Ralph Peters has an excellent piece in today’s NY Post arguing that most observers simply don’t understand what’s going on in Iraq.
As the presidential election approaches, the cynical charges of “failure” in Iraq obscure a fundamental truth: The conflict has improved our military dramatically. War teaches. And we’re very good learners. We already had the best-trained, best-equipped armed forces in the world. Now we have the most experienced troops, as well. With enduringly high morale.
Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent occupation swept away a pile of dangerous nonsense. We found Ã¢€” again Ã¢€” that airpower alone cannot win wars and that the infantryman remains as indispensable in the 21st century as he was in the bronze age. The think-tank theories collapsed. Grit, guts and tough training carried the day. “Shock-and-awe” fizzled embarrassingly, but aircraft armed with precision weapons discovered a new role in supporting ground troops fighting in urban terrain. In the past, preparatory fires from massed artillery preceded major attacks, causing broad destruction. Today, focused prep fires delivered from the air can target terrorist hide-outs over weeks and even months, weakening the enemy physically and psychologically Ã¢€” while dramatically reducing civilian losses Ã¢€” before the troops go in.
Faced with the challenges of operating in cities, our soldiers and their leaders have developed innovative techniques to suit different situations. Some operations are now designed to start and finish between sunset and sunrise. Major assaults have begun to use mass to overwhelm opponents before they can react, to finish in days a fight that doctrine holds would take weeks or months. And the new ways work. The enemy leaders in Fallujah aren’t begging to play “Let’s Make a Deal” because our forces are failing.
Indeed. While it’s unclear that “Shock and awe” failed–Saddam’s army mostly surrendered rather than fight, after all–it’s true that the theorists continually get overexited about the prospects of gadgets rendering the foot soldier obsolete. More importantly, they create the false image that war can be bloodless, creating hypersensitivity to casualties among the population and, especially, the punditocracy.