Cultural Revolutions

Iraq's Collapse

The war in Iraq’s outcome was never in doubt, but the magnitude and speed of the Iraqi regime’s collapse are nevertheless puzzling and deserve closer scrutiny.

In terms of numbers and available equipment, the Iraqi military was theoretically a foe worthy of respect.  Its past performance was by no means abysmal.  It suffered serious reverses in the early stages of the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War, but it did not disintegrate even when casualties started running into the hundreds of thousands.  In the closing stages of that war, when the Iranians turned the tables on the attackers and entered southern Iraq, it fought reasonably well and held its ground in the face of relentless attacks by human waves of Khomeini’s Pazdarans.

In 1991, the Iraqi army was comprehensively beaten by the U.S.-led coalition in Kuwait, losing almost half of its inventory, but the crushing magnitude of that defeat was the result of Saddam’s strategic ineptitude.  Placing tight columns of slow-moving armor on open roads and trying to hold thinly spread, fixed defensive positions was exactly what Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf wanted him to do.  With the coalition completely dominating the air, the Iraqis were doomed, no less than Rommel in Tunisia in 1943 or Rundstedt in the Falaise Gap in 1944.  The ensuing meltdown of regular troops did not spread to the Republican Guard units, as the rebelling Shias...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here