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General Wesley K. Clark's Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat, a Washington Post bestseller, examined his experience directing the NATO-led war in Kosovo. As Clark saw it, the Kosovo war-limited in scope, measured in effect, extraordinarily complex in ...
General Wesley K. Clark's Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat, a Washington Post bestseller, examined his experience directing the NATO-led war in Kosovo. As Clark saw it, the Kosovo war-limited in scope, measured in effect, extraordinarily complex in execution, waged with an uneven coalition, with instantaneous media coverage, and with a duration measured in days and not years, would serve as a model for contemporary war. He has been proven right.
In Winning Modern Wars, General Wesley Clark writes about how the issues and principles discussed in his earlier book were evident in Afghanistan, Iraq, and wherever the war on terrorism has taken us or may take us next, providing a frank and revealing analysis of the gains, risks, and shortfalls of America's current approach and offering informed alternatives to that approach.
What Clark, currently a much-watched and much-admired military analyst on CNN and one of the most decorated and influential officers of his generation, has to say on our national plans and tactics-and the lessons of empire-is invaluable, reminded us that as we celebrate our successes, we must also tend to their consequences.
March 20, 2003, early morning, somewhere over Iraq. The F-117 pilots checked their systems and prepared to release their 2,000-pound bombs. Behind them would follow some forty Tomahawk Sea Launched Cruise Missiles. This was no shock and awe campaign. It was to be a knockout blow aimed at only one set target: Saddam Hussein himself, his sons, and key leaders of the Iraqi regime.
Special intelligence, received only hours before in Washington, indicated that Saddam Hussein and his senior leaders, probably including his sons, would gather briefly at a house on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. A successful attack might yield a "clean win" for the United States. Even a near-miss would certainly represent a heavy psychological blow to Saddam.
The strike went in right on target, followed by the missiles. It was a smart, gritty response to unexpected intelligence. And it showed a remarkably agile and confident integrated Air Force and Navy effort. But it wasn't the real beginning of the war.
The truth is, the war with Iraq began in early January 1991-with the congressional resolution authorizing President George H. W. Bush to use military force to liberate Kuwait-and the war hasn't ended yet.
In August of 1990, Iraq invaded and overran its smaller neighbor, Kuwait (see map). U.S. policy at the time was to contain any further Iraqi aggression, force an Iraqi withdrawal, and liberate Kuwait. As the first President Bush announced, "This will not stand." Through five months of diplomacy and threat in the autumn of 1990, the American public saw in Iraqi president Saddam Hussein a Middle East potentate who was thoroughly dislikable. Arrogant, threatening, deceitful, he became the arch-villain in a thirteen-year morality play starring the United States.
A massive coalition was assembled, and United Nations (UN) authority was gained to require Saddam to pull his forces out of Kuwait. When he ultimately refused, the military campaign against him began on January 17, 1991. A thirty-nine-day air campaign preceded combined air and ground operations aimed at cutting off and destroying Iraqi forces in Kuwait. But the American successes were so overwhelming that operations were halted after only about 100 hours of ground combat. At the time it seemed we had won a magnificent victory, but many of the Iraqi forces, particularly the Republican Guards, were not destroyed. An uneasy peace followed, with the Iraqi air force restricted from flying in newly established "no-fly zones" and Iraqi pledges to the UN to give up their weapons of mass destruction-or WMD, which includes chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons-in order to achieve the lifting of UN-imposed sanctions.
Back in the United States a few months later, victory parades in New York City and down Constitution Avenue in Washington capped an incredible surge of patriotism and support for the incumbent president, as well as for the American armed forces and their leaders. It was a moment of enormous significance, a war that had achieved its stated objectives quickly and relatively painlessly. War worked, it seemed, at least against Iraq. Moreover, it worked politically at home. The clean, clear-cut victory returned Americans to the basics-to life, to sacrifice, to honor, and to victory abroad. Even the bitter aftertaste of Vietnam receded. The president's approval rating briefly soared to 91 percent.
Even as the war was ending, however, some Americans had begun to see that we had set our sights too low. If Saddam Hussein was so bad, why stop with liberating Kuwait? Among the American leaders calling for action to remove Saddam Hussein from power was President Bush himself, who suggested that the people of Iraq overthrow him. The common expectation in Washington was that his defeat would, one way or the other, result in Saddam's loss of power in Iraq.
Inside Iraq, the aftermath of the war was complicated. Incited by the United States and its victory over Saddam, Shiite Muslims in the south, long sympathetic to neighboring Iran, and the Kurdish minority in the north began rebellions that threatened Saddam's rule. The insurrections were brutally repressed by Saddam, and the U.S. failed to intercede. In the north Saddam's campaign against the Kurds was blocked by the imposition of an Iraqi no-fly zone, a humanitarian relief mission, and threats of U.S. intervention should Saddam attempt to repress the Kurdish elements there.
What followed was an angry cessation of hostilities, with Iraq sanctioned by the UN until the complete dismantlement of its mass destruction weapons could be verified, and with various quarrels along the border with Kuwait about specific boundary demarcation.
Over the next nine years Iraq remained a vexing problem for the United States: Unable to verify that Iraq had fully given up its weapons of mass destruction, the United States insisted on UN inspections, sanctions, and, beginning in late 1998, a nearly continuous bombing campaign-with hundreds of strikes over more than four years-as U.S. and British aircraft trolled the no-fly zones. At the same time, the United States strengthened its military presence in the Persian Gulf and built up capabilities in Kuwait to enable it to refight the war-only bigger, better, and faster. And Saddam Hussein remained the archetypal Middle East villain-and a particular enemy of Israel.
Step by step in 1991 and 1992, the United States established a postwar security presence in Kuwait itself, creating an equipment storage depot at Camp Doha, building up a headquarters staff and periodically redeploying troops for purposes of deterring Iraqi pressures against a Kuwait struggling to regain a sense of security. Even the new administration under Bill Clinton couldn't quite escape the Iraq problem. In 1993 the Iraqis plotted to assassinate the former president, George H. W. Bush, during his visit to Kuwait. The United States responded by launching a cruise missile strike against Iraq's intelligence headquarters. It was a demonstration of U.S. power to the region-and a reminder to Saddam of American hostility. Saddam waited a year and then, in reprise, sent his best divisions south toward Kuwait, where they reoccupied some of the same assembly areas they had used in 1990 to stage the invasion of Kuwait. The United States immediately deployed aircraft and alerted U.S. troops for deployment. If it was only an Iraqi feint, it nevertheless generated a renewed American determination not to be caught off-guard again.
Meanwhile, the UN Special Commission in Iraq (UNSCOM) continued its efforts to verify Iraq's compliance with its pledge to give up weapons of mass destruction. The inspections apparently impacted on the Iraqi program, despite Iraqi denial and deception. And according to Saddam's defecting son-in-law, most of the Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs were dismantled in the early 1990s. But Iraq remained defiant toward the UN and the United States.
Beyond the UN sanctions, the United States kept the pressure on Saddam's regime according to its Persian Gulf policy of "dual containment": For example, U.S. air forces stationed in Saudi Arabia and Turkey regularly flew over the southern and northern no-fly zones imposed in the aftermath of the war; and the U.S. military presence in the region was strengthened.
Indeed, the threat from Iraq came to assume a major role in U.S. defense planning. A refight of Desert Storm was one of only two scenarios that could be publicly cited to justify large military forces. The other was a North Korean attack across the Demilitarized Zone into the South. By the late 1990s the Persian Gulf had been designated for planning purposes as one of two Major Theaters of War, and systematic investments were undertaken to strengthen logistics, communications, and intelligence in preparation for possible conflict there. In addition, scenarios from hypothetical war in Iraq were used in requirements studies for weapons procurements, force designs, and training.
Meanwhile, Iraq's intransigence with the UN inspectors fed U.S. concerns. One of the principal concerns of the Clinton administration had been proliferation of weapons of mass destruction-and Saddam was consistently defying the UN and U.S. efforts to force inspections and end his programs. When Iraq ended all cooperation with the UN inspectors in the autumn of 1998, stronger measures were required. The U.S. Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act, calling for regime change in Iraq.
By mid-December 1998, facing continued Iraqi defiance of the UN inspection effort, the United States used force. Operation Desert Fox was launched by U.S. Central Command on December 15 and, over a period of eighty-four hours, pummeled Iraqi headquarters and suspected production and storage sites for weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam struck back, attempting to assert his power by challenging the UN-imposed no-fly zones with brief, in-and-out flights by MiG23 and 25 interceptors flying so fast that the coalition air forces were unable to actually interdict the flights. In retaliation the United States changed its rules of engagement for strikes within the no-fly zones. Beginning in late December 1998, U.S. and British aircraft enforcing the southern and northern no-fly zones engaged any radar or associated facilities that might threaten their aircraft.
As the November 2000 presidential election approached, many within the Republican Party cited Iraq as dangerous unfinished business-a code word for weak leadership by the Democratic president.
Work on a new policy for Iraq began soon after the inauguration of the new president, George W. Bush, when Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the region in February 2001. He returned a few days later to call for narrower, more focused sanctions-the so-called smart sanctions-as a way of rebuilding UN support for the sanctions regime. But the effort died inside the Bush administration itself, as a crisis with China stemming from its detention of a U.S. reconnaissance plane, and later the administration's pursuit of a U.S. national missile defense system, seemed to take center stage.
The terrorist strikes of September 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon marked a turning point-for the administration, for the United States, and for U.S. relations with the world. It was a cataclysmic event, as forces threatening us from abroad had shattered our sense of security and image of invulnerability here at home. Nothing would ever be the same. It was as if somehow no other state, anywhere, had ever experienced terror. Of course, the scale of loss was utterly devastating-but other nations had lived with fear and the prospect of sudden, surprising deaths, and they had survived. Germany had its Baader-Meinhof gang, Italy the Red Brigades, Britain the Irish Republican Army, Spain the Basque separatists, Greece November 17th, Turkey the PKK. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, India, and of course Israel-all had experienced terrorism. The United States had been struck, of course, in 1993, when explosives planted in the World Trade Center shocked Manhattan the first time. Yet the term "terrorism" had hardly penetrated the American psyche.
But the 9/11 strikes were different, totally different. Massive in scale, monstrous in motive and portentous of horror to come. September 11 was a "discontinuity"-beyond the range of our experience-and it demanded a response. It therefore became an opportunity-an opportunity to lead, an opportunity to build, an opportunity to heal, an opportunity to strike back, an opportunity to reorder the priorities.
President Bush "gripped" the problem, rallying the nation, confronting the fearful, and leading the administration to craft a powerful and effective response to the attacks. The deaths, the trauma, and the fear of repeated attacks provided the leverage to reshape U.S. policy and public perceptions.
Even on the day of 9/11-as Osama bin Laden was becoming a household name in America-there were suggestions from some quarters to seek "state sponsorship" and to name Saddam Hussein as the real culprit behind the terrorists. Hostile, aggressive, stymied-but still striving to pursue his grand transformation of the region-Saddam was unfinished business, a rogue leader who had defied the international community and had made no secret of his support for various anti-Israeli terrorists over the years. Some kind of connection to the perpetrators of 9/11 certainly sounded plausible, and at the minimum Saddam posed a continuing challenge to the U.S.
Although the administration did not at the time conclusively establish Saddam's complicity, over the next eighteen months looming conflict with Iraq came to dominate the war against terror. Arguments and evidence would be presented; the case taken to Congress, the U.S. and the American people. And ultimately the U.S. would act. Whether this was wise policy is a matter to be dealt with later. But it was a reflection of strong and determined leadership, using the most reliable and effective instrument of the U.S. government: its armed forces.
Usually, militaries fight wars they haven't prepared for. This one would be different. General plans had been in place for a decade, backed up by substantial preparations. And from this base, detailed planning began in January 2002, with the first in a series of planning meetings between General Tommy Franks, who was the theater commander, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The existing plans at U.S. Central Command, OPLAN 1003, had generally followed the Gulf War model of large forces and an extended air campaign at the outset. These were the principal issues that were hammered at during the next fourteen months, with Franks and U.S. Army officials arguing for stronger ground forces, the Secretary of Defense seeking smaller ground forces and a faster-paced campaign. Apparently OPLAN 1003 went through some twenty revisions. The president himself received at least a dozen detailed briefings on the evolving plan.
This incessant back-and-forth made sense. Any standing plan, such as OPLAN 1003 series, would necessarily have been both overly general and risk-averse. Many in each of the armed services could have objected to one or more aspects of the on-the-shelf plan, for it would have reflected a high degree of compromise among the services and commands that were participating in the planning-all made in the absence of specific strategic, diplomatic, and political objectives. Challenging this military planning was fully within the authority of the Secretary of Defense and the President-and given a challenge, many of the assumptions and compromises of the plan were probably unsupportable. The plan could be adjusted and sharpened to suit their immediate concerns.
The challenges served other purposes, too.
Excerpted from Winning Modern Wars by Wesley K. Clark Copyright © 2004 by Wesley K. Clark. Excerpted by permission.
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|1||Gulf War, round two||1|
|4||The real war : terrorism||103|
|5||Flawed arguments, flawed strategy||137|
|6||Beyond empire : a new America||161|