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The Iraq Warby John Keegan
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter 1: A Mysterious War
Some wars begin badly. Some end badly. The Iraq War of 2003 was exceptional in both beginning well for the Anglo-American force that waged it and ending victoriously. The credit properly belonged in both cases to the American part of the coalition. It was the Americans who provided the majority of strength on the ground and overwhelmingly the majority in the air and at sea. The British contribution was important and warmly welcomed by the Americans but it was that of an esteemed junior partner.
The war was not only successful but peremptorily short, lasting only twenty-one days, from 20 March to 9 April. Campaigns so brief are rare, a lightning campaign so complete in its results almost unprecedented. For comparisons one has to reach back to the ‘cabinet wars' of the nineteenth century, Prussia's victory over Austria in six weeks in 1866 or over the French field army in less than a month in 1870. Walkovers, as by the Germans in the Balkans in 1941, do not count. The Iraqis had fielded a sizeable army and had fought, after a fashion. Their resistance had simply been without discernible effect. The Americans came, saw, conquered. How?
While reporting the war in The Daily Telegraph I frequently found myself writing that its events were ‘mysterious'. It was a strange word for a military analyst to use in what should have been objective comment. Even in retrospect, however, I see no reason to look for another. The war was mysterious in almost every aspect. Mystery shrouded the casus belli, the justification for going to war. The war was launched because Saddam Hussein, President of Iraq, refused to co-operate with United Nations inspectors in their search for his forbidden weapons of mass destruction. Yet even after his defeat laid the whole territory of Iraq open to search, such weapons eluded discovery. Mystery surrounded the progress of operations. Iraq fielded an army of nearly 400,000 soldiers, equipped with thousands of tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces. Against the advance of an invading force only half its size, the Iraqi army faded away. It did not fight at the frontier, it did not fight at the obvious geographical obstacles, it scarcely fought in the cities, it did not mount a last-ditch defence of the capital, where much of the world media predicted that Saddam would stage his Stalingrad.
The réeacute;gime, so bombastic in speech before and during the conflict, mysteriously failed to take elementary defensive precautions. In a country of great rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris pre-eminently but also their tributaries, it failed to destroy the bridges, or even in many cases to prepare them for demolition. While the regular army and the vaunted Republican Guard apparently demobilized themselves, the soldiers disappearing to their homes at the appearance of the invaders, their place was taken by mysterious ‘fighters' of the skimpiest military training, devotees of the ruling Ba’athist party or foreign Islamicists with an urge to die. Perhaps most mysteriously of all, much of the population of Iraq, the ordinary town dwellers and country people, exhibited a complete indifference to the war going on around them, carrying on their everyday lives apparently oblivious of its dangers. To the bewilderment and fury of the coalition soldiers, traffic often travelled as normal, civilian cars and trucks proceedin
"He is our greatest modern military historian." Evan Thomas, Newsweek
"John Keegan is at once the most readable and original of living historians." Michael Howard, New York Times Book Review
"Worthwhile, though Keegan's dry account pales next to more immediate works." Kirkus Reviews
Provides current information on th Iraq War, discussing causes, costs, problems, and the aftermath.
The 2003 Iraq war remains among the most mysterious armed conflicts of modernity. In The Iraq War, John Keegan offers a sharp and lucid appraisal of the military campaign, explaining just how the coalition forces defeated an Iraqi army twice its size and addressing such questions as whether Saddam Hussein ever possessed weapons of mass destruction and how it is possible to fight a war thatis not, by any conventional measure, a war at all.
Drawing on exclusive interviews with Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks, Keegan retraces the steps that led to the showdown in Iraq, from thehighlights of Hussein's murderous rule to the diplomatic crossfire that preceded the invasion. His account of the combat in the desert is unparalleled in its grasp of strategy and tactics. The result is anurgently needed and up-to-date book that adds immeasurably to our understanding of those twenty-one days of war and their long, uncertain aftermath.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
John Keegan’s books include Intelligence in War and The Mask of Command. He is the defense editor of The Daily Telegraph (London). He lives in Wiltshire, England.
Table of Contents
A mysterious war — Iraq before Saddam — Saddam Hussein — Saddam's wars --The crisis of 2002-3 — The American war — The British war — The fall of Baghdad — The war's aftermath.
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