Opinions of the Book _Warrior’s Rage_ by Macgregor Please ?

Stephen W. Richey's picture

Friends, in 2009 there was published a particularly controversial book about combat operations in the Iraq War of 1991 titled Warrior’s Rage and written by an officer veteran of that war named Douglas Macgregor.  Oddly, it seems to me, I cannot find a review of this book archived in H-War.

 

Hence my request:  Could the smart people here who have read this book expound on their opinions of it in this forum?

 

Thanks!

Strange to say, but I also could not find a review in the archives of the Journal of Military History. From reading Amazon's page on this book, particularly the customer reviews and "A Look Inside," it seems apparent that Macgregor was disappointed that the US Army (spearhead of the Coalition Forces) did not continue the charge all the way to Baghdad, to effect a regime change. For those of us who remember the First Gulf War and played even a very minor role (both in & out of uniform) in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the decision made at the highest levels of the US Government to halt the ground war after 100 hours, leaving Saddam's regime intact (if largely defanged), was certainly controversial. Notwithstanding this fact, many of us at the time supported the prudent decision of the President, the SecDef, and the JCS Chairman -- not to mention the concurrence of our major allies -- to accept a cease fire and declare victory. Which it certainly was. That the same prudent SecDef, a decade later, was the prime mover in a blatant and (in my opinion) totally unjustified invasion with the intent of regime change in Iraq, makes the issue (and the book in question) all the more worthy of discussion.

After all, we've beaten Vietnam to death on this list, right?

I read one of the first copies of the book. For anyone interested in this conflict, the Battle of the 73 Easting and the US Army culture of that time it is well worth reading. The author was a career officer and at the front lines at that time. He is now a retired Colonel heading his own consulting firm and trying to help reforming the army. The book has to be read with that in mind.

Some reviewers comment on the bitterness of the author that often pops up during the narrative. This is certainly a flaw of the book. On the other hand the author is certainly entitled to it considering his experiences.

You're right, Ralph. But end of Vietnam is no more likely than other history wars. Anyway, the original plan called for a halt at the Kuwait and Iraq borders.

It never included a plan for Baghdad and regime change. What highest levels approved seems to have been the same as that plan; ergo, ending at Kuwait border. What intent was, to my awareness, was merely to remove Iraq from Kuwait and see what developed. As we all know the consequences of actions and warfare cannot always be known in advance nor predicted based on plans.
Kuwait was perfect example as was the results from bombing the highway back to Baghdad of the retreating Iraq Army. In fact, the plan which I know about called for drawing those same forces down into Kuwait, centrally, and surrounding them from west, south, north and east generally in the field. Such is the fate of war.

Iraq collapsed and 2nd Gulf war, the one north waited for another day and the same people minus a President to try and prove they could have done it back in 1990s..........somewhat speculative considering the outcome of occupation of Iraq proper.

As to Allies, how long Arab allies would have stuck North of Kuwait remains a open question also.

I feel this topic, like most controversial topics, generates a lot of heat and smoke and very little light. So I am only willing to make a couple book recommendations, works i think people should read before making any judgements.

Michael Knights, Cradle of Conflict
Kevin Woods, The Mother of All Battles

Pretty much all of the Iraqi Perspectives project, put out by the now defunct JFC and available on the net, I believe, as pdfs, is also a good foundation. Don't discuss Iraq wars until you've looked at the Iraqi side as thoroughly as possible, IMO.

All: I went to the source, to Colonel (Ph.D.) Macgregor. I forwarded him this thread and here is his response.

"My point in Warrior’s Rage was the following: We could have, and should have pressed the attack with a mobile armored spearhead to Baghdad with the goal of removing SH, not to occupy and not to transform. In Warrior’s Rage I used the example of General Ludendorff’s decision to resume the German advance on Moscow until the Bolsheviks signed the Brest-Litovsk Agreement. We could have applied pressure in exactly the same way to dispose of SH. In 1991 there were military leaders (with troops) that were quite prepared to act. By the way, there were Iraqi generals with troops prepared to cooperate in much the same way in 2003. On both occasions we screwed it up.

In 1991, Bush assumed that SH would inevitably lose power based on the false picture of the battlefield. President Bush was simply interested in having someone in Baghdad who would do business with us. By prematurely declaring victory and running home we made a return engagement inevitable. As for our allies, I did not see any true allies other than the British and the French. The Arab allies were irrelevant. The Russians were in ruins and no one including Iran wanted to confront us. The Germans and Japanese paid for much of the campaign because it secured their oil at the time.

Sadly, just as we wasted time after Normandy listening to the British who were irrelevant once we finally broke out in July 1944 (19 British and Canadian Divisions versus 65 U.S. Divisions), we made repeated the mistake in 1991. The Russians thought we sacrificed unity of command in 1944 and the Russians were right.) What we should have done in 1944 and later in 1991 was pursue our long-term strategic interest with a vengeance. In 1991, that meant replacing SH with someone who would work with us and stop trying to build WMD with which to annihilate Israel.

Like most presidents, he eagerly listened to his generals, particularly when they told him what he wanted to hear. He listened for months to Lieutenant General (ret) Scowcroft and AF Chief of Staff McPeak’s claims of winning through airpower. Bush then made the mistake of listening to Powell and Schwarzkopf when the two generals urged a halt to a ground campaign (the 100 hour war) that had only just begun. Whether Schwarzkopf actually knew the RG had escaped is unclear. He later claimed that Franks* had misled him about the true conditions on the battlefield. But he was responsible. Having never left his bunker for the duration of the conflict, he was totally dependent on the reports his field commanders provided. The field commanders got it wrong.

These points notwithstanding, when Bush realized that he’d failed to achieve his unstated aim of eliminating SH, Bush urged the Shiites and Kurds to revolt, then, abandoned them to the 80,000 men in the reequipped Republican Guard that escaped thanks to Lieutenant General Frederick Franks and his boss, General Schwarzkopf. I covered this matter on the operational and strategic levels in chapter 5 of Margin of Victory. President George H. W. Bush always knew that if SH survived his campaign would be a failure. SH survived because the Republic Guard escaped and the Army generals had no wish to pursue it. Frankly, the generals were surprised at how easily the enemy was beaten. Having grossly inflated the Iraqi Army’s capabilities from day 1, they breathed a huge sigh of relief and rushed home to be worshipped as heroes. Having signed on for the false narrative of the 100 hour war, Bush decided to play along with the travesty in the hope that it would guarantee his reelection. Woops.

People who think that anything we did in 1990-91 made strategic sense should read chapter 5 in Margin of Victory. We were commanded from top to bottom by rank amateurs who operated without a coherent strategy.

The notion that 1991 was the model war is utterly false. Of course, the notion is popular and, as a result, it’s now conventional wisdom. As always, conventional wisdom is always high on convention and quite low on wisdom.

Thanks, Doug Macgregor"

*Doug refers here to Lt. General Fred Franks, not the later Tommy Franks of Iraqi Freedom notoriety. Also, I (John Kuehn) got to hear Franks defend himself in a meeting with him in 1997 in a small group discussion in SAMS. Franks basically said that the battlefield was so chaotic nobody really knew what was going on.

I would add that the most objective overall book on the topic is TheGenerals' War by Trainor and Gordon, and the best article on the war is "The Ghosts of Omdurman" by then-major Daniel Bolger. Both of these deflate, as Doug's book does, the triumphalism of the victory. Finally, for serious students of the air campaign, the Gulf War Air Power Survey (overall chief was Eliot Cohen but included scholars like Williamson Murray and Mark Mandeles), especially its executive summary, is essential.

Dr. Hitchins, thanks for your reply! I was a minor staff officer in 1st Armored Division, part of VII Corps under Franks, for Desert Storm. Your message cogently discusses the grand strategic ramifications of the decision to halt the ground war after a hundred hours. But my interest in Macgregor's book is at the tactical and operational level of the 1991 Iraq War. In his book, Macgregor excoriates Franks for his alleged slow, dull, pedestrian, above all timid, leadership of VII Corps. According to Macgregor, Franks' needlessly overcautious timidity allowed the bulk of the Iraqi Republican Guard to escape to fight another day when it could have and should have been annihilated south of the Euphrates. Macgregor was a staff officer in the 2nd ACR, which put him physically dead center of, and made him an active participant in, the events he critiques in his book. He thus has a strong claim to knowing what he is talking about. I am looking for someone who has read _Warrior's Rage_ and who has deep knowledge of the topic to either support or refute Macgregor's thesis. Thanks!

Although I have not read the book at this point I will offer some thoughts on the basic premise as related in this thread since this touches upon my direct area of specialty. I will state that my basic thesis is the book is written from the perspective of a fighter and not a broader appreciation of the then recent historical facts of the Iran Iraq War nor the ultra delicate and highly charge setting in which this conflict took place.

Iran was able to eject Iraq from their territory and they believed that they would continue to meet with success moving into the Iraqi Shia dominated areas. They believed the Iraqi defenses would melt and that they could perhaps move on to Baghdad once Basra was captured. But, it did not turn out that way. The Iranians met with significant resistance to their advance and the Iraqi Shia did not come to their aid. Iraqi resistance doubled and became increasingly sophisticated and professionally developed. The same troops and commanders who watched their predecessors give up ground now fought tooth and nail if you will for their defensive positions inside Iraq. The Iraqis fought Iran to standstill which was hard for the Iranian leadership to believe.

A move on Baghdad at that time more than likely would have resulted in much the same happening. The closer we got to Baghdad the more we would have witnessed the Iraqi public supporting Saddam and fighting US forces. The most loyal and best trained forces would have given stiff opposition to our forces and while we may ultimately prevailed the cost of the fight would have been profoundly more than what we saw in 2003. The forces in 1991, though greatly reduced, would have been able to tap into a veteran force that could have quickly re-mobilized and gained some real hits on our forces. In addition the state of their chemical and bio weapons stock was such that we would have faced large scale attacks which would have looked from the American public point of view as horrific and unnecessary. Saddam had no compunction against using massive amounts of chemical weapons against Iranian teenage boys and professional soldiers, why not our men and women.

Finally, the author appears to be unaware of how much deal making and long political campaigning went into just having our forces in the region and fighting in the manner we did. Reading telcons and memcons from the Bush White House reveals the vast diplomatic wrangling to get the region ready. Arab street protests in favor of Saddam and against the American troops were routine and were allowed because the regional governments knew that they needed to let the people vent, and those protests were just because of basing in the Middle East not to mention actually going against a Muslim country. At the time we would have faced several Arab countries ready to throw in their support with Saddam and attack us or Israel if we went beyond the mandate. There was no political will in any of these countries to see American troops in Baghdad and Saudi Arabia may have thrown us out if we did. World War Two was a vastly different conflict in which we did not need to consider the desires and foreign policies of nations that had populations ready to fight us who were at the same time also helping us. We weren't worried that the British or French would fight us if we went to Berlin or that we'd be kicked out in the middle of the war but we did here and we made the best choices we could have.

We recognized that overall the mission set out to be accomplished was accomplished. Saddam still could have mounted an effective resistance or one that would have cost more American lives and the region could not and would not have allowed it. I am thankful to the military men who are passionate about their jobs but we also must rely on those who can take a broader perspective and more historically broad perspective on these matters as was done. On a personal note, I remember listening to so many red blooded, fully military supporting people breathing deep sighs of relief that Bush did not send our people up there. I am sure Bush recognized that, even in the US 'liberating' Iraq was a bridge too far even for us here.

Thanks for your added remarks here on Gulf 1. What is or is not a minor staff officer, history will certainly have its day. Your courage and commitment to the Gulf and US are to be commended.

That noted, must take some exceptions again, this with Col. Mcgregor's observations. Authority for the outcome of Gulf 1 was decided elsewhere, not just my field commanders. Approved plans for stopping at the Kuwait borders will need to be identified and are likely from the DOD or above levels. This of course, can be documented would hope.

Armor part of the plan was to draw the Republican Guards into Kuwait where they could be taken. What was not predicted was the total collapse of Iraq's military in the field. Remember 2 points.........Iraq was then considered a battle tested force for its history and Soviet support was aligned with Iraq. How far the Allies could go into Iraq without provoking the Sovs was not known. It was the actual battle in Kuwiat that brought forward the accurate[as much as war ever may prove] situation. Green, untried and untested US forces simply seemed to melt the Iraq veteran military. It was US first war experience since Vietnam and the taste of Vietnam was not sought for this outcome, a prolonged and grinding effort.

Thanks again. Remember these decisions were not at the field level and initiative to go beyond Kuwait might have provoked a different kind of crises without top level approvals.

US initiatives only existed for operations then, within Kuwait, not beyond it except for the tremendous performance of the air force both when the war started , during and afterwards.

My great thanks to all for your comments regarding the grand strategic issues raised by Macgregor in his book _Warrior’s Rage_. The grand strategic issue of “should we or should we not have gone to Baghdad” is a fascinating one.

BUT—I need to keep steering this conversation back into its desired groove, which is, the operational and tactical levels of war. *** The question is this: *** Could the Republican Guard have been comprehensively annihilated south of the Euphrates IF Franks had possessed the boldness to go into the pursuit mode instead of—allegedly—timidly insisting on staying in the deliberate attack mode as he actually did? Macgregor’s view is apparently a strident “yes.” In his book, Macgregor excoriates Franks for being, in Macgregor’s opinion, slow, dull, pedestrian, and timid in allowing a large part of the Republican Guard to escape to fight again another day when it should have/could have been utterly destroyed. Macgregor paints Franks as being Montgomery at his worst when who we needed was Patton.

Now then, Stephen Bourque in his book _Jayhawk!_, and Thomas Houlahan in his book _Gulf War_, reject any accusation that Franks was timid and VII Corps was slow. Both these authors contend that Franks was (mostly) correct in cases where he opted for a “tactical pause.”

The ULTIMATE question is this: In assessing the leadership of Franks and the performance of VII Corps, between Macgregor on one side and Bourque and Houlahan on the other, who is right?

(//begin rant) What few Americans, even among the influential political-military pundits, the intelligence community, and some senior field commanders, seemed to realize was the exceedingly high state of training of US forces and the results of more than a decade of modernization. Feedback during the Desert Shield period that I recall while working as a reservist in Col. John Warden's "Checkmate" division of the Air Staff Plans Directorate (where the first draft of the air campaign plan was developed, in record time) indicated that the morale and confidence of the deployed US ground and air forces was pretty high, and it proved to be justified. The "battle tested" Iraqi forces not only failed to show up in their U/E numbers, but their morale was in the toilet. Most, I believe, feared us at the outset and that fear increased during the five weeks of the air campaign. Their front-line units were chronically undermanned; e.g., a BTR motorized infantry battalion might have all or most of its 31 APCs, but only with a crew of maybe two guys in each, and way fewer than the full squad of 9 or 10 infantrymen they were supposed to carry. Once the "tank plinking" began, tank crews tended to stay at a distance from their vehicles.

In spite of all this low-level intelligence, much coming through Saudi sources from "line crossers" (deserters), the US intelligence community reliably depicted something like a 10-foot tall battle-hardened Iraqi soldier, replacing the 10-foot tall Soviet warrior we had postulated during the Cold War. I distinctly recall an intelligence analyst in my "day job" organization, the US Army Intelligence & Threat Analysis Center, describe the T-72M tank as the "functional equivalent" of the US M-1 Abrams tank. I mean, really? Active IR good out to maybe a klick, against thermal imaging systems good at twice that distance? (Correct me if I'm wrong!) As for the airpower dimension, I recall USAF & USN air analysts predicting a "Battle of Britain over Baghdad," to which I responded that the IAF (GCI-dependent and having lost most of their GCI radars) would steer clear of the Coalition air forces and be "lucky to score a single kill." (They apparently did score exactly one air-to-air kill.)

To sum up, I believe the front line US troops & aircrew were supremely confident in their training and equipment, while the "battle-tested" Iraqis were much less confident. Yet I seem to recall one US Army mech division commander predicting more than 20,000 US casualties -- wrong by a factor of 20! (//end rant)

Further comment upon the reply received about Gulf 1 and its outcomes would venture. It sounds a bit 'political' in taking higher echelons to task for not closing out SH and Baghdad. The Generals were right to be surprised at how easily veteran Iraq forces were overrun by green and inexperienced US forces. It was not, would repeat, necessarily expected. A more forceful defense was generally anticipated. The ghost o Vietnam did loom over expectations and wishes for US success.[typing error intended].
Critique of conduct of war is certainly a right, except perhaps in a dictatorship. James Bowen's post is very much to the points and subjects then as history now.

I don't want to get too far off-topic, but I take exception to this statement of Macgregor's:

"Sadly, just as we wasted time after Normandy listening to the British who were irrelevant once we finally broke out in July 1944 (19 British and Canadian Divisions versus 65 U.S. Divisions), we made repeated the mistake in 1991. The Russians thought we sacrificed unity of command in 1944 and the Russians were right.) What we should have done in 1944 and later in 1991 was pursue our long-term strategic interest with a vengeance."

The British were not irrelevant from August 1944 to May 1945. Their contribution was absolutely essential, even though the American contingent was much larger. The US Army suffered from a manpower shortage (especially in infantry) in late 1944 and early 1945; imagine how much worse that shortage would have been without the one million troops of 21st Army Group. America chose to mobilize only 90 Army divisions for the war. Without those 19 "irrelevant" British and Canadian divisions, the US Army would have needed to provide 84 divisions for Europe instead of 65, leaving only 6 for the Pacific. Without the British fighting in Europe, the Americans would have had to mobilize a million more troops to fight Japan, or accept a far lower level of effort in the Pacific. Even after Operation Anvil provided additional US and French troops, Eisenhower struggled to maintain a continuous front from Switzerland to the sea. He could rarely rotate divisions out of the line, and had few reserves. In order to concentrate to attack, he had to leave the Ardennes sector thinly manned, giving the Germans the opportunity to counterattack in December. At that time, there were 44 US divisions in the ETO, as well as 8 French, 1 Polish, and 15 British/Canadian divisions. Without the British/Canadian contingent, Eisenhower would have been much more vulnerable to counterattack, and far less capable of mounting his own attacks. Without the British/Canadian contribution, the US Army would probably not have gotten as far to the east as it did, and the Soviets would have gotten further west, with negative implications for the postwar world. 21st Army Group suffered over 100,000 casualties after the breakout ("relevant" in that American forces did not have to suffer these casualties) and took 417,000 German prisoners (thus making the British military contribution "relevant" to the enemy).

In what way did the US not pursue its long-term strategic interest in 1944? Roosevelt, Marshall, and Eisenhower cerainly thought they were pursuing our long-term strategic interests, i.e., defeating Germany, cooperating with the USSR, not getting dragged into Balkan sideshows by Churchill. Does Macgregor mean by this statement that the US should have attempted to posture itself for the future Cold War while fighting WW2, perhaps by intervening in the Balkans or grabbing Berlin before the Soviets got there? If so, then we should firstly note that this was not how Roosevelt conceived the US long-term strategic interest. Just the opposite - he believed the long-term US strategic interest lay in post-war cooperation with the USSR. Secondly, it certainly wasn't the British who held us back from trying to fight the war with a view to constraining the postwar Soviet power position. Churchill would have embraced it enthusiastically!

From 1991 to 2003, many said that we should have overthrown Saddam rather than simply liberating Kuwait and going home. But in 1994, none other than Dick Cheney warned that invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam would have resulted in the disintegration of Iraq, a quagmire occupation, and much heavier American casualties. This viewpoint was totally vindicated after March 2003. Does invading Iraq in 1991 really seem like such a good idea after the last 14 years? Did the occupation of Iraq after 2003 really represent successful pursuit of our long-term strategic interests? Color me skeptical.

More than skeptical, definition of long term US strategic interests should be spelled out; both in terms of 1944[how would they be different] and 1991[occupation of Iraq ?]. The 1991 Gulf 1 interest was never, do not think or know, to remain in the Middle East like as pointed out has happened. Does this mean then, defeating Daesh, an outgrowth of the occupation and overthrow of Iraq, will allow retiring from Middle East finally or it is just the next stage to replacing colonial Europe as
occupant of Middle East ? The answer does seem obvious.
Exorcising the Ghost of Vietnam was a truly historical and important contribution made by the US and Allied forces in Gulf 1. Gulf 2 only cast a shadow over that significant achievement by the forces who made Kuwait free of Iraqi occupation and control. Restoring US arms to history cannot be understated. Gulf 1 did accomplish that objective even if it was not part to any planning and served notice to the rest of the world not to underestimate US and Allied resolve elsewhere.

Collapse to Communism in Russia changed many things following Gulf 1. Vengeange for what ? Up to then, the US had steered clear of mil ops with large scale warfare. and had not seen anything like the scale of WW II. Limited war was still very much in mind rather than climbing a ladder of escalating.
Patton as a leader had his good points in WW II but still was still almost cashiered by the American Command for his errors in performance. This in WW II were vital interest seemed more at stake than merely removal of a hostile threat from Kuwait. To paraphrase a 'Hollywood movie', A 'Nation' has got to know its limits[Clint Eastwood]. Limitless warfare is pretty much what happened when Gulf 2 sent the US north into Iraq proper and the US will pay for that for many decades more even now.

Color decision and judgment that such conclusions are indeed wrong for this Democracy and meaning to Liberty as a way of life. Patton's film desire to rush into Soviet Russia and head for Moscow was wrong in 1945 and still wrong today in war and history for this time.

Ahem--Friends--if you please--my, to quote myself, "ULTIMATE question" which I cited five postings above this one?

Stephen Richey asks a good question, probably the essential one that begs the larger question -- what was the strategic objective for the US & Coalition forces? I surmise that the guidance handed down to the CINC and passed on to the corps commander (i.e., far above my pay grade) was probably to fulfill the letter and spirit of the UN resolutions. The CINC of the Coalition forces was probably told something along the lines of, "evict the Iraqi Army from Kuwait, destroying as much of their warfighting capability as possible in the process." The air campaign alone destroyed significant quantities of tanks, APCs, and artillery, and more was lost at 73 Easting and elsewhere during the brief ground campaign. Mission accomplished, right? The NCA objectives laid down for Gen. Schwarzkopf were (surely) much less open-ended than, say, the objectives of the German Army in May of 1940, or June of 1941.

So, Macgregor, his blood up, was ready and willing to go the distance, greatly outpacing the campaign objectives laid down by the NCA. We may honor his warrior spirit, but it does not necessarily follow that his corps commander and the Coalition CINC were timid or incompetent when they decided to halt and declare victory.

Quite possibly am not the one most qualified to reply nor to post on this query. However, will hazard the same after having read this thread and the offered previous replies.

Mr. Richey indicates his 'ultimate' question is not being answered.........to the question of who is right and wrong between Mcgregor's commentary on Franks conduct in the Mcgregor book and those who authored a defense of Gen. Franks operational pursuit of the Republican Guards to complete their destruction.

If this understanding is correct of the question, would then opine, the general views advanced so far have favored not accepting Mcgregor's view on the conduct of armor; not entirely unexpected considering it was realized fairly early into the Kuwait, Gulf 1 war, that Allied air superiority so dominated the battlefield developing, there would have been little reason to cast that advantage aside and let air complete the demise of Iraq forces. From that standpoint, a 'Patton-style' pursuit of Iraq armor would not have made much sense given air could complete the end to Iraqi armor. Maybe this would be frustrating to those who favor armored warfare, but it could be believed that air power is part of an overall war effort especially when it comes to mobility and armor being used. The views offered so far, do seem weighted towards
not agreeing with a more aggressive use of Frank's armor as part of the Allied effort.

Hitchens has some very cogent and well stated observations about Gulf 1 as well and deserve more consideration, should like to suggest. His so called low level field intelligence does seem exactly the sort of intel needed or that would be wanted by frontline forces about to make decisions to commit themselves to battle; from such info, plans and operations can be determined, so this type intel would think is pretty high grade for battle uses.

In attempting to answer the question I will leave out any historical references and offer a review of the book as this string has lasted long enough for me to read it fully and offer an opinion on the book and the writer. While a more formal review would be my normally preferred method I will offer more of my own personal review such as I gave it to a friend of mine.
Interpreting the author as a primary means of answering the question it strikes me that MacGregore is such an ardent advocate of the advance and keep advancing mentality that any hint of caution and proceeding at a sound pace would have been way too slow for his tastes and perceived omniscient knowledge. His opinions do not measure up to the reality that was in front of him at the time and to me appears to be a lot of justifying based on perfect 20/20 hindsight. Additionally had MacGregore run into significant opposition and lost men then he would be written about negatively and rightly blamed for leading his men into disaster. He nowhere in the text appears to have been concerned with the potential for minefields, experienced enemies in the rear, and a host of other situations. He relied on military history that was in no way representative of the battlefield that he was on nor the enemy he faced. If Franks' method was flawed because he applied European tactics to a Middle East battlefield then MacGregore is equally at fault for attempting the same.
He acknowledges that intelligence was flawed and unable to give an accurate picture of what lay in front of the troops and, while that may prove to be sound reason not to go pell mell into a situation, it makes little impression on him. His method may have led him to charge into a highly trained and motivated Republican Guard or regular army formation and risked the lives of his men. He claims that the single performance of the battle of Khafji was enough to tell him that the Iraqis posed no threat, this is utterly ridiculous and dangerous. Basing the lives of your men on a single report is flawed and likely to lead to ruin. No one, not even hardened battlefield commanders can make so accurate an assessment based on a single instance. There must be an established pattern and a metric to base the operations on not a single bad performance for which he was not present nor could he verify the data and its interpretation. Immediate intelligence is often the most flawed and reports, while useful and necessary, can often only give snapshots of a much larger picture.
Franks' caution is understandable, reasonable, and totally explainable. His past experiences informed him to a great degree and that stretched back to Vietnam and was built on by training for the Russians in Eastern Europe where careful movement was probably the most appropriate method given the terrain and overall environment. Throwing that out and adopting a wholly new mentality is difficult at best and inappropriate when facing a new, untested adversary who we had been supplying and givng help to just two years before. There was also concern based on recent history of the Iran Iraq War and Iraq' performance in holding their ground. No one can argue that there was no just reason to look at the Iraqi performance and believe that they might truly hold their own for a while and that they had acquired the skills to at least bloody the nose of American troops. By the end of the Iran Iraq War the Iraqi army had become very professionalized, much more agile and able to meet threats imposed on them by Iran. Iraqi soldiers held off significant human wave attacks involving thousands of men and boys thrown at them along with traditional soldiers, tanks, and arms. You cannot dismiss this reality especially based on knowing the result. Indeed, McGregore once again demonstrates his arrogance and blind spots when he clearly says that those elements who were surrendering were conscripts and not regulars who had been trained and had been veterans of past conflicts. McGregore would have allowed veteran, trained Iraqi troops who were still loyal to Saddam to exist in his rear and threaten those troops who followed his advance. I am sure that that would not have been the best, most well received situation.
MacGregore strikes me as a very typical chauvinistic American officer who believes that they know everything about war because they have read a little bit of military history. His text is laced with such arrogance, bravado, and near racist dismissal of Arab officers and armies that one almost imagines that he believes that had he been given a tank and a green light he could have won the war on his own and captured Baghdad with a single shot. His arrogance and mentality that he knew better than the entire military establishment is offensive and should lead any person reading his book to take it as a rather minority view and the difference between the higher officers and the lower ones and that the romance with the lower officers is questionable and needs re-examination.

Stephen,
I think Macgregor makes a pretty convincing case that the two Armored Cavalry Regiments alone unleashed would have dealt a devastating blow to the Iraqi Forces.
Based on the performance of US Armor at 73 Easting this notion has to be supported.

Thus, the question is should Franks have known and acted boldly accordingly. Here I also think the evidence is pretty clear.
Intel from the battlefield at that time overwhelmingly reported the sorry state of the Iraqi Army.

Therefore, the right thing to do would have been to order a maximum advance of the Armor and to get to grips with the Republican Guard as soon as possible.

I hope that sufficiently answers the question.

Best wishes
Joerg

Dear Dr. Hitchens, Dr. Reader, Dr. Bowden and Dr. Muth, thanks enormously for your replies! Oh! The fun of playing what-if games in military history! Dr. Bowden and Dr. Muth are two super-smart guys who come up with diametrically opposing answers to the same question. I'm loving this. If you please, Dr. Bowden and Dr. Muth, would you care to address each other's points directly? The truth is out there, somewhere among the sand dunes and the burnt out tank hulks. Can we get to it?

In many ways I am dealing with some pretty hard trauma to my life and I am making a major, very stressful transition so this will be my last post for a while and I think that the topic is at a standstill in most respects. I appreciate the invitation to offer more but I am physically unable to offer more than the below.

In response to Dr. Muth's points I would say that these Regiments would have been dealt a crippling blow if not from traditional military fighting than certainly they would have in a guerrilla war, which the Iraqi soldiers were doing on the battlefield. They were fighting with AK47's and RPG's also Macgregor hints that the Iraqis were quickly realizing what they up against and, with enough time would have found the means to adjust. Arab warfare has always concentrated around the ability to conduct fast, organized raids and counter punches in the form of what we in the West consider guerrilla war but for them is much more typical and their strongest form of fighting. I can find only a few accounts of large traditional clashes and those are mainly in the Crusader period or before. From the modern time and looking at the history of Arab warfare in the Gulf the fast raid and loosely organized fighting force was the standard form.

There at least four questions I walked away with reading the book, many not answerable at this moment. We need to acknowledge that far more Iraqi armor escaped back into Iraq than what was engaged with. The men that we fought were not core, disciplined soldiers but sent in to merely hold Kuwait. Saddam never anticipated fighting many or any Western nations and never thought he'd face a challenge to what he was doing. All of the veteran, top of the line troops remained in Iraq or were withdrawn before the war and during the ground fight. So, any what if's must be predicated on a reasonable understanding of what we encountered in Kuwait versus what was waiting in Iraq.

Mr. Bowden's reply is spot on. Kuwait under Iraq was not the nut expected to needing cracking. Proof is found in the actual invasion of Iraq in the 2nd war, just as he posits.

Not surprisingly I disagree with James and Wyatt.

Valid arguments I made already in my first post.

To pick up James' points:
At this stage of the war there was no active guerilla war on the side of the Iraqis nor any inclination to conduct one. The terrain over which the ACRs were rolling was flat desert - tank land.
We are talking about an armored spearhead thrust lasting a few days that would have ruined several of the Republican Guard Divisions and not a continued campaign.
The Republican Guard was the best Saddam had to offer and they were right in front of the ACRs and nowhere else.
These were the units Franks should have focused on. Destroying them was well within his portfolio an orders. He did not do so because he hesitated which is exactly what McGregor blamed him for - and rightly so.

Best wishes
Joerg

Most deserving of thought. Would be welcome if a copy of said orders could be published and included but have no reason to doubt that this is a correct statement of the situation then existing. There is one other caveat, did the Guards pass the border of Iraq into Kuwait. That would be an invasion. Inside their own borders, the legal defense of their own territory applied. US and Allies, do believe had no authority then, to enter onto Iraq territory. Such an act would have been a declaration of war which did not exist. I think this is correct on their legalities under the laws of war. Further comments would be welcomed on exact situation. At that time, Sovs were still attempting to broker peace on behalf of Iraq so their good offices would have been compromised also and technically, am thinking they were aligned with Iraq as well.
Discretionary authority in war is important as a field commander's rights.

General Franks was focused on destruction of the Republican Guard divisions, and he accomplished a considerable part of that goal. But when he went into Iraq to do this he tried to do it in an orderly, methodical fashion. He was not eager to push his units forward at night; he thought they could deal better with enemy defenses when they could see what they were doing. And he didn't want his fastest-moving units to get too far ahead of the others.

Partly as a result of his not wanting to move too hastily, he had not completed the destruction of the Republican Guard units facing him when higher authorities declared a cease-fire. But Franks had not been warned that he had a limited time to accomplish his goal.

Schwarzkopf later criticized Franks for not having understood that he was in a pursuit, and should be pushing as fast as possible, not worrying about some units getting ahead of the others. But Schwarzkopf did not claim ever actually to have told Franks that he was in a pursuit and did not need to worry about some units getting ahead of others, so I regard the criticism as rather unfair.

Re: discussion surrounding my review of G. Gross here last month:

A mechanized corps commander ordered his troops to keep bankers' hours during active combat operations?!?

A mechanized corps commander had to be explicitly informed by his higher headquarters that his formation was conducting a pursuit?!?

A strong condemnation of the American way or war...at least as interpreted by Franks.

Rob Kirchubel