The war started with a brilliant series of pre-emptive bangs that shattered Iraqi leadership and seized the most valuable areas of Iraq. How did the US military machine, assumed to have insufficient air power, too few troops, and little momentum take a country the size of California within three weeks?
In the 1991 victory in the Gulf War, the United States lead a much larger coalition force into a heavy air campaign followed by a lightening quick ground campaign. In the years that followed, the United States military experienced a continuing series of reductions in the national defense budget.
What was left unrecorded was the incredible degree of competence with which the US military leadership managed the reduction in resources, balancing force structures against personnel requirements against procurement needs and logistic realities.
Any one considering the great military victory achieved in Iraq must ask the following questions: Who was bright enough to plan to have the weapons systems in the right place at the right time? Who orchestrated this vast complex array of sophisticated military machinery-ships, submarines, missiles, armor, and soldiers-all needing fuel, ammunition and water?
The answer is the much-maligned civil and military leaders of the American defense establishment, working in concert with the most advanced defense-based corporations in the world. While there were those anxious to parade the iniquities of a two-billion dollar bomber, most often failed to appreciated the genius required to conceive of, much less create a system which can use a satellite to send signals to a B-1B to program a precision guided missile to take out a Soviet T-72 tank parked in a mosque-without damaging the mosque!
Admittedly, there were lapses in the Iraqi war, such as the looting of museums by members of the Ba'ath party just a day after many had declared Baghdad liberated and the raids on hospitals, another problem that could have easily been remedied by a show of U.S. presence and force. And there were technological complications as well, including the aching misfortune of death by friendly fire. The author deals with these shortcomings in a straightforward manner.
Operation Iraqi Freedom: What Went Right and Why; What Went Wrong and Why gives intimate insight into the way in which the armed services, particularly the United States Air Force, managed to overcome genuine budgetary, political, and military difficulties to create the finest military force in the world, one that operated with the most extreme care to avoid collateral damage and to prevent loss of life.
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As Jay Stout reveals, the air war had actually been in the planning stages ever since the victory of Operation Desert Storm, twelve years earlier. But when Operation Iraqi Freedom officially commenced on March 20, 2003, the Marine Corps entered the fight with an aviation arm at its smallest since before World War II. Still, with the motto “Speed Equals Success,” the separate air and ground units acted as a team to get the job done.
Drawing on exclusive interviews with the men and women who flew the harrowing missions, Hammer from Above reveals how pilots and their machines were tested to the limits of endurance, venturing well beyond what they were trained and designed to do. Stout takes us into the cockpits, revealing what it was like to fly these intense combat operations for up to eighteen hours at a time and to face incredible volumes of fire that literally shredded aircraft in midair during battles like that over An Nasiriyah .
With its dynamic descriptions of perilous flights and bombing runs, Hammer from Above is a worthy tribute to the men and women who flew and maintained the aircraft that so inspired their brothers in arms and terrified the enemy.
From the Hardcover edition.
Drones, however, are only part of the problem. William Arkin shows that security is actually undermined by an impulse to gather as much data as possible, the appetite and the theory both skewed towards the notion that no amount is too much. And yet the very endeavor of putting fewer human in potential danger places everyone in greater danger. Wars officially end, but the Data Machine lives on forever.
Throughout his career, Arkin has exposed powerful secrets of so-called national security and intelligence. Now he continues that tradition. The most alarming book about warfare in years, UNMANNED is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of mankind.