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The Ghosts of Omdurman

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Journal article

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The Armys force structure continues to be a hotly contentious issue. The Gulf War of 1990-1991, featuring the spectacularly successful performance of our armored units, has lent added gravity to the question of how much we can afford to reduce the heavy force in favor of units adapted especially for low-intensity conflict. In this article, Major Daniel P. Bolger argues that in the sands of Iraq the great traditional armored sweep enjoyed its last hurrah. Operationally, the Desert Storm ground campaign turned out to be a very comfortable war for the U.S. Army. Expert professionals made the most of years of training, force modernization, and doctrinal development. Yet, in the final accounting, so what Like the cavalry charge at Omdurman, the ground action in Kuwait and Iraq turned out to be an intriguing but essentially meaningless sequel to a fight already won. The ground maneuvers that ended the Gulf War remind one of the Allied sweeps through Germany in the spring of 945 -- deadly, impressive, swift, and somewhat redundant. These exploitation and pursuit operations, while executed to the highest standards, should not be oversold. They offer few conclusions about American operational prowess in mid-intensity warfare against a first-rate opponent and none whatsoever concerning U.S. capabilities in the far more likely low-intensity struggles. The war against the vaunted Iraqi Army was not won primarily on the ground. Victory came in Foggy Bottom, out on the Gulf, and in the air. The Bush Administration fashioned a coalition embargo that choked off Iraqs spare parts supply months before the first U.S. M1A1 Abrams tanks clanked across the border. The U.S. Navy enforced the sea blockade. The massively intensive aerial interdiction campaign completed the process. U.S. Generals waited long enough to let spare parts deprivation and air interdiction rot out the hulk of Iraqs army. Then, and only then, came the ground blitzkrieg. It was Air, then Land, Battle.

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  • Humanities and History
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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