by Rick Atkinson
Atkinson's book is a comprehensive account of the Gulf War from Schwarzkopf to foot soldiers, from planning to the cessation of hostilities (the term "cease-fire" is apparently reserved for conflicts with a more symmetrical outcome). Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was that the incredibly high ratio of Iraqi to coalition casualties was much less a result of technology than I had thought (although that was, of course, a major factor). Rather, consistently excellent strategy and tactics on the part of the coalition, consistently poor judgment on the part of the Iraqis, and some amount of luck kept the vast majority of the allied soldiers out of harm's way.
Something that I would have liked was more political and economic background for the war; in retrospect I realize that this book is simply not about these issues: it focuses entirely on military operations. Something else I would have liked to learn is what the Iraqi leadership was doing and thinking during the war: Crusade is, unfortunately, a totally one-sided book in this respect.
Atkinson's writing is good and he lets many minor stories come out, keeping the book from turning into a list of battles and bombings. For example, he follows: an aviator who is shot down inside Iraq and captured; Schwarzkopf's seriously dysfunctional relations with his superiors and subordinates; the inter-service rivalry and bickering in the US military; and the tragic friendly-fire incidents that accounted for a quarter of the American combat deaths. Recommended.
copyright © 2003 John Regehr