike in an attempt to decapitate the Baathist regime.
Saddam's alleged meeting place was struck by 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles and several satellite-guided bombs dropped by two Fa Stealth fighters.
The strike failed to kill Saddam, perhaps because the deliberations dragged on so long, but it was a gamble well worth taking. With the first air strikes moved up, General Franks made a hurried decision on Thursday, March 20, to move up the ground assault as well.
He had received intelligence that some oil wells in the giant Rumaila fields were on fire. Determined to prevent the oil field destruction that had occurred in the last Gulf War, he ordered the First MEF to advance into Iraq ahead of schedule -- and without a massive air bombardment beforehand. There had been some "shaping" of the battlefield prior to the start of ground operations by allied aircraft that were ostensibly enforcing "no-fly" zones, but ordering the ground assault on March 20 was a gutsy call that no doubt caught the Iraqis by surprise.
Even before U. They had been operating in Iraq for several months, focusing especially on the search for weapons of mass destruction and missile launcher sites in western Iraq. The commandos' stealthy assault precluded similar dangers this time around. Fifteen hours after the start of the ground war, the coalition began its full-scale air assault on Baghdad.
Despite all the hype about "shock and awe," the initial bombardment was very restrained. In addition to hitting the usual targets -- air defenses and command-and-control facilities -- allied commanders seemed to take special glee in bombing Baath Party headquarters and Saddam's palaces.
They had apparently hoped that the regime would collapse at the first whiff of gunpowder, leaving its infrastructure intact. That overly optimistic expectation was dashed when allied ground forces ran into stiffer-than-expected resistance in southern Iraq. Coalition commanders had anticipated that Basra, a heavily Shi'ite city that had rebelled against Saddam in , would rise up this time as well.
Yet no such rebellion was forthcoming, in part because Basra's citizens did not want to risk being slaughtered by Baathist security forces, as they had been in Following the first Gulf War, Saddam had formed the paramilitary Fedayeen to stiffen resistance and prevent any further revolts. Their cruel efficiency ensured that there were no massive uprisings or defections from the Iraqi armed forces in the early days of the second Gulf War.
The coalition's response to this setback was to loosely cordon off Basra. The British First Armored Division would spend the next three weeks patiently chipping away at Iraqi defenses, all the while being careful to avoid the kind of street fighting that Saddam clearly hoped to trigger.
Leaving the British behind, the rest of the coalition forces raced north toward Baghdad along two parallel axes. The initial speed of the advance was breathtaking, with the Third ID sprinting some miles in three days -- far faster than its predecessor, the 24th ID, had traveled during the first Gulf War.
This bold dash toward the enemy capital left the U. In normal army doctrine, an armored cavalry regiment would have been deployed to secure the flanks, but Franks relied on airpower alone.
The price of this gamble was revealed when the Fedayeen and other Iraqi security forces began attacking supply convoys. Things quickly turned ugly. On Sunday, March 23, a convoy of the th Maintenance Company was ambushed in Nasiriyah, and 12 soldiers were captured or killed. The next day, more than 30 ahd Apache Longbows tried to attack Republican Guard positions south of Karbala -- only to run into a wall of small-arms fire that downed one helicopter and damaged the rest.
This was a humiliating setback for the most advanced attack helicopters in the world. To top things off, on March 24, much of southern Iraq was enveloped in a blinding sandstorm. Helicopters could not fly and supply convoys had to be delayed, leaving some forward units perilously short on food and other necessities. Senior commanders made a decision to slow down temporarily the advance to allow their forces to get rested, regrouped, and resupplied -- and to secure rear areas.
The New American Way of War
The United States, now stands as the greatest military power in the history of humanity. However, despite the U. The U. Worse yet, various strains of hybrid warfare are now occurring on the American homeland as well. In , at any given time, the U. In , Russ Weigley identified this new paradoxical trend in American power.
The American Way of War
Jay Luvaas, Russell F. The Wars of the United States. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Most users should sign in with their email address.
Grant to destroy Robert E. Lee's army in , by John J. Pershing to wear down the German army in , and by the U. Army Air Force to pulverize all the major cities of Germany and Japan in