Supreme Command and Strategic Purpose in Iraq; Strategic Insights: v.2, issue 2 (February 2003)
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At a time when the talk of war against Iraq is so casually bandied about in the United States, Elliot A. Cohen's book, Supreme Command, is timely and essential reading for supporters and opponents of that war. Cohen studies four great statesmen--Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben Gurion. One of his major conclusions is that they succeeded in their role because they immersed themselves in the conduct of war; they mastered their military briefs as thoroughly as they did their civilian ones; and they demanded and expected from their military subordinates a candor as bruising as it was necessary. While the study of those leaders is significant for the current and future generations of leaders, it is equally important to examine how President George W. Bush conducts himself in the seemingly definite war against Iraq. He has the benefit of Cohen's sage observations, since he is reported to have read Supreme Command. Applying the preceding to the Iraqi situation Bush currently faces, the need for having a clear strategic concept--I prefer the phrase strategic purpose--is vital. We do not know what President Bush has learned from Cohen's book, and what lessons he has drawn from it for his upcoming involvement in a military campaign against Iraq. However, if Cohen's observation about the significance of having a right strategic purpose is correct, then military action against Iraq should never take place.
This article appeared in Strategic Insights (February 2003), v.2 no.2
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