Leadership: April 10, 2003

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While there will be countless analyses of what is being called Gulf 2 or PG2 (for Persian Gulf 2) and the strategies employed there, the historical precedents for the campaign and the fingerprints of American operational art have been all over the plans from the beginning.


As described by Geoffrey Perret and Marty Asher in their book A Country Made By War, American operational art has evolved since the Revolutionary War along a line known as Converging Columns. Generally, a long-term objective (physical location to be seized or occupied) is established, and then a strategy is developed to approach that objective and assault it from several different directions. In short, several columns (of divisions or corps) converge on an objective.

In the Revolutionary War, we see this at the battles of Saratoga and Yorktown. The assault on Mexico City (Mexican-American War) looks at first like a single column, but in reality, there were two axes of advance fighting their way to the city separately. The Civil War is full of examples of converging columns. Even the cavalry operations of the western Indian wars demonstrate this on a smaller scale.
World War II demonstrated this American Operational art to the rest of the world, when the American broke into multiple columns in North Africa, which converged at Tripoli and Tunisia, and then again in France, when multiple columns put ashore at Normandy converged on Paris (and got there before the column from southern France could join them). The biggest allied fiasco of the war, Operation Market Garden, was a single column upon which the Germans could focus all of their attention. Once Patton and his American counterparts were turned loose to race across France, the multiple American columns converged rather quickly on the Rhein River and into Germany.

The one war where the Americans were never really able to unleash their tradition of Converging Columns was Vietnam, a war that was essentially fought entirely on the defensive (protecting South Vietnam) instead of on the offensive (conquering North Vietnam).

In the current war in Iraq, weve seen the militarys columns converge on Baghdad, with one column led by the 3d Infantry Division, and the other by the Marines. Had the 4th Infantry Division been given access to Turkey, another column from the North would have been added to the mix. (The 173d Airborne Brigade has not pressed hard toward Baghdad; it has focused on securing the oil fields and assisting the Kurds in the North.)

Talking heads are hailing the march to Baghdad as an innovative new plan and a revolutionary way to fight a war. In reality, we can reflect upon history and see that this march is a classic American operation, with its roots in military tradition going back over 200 years. Brant Guillory

 


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