Leadership: October 30, 2003

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One of the more interesting lessons of the Iraq war was the nearly complete collapse of the Iraqi army. This was largely forgotten until recent media criticism along the lines of, "why wasn't the Iraqi army kept together for peacekeeping duty." The reason was simple; the Iraqi army simply melted away before Baghdad fell. The troops and officers just up and went home. Once the troops had left their bases, looters quickly moved in and stole everything, nailed down or not. Plumbing and other portions of buildings in army bases were looted. Many records of who was in the Iraqi army disappeared as well. So recalling the Iraqi army was moot. There were no facilities to station the troops in, and no way to sort out which officers and troops were pro-Saddam and which weren't. Iraqi officers were selected largely on the basis of their loyalty to Saddam, and many of those arrested since then for attacking coalition troops have been former army officers. And this wasn't the first time the Iraqi army had fallen apart. During the 1991 war, it was discovered, once coalition ground forces advanced, that most of the Iraqi army soldiers in Kuwait had already slipped away. They had simply gone home. This happened despite Saddam's secret police and special army security units, who were there to make sure the troops stayed in their trenches to face the coalition onslaught. Apparently bribes, or just wandering away at the first opportunity, allowed most Iraqi soldiers to just go home. But this is not just about Iraq, there are many armies currently, and throughout history, that have simply melted away when faced with a more powerful force. Most armies staffed with conscripts and poorly trained and motivated officers will likewise disappear if hit hard enough. The "Shock and Awe" concept really does work, and has worked many times over the past few thousand years. But predicting which army will break like that is an inexact science. Thus the policy of bringing up all the firepower you can and giving the other guy your best shot early on. If you're lucky, the enemy will decide this battle is a lost cause, and get lost.

 


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