April 17, 2003 (Ira Pilgrim)


War is much too serious a matter to be entrusted to the military.

French Proverb

April 11, 2003

This Iraq war will go down in history as the first war to have television cameras actually recording what takes place when a blitzkrieg is successful. For you youngsters, the word "blitzkrieg" is the German word for a lightning war, led by armor and aircraft and moving at great speed. That is what was done in Iraq.

We have seen, on our television sets, what can happen in a city that has been captured. We have been treated to scenes in Baghdad showing people, from children to old men, taking everything that they could carry from every public building, including hospitals. There was no one to stop them. While it may not matter if a palace is looted, it is devastating to the entire population if the same thing is done to a hospital, a power plant or anything that provides an essential service to the city and its people.

It should be obvious that our generals did not know what to do if their army actually won. They were not adequately prepared for victory.

Anyone who has been in the army knows that the army can do nothing unless detailed instructions are written out in advance. Some day a general will write a book on How to Deal With Victory and it will be required reading at West Point. It seems obvious that either that book has not yet been written, or our commanding generals haven't read it. Despite the promises made of an early victory, no one seems to have been adequately prepared for it. They had brought American flags to use when posing for the camera, but there were no police, military or otherwise, to protect the hospitals, power plants and the people. It was a scene of total anarchy.

In a war, the men on the front lines have to use their common sense if they want to stay alive. But once you go back one echelon, everything is done "by the book." When you get to where the generals are, what they do is get reports and move pins around on maps. They make what are called "command decisions." It is one war on the front lines and a very different war at staff headquarters. The officers who explain things to the public are more in the public relations(PR) business than the war business. I am beginning to suspect that many top generals nowadays are in the PR business. That was true of generals MacArthur and Patton in World War II. There was no television in those days, so the generals had to be much more flamboyant. The really top five-star generals, MacArthur and Eisenhower, were bucking for President (Commander in Chief).

I assume that Baghdad will eventually be straightened out. But for now it is SNAFU.

Next column

Return to the War and the Military Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page