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03:07 PDA Bulletin –- the collapse of the Iraqi field army

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  • Charles Knight
    03:07 PDA Bulletin –- the collapse of the Iraqi field army New from PDA: Catastrophic Interdiction: Air Power and the Collapse of the Iraqi Field Army in
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2003
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      03:07 PDA Bulletin –- the collapse of the Iraqi field army

      New from PDA:

      "Catastrophic Interdiction: Air Power and the Collapse
      of the Iraqi Field Army in the 2003 War" by Carl Conetta, PDA
      Briefing Memo 30, 26 September 2003.

      Examines how air power helped bring about the collapse of the Iraqi
      Republican Guard and regular army in the 2003 war. Compares the air
      campaigns of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Desert Storm, and
      estimates combatant casualties due to air interdiction in the 2003
      war. http://www.comw.org/pda/fulltext/0309bm30.pdf

      The Iraq War from a 1999 perspective:

      "Don't Court Disaster In Iraq" by Alan J. Kuperman

      Perhaps the only thing more dangerous than failing to study history
      is to draw the wrong lessons from it as Joshua Muravchik does in
      urging the U.S. to foster a military insurgency in Iraq ("Apply the
      Reagan Doctrine to Iraq," editorial page, Wall Street Journal
      November 3, 1999). Mr. Muravchik hails the Reagan Doctrine, which in
      the mid-1980s consisted mainly of supporting four anticommunist and
      ostensibly pro-democratic insurgencies: UNITA in Angola, the Khmer
      Rouge in Cambodia, the Mujahedin in Afghanistan and the Contras in
      Nicaragua. In retrospect, the results of this policy were decidedly

      UNITA achieved a peace settlement in Angola, but lost subsequent
      elections and chose to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent
      civilians rather than accept the results. The Khmer Rouge rejected
      Cambodia's historic peace settlement, then was defeated militarily,
      and now apparently will stand trial for genocide. The Mujahedin have
      turned Afghanistan into perhaps the most oppressive state on earth
      for women, harbor accused terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, and
      were a breeding ground for terrorists who bombed New York's World
      Trade Center. The Contras are a relative success story in that they
      compelled Nicaragua's Sandinistas to hold democratic elections and
      peacefully hand over power, but the country appears none the better
      for it.

      All this chaos might have been justified if fostering insurgency
      actually had triggered the demise of global communism, but there is
      scant evidence of that. Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua had little if
      anything to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall. American policy
      toward Afghanistan did have an impact, but not because "the Mujahedin
      bled the mighty Soviet army dry," as Mr. Muravchik claims.

      During a decade of occupation, the Soviets lost only 14,000 troops in
      Afghanistan--less than a quarter of American deaths in Vietnam. They
      never deployed more than 120,000 troops, a mere 3% of their total
      armed forces, yet never had their control seriously threatened. Anti-
      war sentiment among Soviets did not surface until President Mikhail
      Gorbachev intentionally lifted a domestic press embargo on war
      coverage to generate support for withdrawal. Though the Red Army
      never could completely wipe out insurgents able to retreat to rear
      bases in Pakistan, the occupation could have continued indefinitely
      at relatively low cost.

      The real motivation for Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, according
      to recently opened archives, was a separate element of U.S. policy:
      the economic sanctions imposed by President Carter and steadfastly
      maintained by President Reagan in response to the invasion. Mr.
      Gorbachev desperately sought Western technology to revive his
      moribund economy, but the sanctions blocked such aid. As a result, he
      forged a consensus for withdrawal from Afghanistan within his ruling
      Politburo by the end of 1985, well before the much heralded U.S.
      provision of Stinger missiles to the rebels. (Negotiations and final
      withdrawal dragged out for several more years in the Soviets' vain
      attempt to leave behind a sturdy friendly regime, much as with the
      American departure from Vietnam.)

      Thus, the Reagan Doctrine does not deserve credit for Soviet
      withdrawal from Afghanistan. The doctrine's net impact world-wide was
      to foster instability, terrorism and genocide in three conflicts, and
      to transfer power from one ineffective government to another in the
      fourth. Despite this motley record, Mr. Muravchik urges reprise of
      the Reagan Doctrine in Iraq, where it likely would have equally
      disastrous consequences. Past uprisings by Iraq's oppressed majority
      Shiites and minority Kurds have only strengthened Saddam Hussein and
      increased the killing of innocents, as his ruling Sunni minority and
      Sunni-led army rallied behind him to crush any threat to their power.

      Given this ethnic dynamic and the strength of the Iraqi army, the
      most a new insurgency likely could achieve--even if the rebels united
      and received weapons and air support from the U.S.--would be to
      foster a protracted communal civil war in Iraq. Such a war likely
      would drag in Turkey's Kurds, Iran's Shiites and other neighbors with
      ethnic or religious links to the combatants, disrupting commerce in a
      region containing the bulk of the world's proven oil reserves. Saddam
      would be compelled to launch a brutal counterinsurgency and might
      again use unconventional weapons if he felt sufficiently threatened.

      While nobody can be sanguine about someone as ruthless and risk-prone
      as Saddam Hussein continuing to rule Iraq, for the past eight years
      U.S. military forces and international sanctions have successfully
      deterred his external aggression or use of unconventional weapons. To
      switch now to a policy of fostering insurgency--based on a misreading
      of history and inappropriate analogies--could transform today's tense
      but manageable situation into a full-fledged disaster.

      This commentary originally appeared as a letter to the editor of the
      Wall Street Journal, November 18, 1999. At the time of writing Alan
      J. Kuperman was a fellow in transnational security at MIT's Center
      for International Studies. URL: http://www.comw.org/pda/0001iraq.html

      Check for frequent updates on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars at PDA's
      War Report -- http://www.comw.org/warreport/
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