From Saigon To Desert Storm

How the U. S. military reinvented itself after Vietnam

It’s hard to remember now, but the outcome of the 1991 Persian Gulf War stunned the world. Few people even at the Pentagon expected it to be as one-sided as it was. Before Operation Desert Storm, Iraq’s armed forces were widely seen as a formidable adversary, hardened by years of war against Iran and supplied with the best equipment Saddam Hussein’s oil riches could buy. Iraq had 900,000 soldiers—more than the U.S. Army—and they had had months to entrench themselves in Kuwait and southern Iraq.

Soldiers learn desert warfare at the Army’s National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California, in 1982.
 
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Fighting The Last War—and The Next

Our government called the terror attacks on our country an act of war and replied with a declaration of war on terrorism. What can history teach us about our prospects in such a war?

Generals are always prepared to fight the last war, as the durable and scornful proverb goes. But preparing to fight the last war is not necessarily a foolish thing to do. If military technology is stable—as was the case, for example, in the long age of black powder and fighting sail—the lessons of the last war probably retain their authority. There are exceptions: In a world in which firearms had barely changed for a century, Napoleon consistently beat opponents who tried fighting the last war. But Napoleons are rare.Read more »

A War Against History

It's the tenth anniversary of the Gulf War. America certainly didn't lose, but what else do we know about it?

 

Just before dawn on August 2, 1990, a war of a sort began in the Middle East. An Iraqi army of 100,000 troops crossed the frontier of Kuwait and swept south toward the capital city. Before the day was out, Iraq had occupied virtually all Kuwait, and Iraqi formations were seen as far south as the Saudi Arabian border. Neither observers on the spot nor Western intelligence agencies were able to say what the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, intended to do next.

What Does History Have To Say About The Persian Gulf?

What the past tells of America’s role in the current crisis is sometimes contradictory—but always worth listening to

Men and women achieve historical perspective by making analogies. The old tag that we “remember the future and invent the past” suggests the hazards of this procedure; it admonishes us not to forget that the lessons of history are all too likely to be a series of projected misunderstandings. Anyone seeking those lessons runs the danger of being capriciously selective, self-serving, and sentimental.Read more »