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Operation Iraqi Freedom Marks New Way of War Fighting

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 17, 2003 – The successful application of teamwork and technology in Operation Iraqi Freedom marks a turning point in American war fighting, the U.S. military's senior officer said here April 16.

"What we've done in Iraq has been dramatically different" than how the American military has fought wars since the Civil War, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Navy League audience at a downtown hotel.

Myers pointed to U.S. military historian Professor Russell F. Weigley's 1973 book, "The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy."

"From [Gen. Ulysses S.] Grant's time on," Myers noted, "the professor suggested we won [wars] by destroying the enemy's army and driving at the heart of their nation."

Grant's lieutenant, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, carried out total war burning farms, foodstuffs, destroying railroads, during his late 1864 march from Atlanta to Savannah, Ga. To break the back of the southern war effort, Sherman's scorched-earth policy targeted the civilian, as well as the military, population.

"War is cruelty. There's no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it will be over," Sherman is known to have said, along with, "War is hell."

War is still hellish, Myers acknowledges, but in Iraq he noted that unprecedented efforts were made to spare the lives of innocent civilians and to leave the country's infrastructure intact for the Iraqi people.

U.S. and coalition war planners targeted now-deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's "pillars of power," Myers explained, -- not the Iraqi people.

Laser- and global positioning system-guided bombs and missiles enabled U.S. and coalition forces to hit the regime's security forces, air defense network and elite Republican Guard forces with pinpoint accuracy, the general pointed out.

"These things didn't guard Iraqi citizens; they just protected the regime," Myers explained, "so, concentrating our combat power on them is a clear departure from the devastating approach that Weigley described in our past approach to warfare."

And the concept of joint war fighting has definitely come to the forefront as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Myers remarked. He noted that Grant had teamed up with the U.S. Navy in 1863 during the Union general's successful campaign to take the city of Vicksburg, Miss.

"When you can adjust your plan across the spectrum of all capable joint forces and focus that firepower, those combined effects, you can realize tremendous results," the general pointed out.

And "this more accurate joint team means that we can make tremendous progress to minimize unintended consequences by causing civilian casualties and destroying Iraq's infrastructure," he concluded.

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