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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-documented, slightly biased history of Gulf War
The authors provide interesting, behind-the-scenes accounts of the political and military players in this war, based on many interviews. What unfolds is far different from what was said publicly at the time.

Occasionally, the New York Times reporter's and the retired Marine's apparent biases show through, detracting from an otherwise very good book. They seem...
Published on June 17, 1997

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0 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wrong Book
Bought this by mistake, thought it was a diffewrent one. Will read it sometime in the futre or donate it to local library.
Published on November 3, 2007 by quadpaws


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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-documented, slightly biased history of Gulf War, June 17, 1997
By A Customer
The authors provide interesting, behind-the-scenes accounts of the political and military players in this war, based on many interviews. What unfolds is far different from what was said publicly at the time.

Occasionally, the New York Times reporter's and the retired Marine's apparent biases show through, detracting from an otherwise very good book. They seem to blame President Reagan's administration for not buying mine-clearing equipment for the Marines and the Navy, but then blame the Air Force--and not the administration--for using its money to buy items other than the latest survival radios for its aircrews. They also inaccurately claim that the Air Force developed a new doctrine for this war where they would be in charge of all theater airpower (a doctrinal concept developed by them during the North African campaign in World War II) and that the Strategic Air Command had controlled the B-52s deployed to Southeast Asia during the Viet Nam War (they actually were operationally controlled by the Theater), as well as a few other inaccurate items regarding the Air Force. It became rather apparent that all Services that were not Marines (and to a lesser extent, Navy) were denigrated. An example is their claim that the Air Force required that friendly aircraft obtain two means to verify an unknown aircraft's identification before firing on it in order to hold down the Navy's 'kill' rate (since the Navy had not invested in the systems to install two separate means of identification on each of their aircraft, they needed to contact the AWACS to obtain the second means). The Viet Nam War demonstrated this requirement and for whatever reason, the Navy had not addressed it in the interim--which the authors evidently refused to say.

After summarizing what the politicians and military should do differently next time (after acknowledging that the media's outcry that the military had created killing zones north of Kuwait City partially caused the premature ending of the war), they also conveniently omitted a recommendation on what the media should do differently.

Although the items cited above and a few similar ones throughout the book are distracting and cast some doubt on the entire book, their documented sources were sufficient (approximately one per page) to make them generally believable.

I would recommend the book to anyone wanting to know what occurred behind the scenes, with a caution that it should be read critically and not be used as the reader's only source.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed and hard-hitting account of the Gulf War, December 29, 2005
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
In "The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf," Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor have crafted a fascinating work of military history. As the title indicates, the book places a heavy emphasis on the actions of the senior military officers involved in the planning and execution of the U.S.-led coalition's 1991 war against Iraq. In the preface, the authors note that this conflict "is without precedent in the annals of warfare. It was the dawn of a new era" (page x).

In their acknowledgements section, the authors discuss in detail the research that went into the writing of this book. They note that they interviewed administration officials, diplomats, allied military officers, and intelligence experts; they observe further that some "talked on the record; others on a not-for-attribution basis." They also drew on written responses that former president George Bush provided to their questions. Their research is meticulously documented in a lengthy set of endnotes (pages 479-520), thus enhancing the book's credibility. The text is further enhanced by thirteen detailed and clearly drawn maps that illuminate many aspects of the war: the Iraqi air defense system, coalition force deployment and movement, locations of oil fields, and more. Also included are photographs of many of the senior leaders involved in the war.

The book is full of fascinating details about many aspects of the war. The authors discuss the participation of various coalition forces in the campaign, as well as the diplomatic activities involving the USSR, Egypt, and other nations. Also discussed are friendly fire incidents and Iraqi POWs. I was particularly interested in the many details about the military hardware used by both coalition and Iraqi forces; the authors cover aircraft, naval vessels, sea and land mines, mine-clearing gear, tanks, and more. There are some really noteworthy battle scenes; particularly vivid is a description of a tank battle between U.S. and Iraqi forces--"an impressive tableau of destruction."

Gordon and Trainor are pointedly critical of many aspects of the conduct of the war. They discuss examples of rivalry and poor coordination between the different branches of the U.S. military, and also criticize the French and the Saudis. But the strongest and most sustained criticism is directed at General Norman Schwarzkopf. The authors assess both his command style and planning of the war and ultimately fault him for failing to achieve true joint warfare. The book places a heavy emphasis on the battle of Khafji; the authors discuss this engagement in detail and criticize both Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell for failing to grasp its lessons.

Gordon and Trainor note that the Persian Gulf War was "a laboratory for the American military's new weapons and fighting doctrines." This well-written book vividly shows how hardware, tactics, diplomatic concerns, and personalities came together in the fighting of this war. This is a valuable addition to the military history of the late 20th century.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Companion Piece to "Crusade", January 23, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
This is the third book that I, a veteran of Desert Shield and Storm, have read about the Gulf War. I agree with the previous reviewers' comments that the book is judgmental (sometimes on peripheral issues). However, "judgmental" is not always a dirty word. The bottom line is that we failed to destroy the Republican Guard. Failing to do so made Saddam's survival much less problematic (see "Out of the Ashes" by the Cockburns for a good account of Hussein's astonishing resilience.
I also thought the argument about the battle of Khafji was intriguing. I didn't think it at the time, but our victory there should have told us we would roll over the Iraqis and that VII Corps' plans for a long campaign were unrealistic.
But as they say...
the saddest words of tongue or pen, are the words 'it might have been.'
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding critical assessment of the Gulf War., November 18, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
Bernard Trainor presents two key arguments in this book that are worthy of consideration. One is that the USMC learned early on in the battle for Kafji that the Iraqi army was a house of cards, but Gen. Swartzkopf either ignored or missed that message and in any event never got the word to VII Corp commander Gen. Franks to position his troops for a battle of pursuit. As a result a large portion of the Republican guard were able to escape the VII Corp left hook. The second key argument in this book is that Colin Powell the author of the so-called "Weinburger Doctrine" which argued for the use of US forces only when victory is assured and when backed by the will of the American people, urged George Bush to call a premature end to the war which allowed the Republican Guard to participate in crushing the Shi'ite rebellion occuring within earshot of US troops. Trainor is sometimes a little too critical of decisions made in the heat of battle and far too USMC-centric but he is an outstanding student of war. I highly reccommend this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive account of the planning for Desert Storm..., May 8, 2001
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
This is the only book that I've read on Desert Storm, but I'll bet that you won't find one that better describes all the considerations in the planning for the mission. Gordon covers all bases in the planning and excecution of the mission (from the Middle East to Washington)and that's what I bought the book for, so if you're looking for a comprehensive account of the Gulf War (with some unvarnished opinions thrown in) than you should get this book. Recommended.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MUST READ for GULF WAR HISTORIANS, May 10, 2002
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
The General's War is an excellent account of the planning and implementation of the Gulf War. In short, it shows why the United States is a great nation. One of the main reasons we were so successful was because we DID argue on how to fight this war. Both the Military and Washington worked together to come up w/ the best possible plan. No war is ever conducted perfectly, but the Gulf War comes pretty close. Don't forget...it is the men and women who fought the war that won it, but the planning phases were crucial to putting our soldiers in the position to win. A little luck in some area never hurts as well. The best part of tis book is that it questions specific decisions from the war. This critcal analysis not only brings awareness, but helps our military and polititians plan future military operations.
Don't forget to read "Bravo Two Zero" about the British SAS in the Gulf. Great book!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, horribly edited, August 24, 2003
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
Gordon and Trainor have written what is mostly a very readable and very well put together book about the first Gulf War. Students of history should be so lucky to get a book like this on the most recent conflict in the Gulf in a few years time.
The book weaves political and military decisions together seemlessly, and discusses how political considerations did hamper the war effort, in contrast to the line from Washington that the civilians let the generals do all the planning.
Colin Powell does not come out well in this book at all, nor does Gen. Schwartzkopf. The two authors prove that Powell in contrast to his media image at the time, was an extremely reluctant warrior and then wanted to make sure that the US forces did whatever it took to not sustain casualties. Reading this after the second Gulf conflict, one gets a sense of why Powell is Secretary of State and not Secretary of Defense, he seems to have a much better grasp of politics than he does of war. In the book, Schwartzkopf remarks bluntly that Powell does not have the stomach for war, and from what Trainor and Gordon detail, it looks like he is right.
The current value for students of history and not just students of military history and tactics, however, lies in the fact that the Air Force wanted all along in the first Gulf war to topple the Hussein regime and made that a priority, only to have the other services and the civilians in the Bush administration such as Powell and Baker, push that consideration aside. The end of the book details war plans that were even drawn up and immediately classified by an outraged Washington that the field commanders even thought of this, to go to Baghdahd and topple Hussein.
The book is also remarkably instructive on how the US managed to get hoodwinked by Hussein into letting him fly helos anywhere he wanted in Iraq and also not using the occupied oil fields as a bargaining chip because Powell and Schwartzkopf wanted to get out so quickly. Schwartzkopf's failures as a commander in decentralizing his command so much also led to the military not ever understanding the significance of the Battle of Kafji and the Iraqi army's horrible state. If Schwartzkopf had understood the battle's significance, the US and its allies could have possibly destroyed much of the Iraqi Republican Guard much more thoroughly and faster.
Things were so disorganized at the end of the war, the Bush administration failed to even give Schwartzkopf guidance on the terms of the cease fire. All of these mistakes leaving Hussein in power with a military able to suppress internal dissent, and the US to get into a long running needless battle over sanctions and inspections that culminated in the most recent Gulf conflict. If the Bush administration and CENTCOM had done their jobs in the first Gulf war, Hussein would have been gone over a decade ago and Iraq rebuilt.
This is a great book, however, it's horribly edited. There are several misspelled words with many of the chapters having the same passages repeated a few pages apart, especially in the conclusion of each chapter. A better editor should have caught those mistakes and told the authors that the reader didn't need to have something defined to them twice in three pages, and didn't need passages repeated verbatim in the conclusion.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars objective account, November 18, 2002
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
This is an objective account of the planning and execution of military force during the gulf war. It brushes aside many of the claims made by the USA, and our military brass(details ineffectiveness of patriots, lack of SCUD hunts, overestimation of enemy, etc). It is well written and entertaining, however I wish it had more maps with greater detail of the region and military advances and attacks.
I would give this book my highest recommedation.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for the student of the Persian Gulf War, March 1, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
Serious students of the Persian Gulf war will have already read several prominent books which address the topic as a whole or in part. "The General's War" provides facinating "inner-sanctum" information and points of view, which are not available elsewhere. It's most prominent deficiency is a deliberate slant (bias?) to more-positively present and promote the performance of the Marine Corps vis-a-vie the other military services without apparent justification.... Overall, a very good book. As one who was there, I enjoyed the book
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Book, October 14, 2003
By 
c-town buckeye (Columbus, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf (Paperback)
This book provides an excellent view into much of the political and military decision-making that occurred during the first Gulf War. Gordon and Trainor's prose flows smoothly in this historical account of the war and this, along with many interesting vignettes mixed in, make the book easy to read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning not only more about the first conflict in the Gulf, but also those wanting insight into how the planning and execution of such an operation is complex and riddled with political battles.
Beginning their narrative shortly before Iraq invades Kuwait, the authors show that while some within the CIA were concerned with Iraqi troop developments near the Kuwaiti border, most in the Bush Administration were unconcerned about the possibility that Hussein would challenge the U.S. in the region. The ambiguous communiqués exchanged between Iraq and the U.S. are briefly mentioned, including the infamous Glaspie memo. What the Bush administration failed to realize, was how desperate Iraq's situation would become due to their failing economy and continued large military expenditures. This combination created "an explosive relationship" according to Gordon and Trainor.
After the Iraqis seize Kuwait, the book turns to its most interesting section-the decisions of where and how many forces to deploy and what to do with the forces once in place. After scrambling to receive approval from the Saudis to station troops in their territory, debate began to center around whether U.S. forces should protect Saudi Arabia or attempt to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Powell favored only protecting the Saudis, while Eagleburger believed the U.S. should seek to remove the Iraqis. This first quibble over the role of the U.S. forces was only one of many to occur throughout the conflict between decision-makers at all levels.
Once it was decided Kuwait was to be liberated, the next hot topic was how to use the forces in the Gulf most effectively. In the U.S. command debate swirled over how to use the air and ground forces. Unsurprisingly, the Air Force asserted the war could be won solely through the use of air power while the Army and Marines thought a ground offensive would be necessary. Pentagon official, John Warden, pitched his revolutionary war plan to CINC commander Norman Schwartzkopf. Warden's plan involved striking at the heart of Iraq's command and control center-Baghdad. Rather than bombard Iraqi ground troops with an endless stream of firepower, Warden proposed going straight to what he called the "inner ring" of Iraq's military power and targeting electrical, radar, communication, and other installations critical to Saddam's ability to disseminate orders to subordinates. Unlike Vietnam where air power provided support for ground forces, Warden's plan involved knocking out key pillars of the Iraqi military machine with the hope that it would collapse on itself. Warden's plan was tweaked several times over to accommodate other branches and military officials but the basic framework stayed in place-Iraq would be weakened through a systematic air campaign aimed at Baghdad before a ground war would begin.
With the air strategy firmly in place, work began on identifying potential targets. As the U.S. gathered intelligence on exactly what types of equipment the Iraqis possessed, they began to realize two things: 1) they were unsure about the quality of the hardware the Iraqis had and 2) the massive military buildup undertaken during the Reagan administration had neglected a few areas that might become crucial during the Gulf War. Hussein had managed to cobble together a formidable regional force through arms sales mainly from the Soviets, French, and Chinese. The U.S. was uncertain how good the Iraqi air defenses were, how effectively the Iraqis could use it, and how U.S. stealth technology and radar jamming techniques would perform against it.
The U.S. was not only uneasy because the stealth technology was untested but because other areas of the military had been neglected during the Reagan era build-up. Obsessed with technology, the Reagan buildup did an excellent job of developing high-tech weapons (stealth, Tomahawk cruise missles, etc.) but passed over smaller, more minor upgrades but upgrades that were still important. Two cases illustrate this point. First, only Air Force planes had two systems of independently identifying aircraft as friend-from-foe. Since it was a rule of engagement that U.S. planes had to have two independent identifications, the Navy could not engage what it believed (rightly) were two Iraqi war jets trailing U.S. planes returning from bombing raids. Another example involves the radio technology possessed by the Army. Instead of modern radios, the Army pilots had antiquated radios that had been held over from the Vietnam era. The radios were still operable but also gave away the position of the user. When two Army pilots were forced to eject over Iraq, the Iraqis eventually captured them in part because their radio transmissions were traceable.
With the air phase humming along, planning for a ground invasion continued. Again, there were battles over which ground forces would carry out which missions. The Army had planned to enter the western part of Iraq, storm toward Baghdad, and cut off the supply lines of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. The Marines' role would be to push the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and into the Army, which would have gathered a full head of steam and deliver the knock-out punch. The Marines became upset because they felt undermanned to charge into Kuwait only to have the Army swoop in and steal the glory by finishing off the Iraqis. Why do they have to do the dirty work and get none of the credit? Partners within the coalition also had to be accommodated. The Saudis insisted on helping push back Iraqi forces that had crossed the Saudi border as a matter of pride. Britain wanted a prominent role in the ground war and France also wanted to conduct a significant number of sorties. All were woven into the battle plan, even if the plan had to be altered in ways that were thought detrimental to success.
With the concerns of the services and allies adequately assuaged, the ground war was finally set to begin. The Marines moved into Kuwait and after some intense initial resistance, had the Iraqis on the run. The only problem was the Marines' effort had been too successful. They Iraqis retreated quickly enough that the Army did not reach a position to deliver its "left hook" to the fleeting Iraqi forces. Since the U.S. had been so effective in the ground phase, Powell and Schwartzkopf began to lobby the president with the idea that the fighting should end soon and the U.S. should scale back in the region to prevent anti-American sentiment. Both Powell and Schwartzkopf believed that plowing through Baghdad and deposing Saddam Hussein would be costly in terms of casualties. They argued the mission had been accomplished-Kuwait had been liberated.
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The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf
The Generals' War : The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf by Michael R. Gordon (Paperback - November 9, 1995)
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