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Last Updated:  Thursday, 3 April, 2003, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Are coalition tactics working?
A Royal Marine Commando escorts an Iraqi POW
US army commanders have warned that the swift war in Iraq military planners had hoped for is now improbable.

The strategy of bypassing the cities and moving on has actually met much stronger resistance than expected.

Fighting in the approach to the towns has slowed supplies to the troops and there is concern over provisions running low.

Meanwhile, the United States is investigating an incident in which at least seven Iraqi women and children were killed by US soldiers at a checkpoint near the city of Najaf in central Iraq as the bombing of Baghdad continued.

Do you think the coalition's strategy is working? Will Baghdad provide the real test of US and UK military tactics?

We discussed the war in our phone-in programme, Talking Point, on Sunday 30 March.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

When this is over, no-one will ever think of the British army as the elite fighting machine it once was. And no-one will ever go into battle with the Americans and feel safe. Hopefully, no-one will ever vote for Bush or Blair again in any capacity, anywhere in the world.
Jodie Lister, Wokingham, UK

The Iraqis have suffered for years, but they love their country
Bill, USA
It seems to me that the people of Iraq aren't fighting for Saddam. They're fighting against invading forces. The Iraqis have suffered for years, but they love their country. Right now they see their country shot to pieces, all because of a man they hate. The end doesn't justify the means. This war has everything to do with hidden agenda's, not with liberating any people. The first thing the 'liberators' did, was rush to the oil fields to secure them. Again, it's all about money and interests...
Evert, UK

Like it or not, we're committed. To second-guess is futile, and to quit now would be more destabilizing than to finish what we started.
Bill, USA

UK troops have experience in Ulster, against the IRA, that's why they are doing better than the US in city warfare, as in Basra. However it wasn't until there was a political agreement between Dublin and London that troops could come out of their fortified stations without fear of an attack.
Shaun Smyth, France

I am really shocked that people believe this war is dragging on and the Coalition forces have failed in some kind of tactical blunder. We are less than two weeks into the war and things are going well for the Coalition. Did people really believe that the Iraqi military would not even put up a fight? Even the fall of Poland in WWII took the Germans three weeks and that was with almost no resistance. Personally, I would have been shocked if the Coalition had already secured Iraq and disposed of Saddam....come on people, let's be realistic.
Antje, Canada

Let's be honest, for all the media coverage we don't really know what the strategy is exactly. Only the Generals know that, so how can we say whether it has been effective in the last 13 days. One would imagine that the Iraqi people, having lived and living under an oppressive regime will be terrified and defiant of anyone who points a gun at them and tells them what to do. I sincerely hope that Washington allows these people to decide their own fate after Saddam Hussein has been removed from power.
Rebekah, UK

I do not understand how the US and UK forces think they will win the hearts of the people of Iraq by giving them a bottle of water and a hot dog
Bob, USA
The time to criticize the war is over. We are at war and arguing over it will not help that fact. We should support our troops and hope for their safe return.
Mike, USA

Due to military superiority, the coalition forces will win, but only after destroying Iraq, which I think is the real goal of this savage attack. However, I do not understand how the US and UK forces think they will win the hearts of the people of Iraq by giving them a bottle of water and a hot dog! Are we silly or do we think the world is stupid?
Bob, USA

It's becoming increasingly clear to me that the US military leadership had no idea what it was getting itself into by invading Iraq. Clearly this is not the same Gulf war as in '91, and just seems to get uglier and more difficult by the day. Sadly, I believe that things will get much worse before they get better...
Habib Loew, USA

In the heat of battle, when your life is threatened there is no alternative but to shoot first. War is not about asking questions nicely it is about survival of the individual of your comrades. Kill or be killed, survive or die, better to be alive than dead, so you can fight another day. Whether you're a politician, a businessman or an innocent bystander - tomorrow depends on what you do today
Anon, UK

The strategy will work, judging by quotes from an unnamed US commander yesterday: Baghdad will be taken no matter what the casualties.
Rumsfeld is also right to change US military tactics from heavy to light forces. BUT - he is now using this invasion as an experiment, with the lives of thousands of troops, most of them in combat for the first time, and civilian Iraqis who have no choice in the matter.
Mort Young, USA

What happens if Syria enters the war through supporting Iraq? What happens if Iran enters the war through supporting Iraq? Does the USA want most of their troops sitting in the middle of Iraq surrounded by aligning possible warring countries?
Randy Emert, USA

I am getting a little tired of reporters and the general public acting and speaking in such a way that they believe they are experts on international politics and warfare. I do not know what it is like to be confronted by the possibility that someone walking toward me could very well kill me and I don't believe that many people do. For whatever reason the war is occurring, support is what our armed forces require, not constant analysis of actions and strategies by people with a lack of knowledge and experience in such matters. Don't treat our soldiers as the world did those involved in Vietnam.
Andrew Dobner, UK

What Strategy? All the planners are living in a fool's paradise. They took a country's patriotism for granted and are paying the price for it.
Rohan Dalvi, India

The problem with people in Western society is they want everything now or sooner - including a quick result in Iraq. If the media we have today existed in 1940, we would have done Lord Haw Haw's work for him and contributed to the downfall of our country. The media are either reckless of traitorous, I'm not sure which.
Steve, Scotland

I don't think the tactics of "fire first, think later" are working as far as the US troops are concerned
Michael Dalton, UK
I don't think the tactics of "fire first, think later" are working as far as the US troops are concerned. How many more Iraqi civilians or British Troops must die before they start using their brains? Tactics - what tactics?
Michael Dalton, UK

David Blunkett is saying that the Iraqi people are becoming less sacred of Saddam's regime and that the Coalition forces are presently seen as villains, and will "be welcomed in time". This is brainwashing. By saying that if the coalition forces are there for long enough, eventually, the Iraqi people will forgive them for attacking their country. I don't want to hear any more of this rubbish from "my" government. We are not stupid.
Paul, Inverness, UK

I agree with Brandon, USA: The overwhelming military superiority of the US means that the outcome is not in doubt, and that the advances have been impressive and rapid.
Which is all fine if the sole objective is to remove Saddam from power. If the intention is to rebuild Iraq as a shining beacon of democracy, then the support of the Iraqi people is also required. Cruise missiles do not buy support and neither will Marshall Law after the regime falls.
David, UK

The US and UK are embarking on a dirty tactical mission. They've destroyed water and electricity supplies, and are opposed to the Iraqi government buying its own food for the oil, through the UN. Then, they supply these things themselves so the world can see the humanitarian side! Although there will be many Iraqis who will eventually give up and support the US and UK involuntarily, Winning the Iraqi people is perhaps the most challenging task of this war.
Bouferrouk, Algeria

It's an old quote, but our tactics may win the war but we'll never win the peace.
Alan Richard, UK

All that the coalition has won so far is a whole lot of sand and a few oil wells
Farruk, UK
All that the coalition has won so far is a whole lot of sand and a few oil wells. As for any hearts and minds, forget it. The Iraqis see the US and UK as invaders. And why is no other country allowed to help Iraq when America and the UK has 48 countries helping them? Saddam has given them the desert and invited them to come into the city where they will have to fight street by street, something I don't think the Americans will relish.
Farruk, UK

The playground politics of the U.S. - "I'm bigger than you" - clearly is not working. Everyone that opposed the war is now seeing their worst fears coming true before their eyes. The current mindset on both sides is leading only to a hardening of attitudes and further entrenchment into irreconcilable positions. Sometimes it takes real courage to step back and let go rather than allow yourself to be drawn in to a fight in which there is no ultimate winner.
Zoran, Bahrain

I personally don't think the coalition tactics are working. The anticipated mass surrender, after dropping of millions of propaganda leaflets, has not taken place; the Iraqi's, both civilians and military, seem unfazed by the 'shock and awe.' Instead the death of so many innocent people has seemed to actually galvanize the Iraqi's to resist the coalition even more.
Does Bush, Blair or anyone supporting the coalition, really think they can convince the Iraqi's to be jubilant that their freedom is neigh, when the blood of innocent lives is flowing everyday?
Firefox Mhandu, Zimbabwe

The overwhelming arrogance and overconfidence of the "coalition" forces is staggering. If I was fighting a military campaign against a technically superior and numerically superior force, I'd attack the supply lines and use guerrilla tactics.
Hugh Platt, London, UK

You cannot say whether the Pentagon strategy has worked until the war has been won. In reality the war is in its early stage. "Give war a chance"!
Mirek, USA

Interesting quote to ponder:
"While we hoped that popular revolt would topple Saddam, we did not wish to see the break-up of the Iraqi state. Extending the war into Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."
From "Why We Didn't Remove Saddam" by George Bush (Sr.) and Brent Scowcroft, Time Magazine, 1998
Tim Francis, Great Britain

The strategy of this war was based on there being three areas under attack. A swift strike to Baghdad from the south, taking Basra also in the south, plus an Army knocking on Baghdad's northern gates. Turkey's refusal to allow its NATO Allies use of their bases near the Turkey/Iraq border is adding days, if not weeks to the conflict. It would have been over by now had the (60 000) US Northern Army been given a clear run to Baghdad.
Neville Rogers, UK

The US certainly has the best equipment, but have little idea how to deploy or use it effectively. They should learn from the hard experiences of both British and Israeli troops, particularly when dealing with urban warfare.
The US will lose this war and will have to pull out with a very bloody nose. If the politicians want to win hearts and minds, give the troops footballs to hand out and let the aid agency's deal with the food.
Simeon Roberts, Europe

The strategy, if one can call it that, was flawed from the beginning
Neil, USA/Europe
The strategy, if one can call it that, was flawed from the beginning. It assumed that Iraqi soldiers would surrender in droves (they haven't). It assumed that Iraqi people would welcome 'liberation', (they haven't). It assumed that Iraqis' would rise up and overthrow the regime, (they haven't). It assumed that providing humanitarian aid would win the 'hearts and minds' of the Iraqi people, (it hasn't). Compound that with the fierce resistance from the Iraqi soldiers and I think we can conclude that coalition tactics have been anything but successful. In my opinion, I would call the whole thing a complete failure. There is no way to undo the damage that has been done. The UK and US will eventually win the military battle, but they will be fought every step of the way and afterwards as well.
Neil, USA/Europe

What people seem to forget is the success of British troops in previous wars. In the Falklands, there were 255 UK troops killed in action. The tactics that are being used are excellent, the fact that far less troops have been killed in action so far just shows that the tactics are working. Wars are never easy and if anyone anticipated that this war would end within a week are sadly mistaken.
Dan, UK

If a burglar came into your house and set up a checkpoint and you crossed it without stopping, would the burglar be justified in murdering you?
A Rana, London, UK

The real test will not be Baghdad. The real test will be - given the technologically advanced weapons available to the coalition - how many soldiers and civilians will be killed by "friendly" fire.
H K Gadhia, Denmark

The coalition forces may eventually win this battle, but everyone would have lost one way or another. Doing the right thing the wrong way will never solve our problems.
Yinka Opaleye, UK

If only the Florida votes were counted fairly, this would not have happened. America and the world is paying a hefty price for electing Bush. I cannot help feeling that this is the beginning of the end of a wonderful concept called America
Kalyan, India

The British Troops seem to be must better equipped for the reality of this war
Patricia Loughlin, Kuwait
Unfortunately the people who made the decisions have never lived in the Middle East or anywhere else for that matter, they do not know the different mindset of people from different parts of the world - the Middle East is a unique place.
The troops, the Americans in particular appear to me to be totally unprepared for what they have to deal with. The British Troops seem to be must better equipped for the reality of this war.
Patricia Loughlin, Kuwait

"Democracy" is government of people, for people and by people. Did the war initiators know this when they went to attack Iraq to bring democracy. Their tactics of making Iraqi people fight against their ruler just went flop!
M. T. Mirza, Kuwait

America's decision to fight against terrorism earned my respect for the country. But, with this war and tactics everything was lost.
Sangam, India

We saved the oil fields and parked 60 miles outside of Baghdad with very few casualties in only 6 days. If you don't think that is successful then you just don't support this war. That's fine. But be honest. We are winning this war hands down. Admitting that we are doing an excellent job tactically in this war does nothing to undercut the argument that this war is morally wrong.
Brandon, USA

It is obvious that neither Bush nor Blair has read the history of the Arabs - what did the coalition forces expect? Iraqis hand over their land on a "silver platter"!
Salwa, Australia

This war most definitely starting to go badly for the U.S.A. and the U.K., the cracks in the morale of the British and American troops is starting to show, the British are unhappy about the civilian casualties and the Americans are unhappy about the weather and their rations. The goals of the UK and the USA are very different; American troops think wars are fought the way they see them in adventure films, the reality is somewhat different and so far it is British troops and innocent civilians who are paying the price for the American Gung-Ho attitude. I doubt many of the people in the USA who supported this war from the start would have done so if they knew it was going to be long and drawn out, with an ever-increasing casualty list.
John Taggart, Scotland

Killing of Iraqi citizens by US troops: No one has mentioned that, unlike the Palestinians, the Iraqis have not been living under military occupation for years so civilians do not know the "rules of road blocks". I assume the women in the car, seeing a number of heavily armed foreign troops ahead of them, panicked - wouldn't you? - and decided to try and get away from them. To absolve those soldiers at the roadblock from blame is an injustice.
David Cole, Bahrain

Q&A: Assessing coalition strategy
28 Mar 03  |  Middle East


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