FOR A hint of how the allied ground offensive in the Persian Gulf that many now believe is imminent would proceed, study the campaigns of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in the Civil War. That's the advice of Field Manual 100-5, the Army's primary warfighting manual.
It's not the bloody 1864 battles of attrition (wearing down the enemy by brute force alone) at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, where Grant lost 7,000 soldiers in the first eight minutes of an assault on the Confederate trenches, that are held up as examples. Rather it is the maneuver of his 1863 Vicksburg campaign which, the manual states, "exemplifies the qualities of a well-conceived, violently executed offensive plan."
In that campaign, Grant, cutting himself loose from his base of operations, masked his movements with raids and demonstrations and "setting a pace of operations so rapid that his enemies could not follow his activities," the manual says, "he defeated the forces of Gen. (Joseph E.) Johnston and (John C.) Pemberton in five successive engagements. He covered 200 miles in 19 days . . . driving the defenders of Vicksburg into their trenches . . .. Within six weeks . . . the Vicksburg garrison surrendered, giving the Union uncontested control of the Mississippi and dividing the Confederacy.
"The same speed, surprise, maneuver and decisive action will be required in the campaigns of the future," states FM 100-5. It goes on to quote approvingly British Field Marshal Viscount Slim's advice to "Hit the other fellow as quick as you can, as hard as you can, where it hurts him most, when he isn't looking."
Acknowledging that frontal attacks sometimes may be necessary, the manual points out that they should be undertaken "only when no other approach is possible or will accomplish the mission." Army and Marine Corps attack doctrines emphasize maneuver characterized by surprise, concentration, speed, flexibility and audacity.
Surprise is achieved by striking the enemy at a time or place, or in a manner, for which he is unprepared. As FM 100-5 points out, Germany's victory over France in May, 1940, for example, resulted in large measure from the surprise created by attacking through the "impassable" Ardennes Forest and notes that "four years later, German armies surprised American forces by attacking in the dead of winter over the very same ground."
Thus, those speculating on the timing of the beginning of the allied offensive in the Gulf, based on the best weather and the best terrain, may look in the wrong direction.
In words that almost certainly will apply, however, FM 100-5 points out that "deep ground attacks can achieve surprise simply through the rapidity with which they move, by confronting rearward enemy forces with a wholly unanticipated threat," and cites the Israeli attack in the Sinai in June, 1967, as an illustration of such surprise-gaining agility.
"Virtually all modern offensive operations have been characterized by sudden concentrations," states the manual, "followed by rapid, deep exploitations." Examples include Germany's attack through France in 1940, the Soviet attack into Manchuria in 1945, MacArthur's counteroffensive in Korea in 1950 and Israel's seizure of the Sinai in 1967. Although concentration of effort is essential to success, the great danger traditionally has been that by bringing your forces together in one place you present the enemy with an attractive target. This ** was especially true when the enemy had nuclear weapons or a significant air attack capability. Iraq has neither, making
concentration of allied ground forces a less risky endeavor.
Still, concentration can tip off the enemy as to where the main attack is coming from. As allied forces move forward into their attack positions, they must take care to "mask patterns of movement and preparatory activity which might reveal the direction or timing of attack," the manual says. Reports Sunday (Feb. 17) from the Gulf that the Iraqis have stepped up their reconnaissance-in-force efforts are evidence that the enemy knows an attack is coming and is trying to locate the points of allied force concentration.
Thanks in large measure to allied air operations, these enemy probes have been turned back, suffering heavy losses. In particularly timely words, FM 100-5 emphasizes that "tactical air operations will be vital at every stage of the attack -- offensive and defensive counter air to protect the concentration from detection and attack, reconnaissance and interdiction to delay and disrupt enemy counter-concentration, and close air support to weight the main effort and especially sustain the momentum of the attack."
Speed is also an important part of Army attack doctrine, a principle reinforced by the types of units likely to compose the allied main attack -- the U.S. 1st Armored Division, 3rd Armored Division, the mechanized 1st Infantry Division (armored and mechanized divisions both have a mix of tank and armored infantry battalions), the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the British 1st Armoured Division. In addition, the Saudis, Egyptians and Syrians also have armored units that will take part in either the main attack or in secondary supporting attacks.
As the manual states, "attacking forces move fast and follow reconnaissance units or successful probes through gaps in enemy defenses, roll up exposed flanks (that is, the outer side of his defensive lines) and reinforce successes."
The intent is "to carry the battle deep into the enemy rear to break down the enemy's defenses before he can react. The enemy must never be permitted to recover from the shock of the initial assault, never be given the time to identify the main effort and, above all, never be afforded the opportunity to mass his forces or supporting fires against the main offensive effort."
Speed depends on the violent execution of the battle plan, but plans often go astray. Flexibility therefore is an important part of the attack.
Finally there is audacity. "More attacks have been defeated because of lack of audacity than for any other reason," says FM 100-5. It goes on to quote Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s warning, "Never take counsel of your fears. The enemy is more worried than you are." Hussein's front line forces now entrenched along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border have good reason to worry. Unless a deal for their withdrawal is struck and struck soon, the day of their destruction is near at hand.