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I written about Generalissimo Aleksandr Suvorov before, as the greatest nearly unknown military commander in the world. Perhaps because he served during the reign of Ekatrina the Great, who was an overpowering presence, and her son, Pavel, who is best forgotten, only specialists are aware of his existence.

While Suvorov was never defeated in over six dozen major battles, the action for which he is most noted is the 1799 strategic retreat over the Alps. Understand that his ability to save his army from a battle he could not win after the Emperor of Austria withdrew the majority of his forces is considered his greatest feat. There is a monument to this feat in the Swiss Alps.

The reason I bring this up is that a strategic retreat is the most difficult military maneuver there is. The possibility of the retreat becoming an undisciplined rout with the army disappearing in a fog of fear sits right under the surface. The troops know they cannot possibly win, or they would be attacking, so every step is a step closer to safety.

Steve Gilliard at News Blog has published a series of posts showing the limited number of paths out of Iraq if the order is giving to withdraw. The key is to have enough force to protect the withdrawal without slowing it.

The entire process is complicated by the outsourcing of support services by the Pentagon. Those civilians must be evacuated first, but when they are gone, the military lacks critical elements, like supply. This is a major failing of the Rumsfeld effort to downsize the military, burdening the military with all of these civilians at risk in a combat zone.

There is no good solution for Iraq, but we need to be planning full time for pulling out all of the contractors and non-essential personnel as soon as is possible and provide for re-supply that does not depend on surface travel.

Failure to plan for the occupation sealed the fate of what was a bad idea to begin with, and failure to plan for withdrawal will only increase the disaster.


1 jamsodonnell { 12.03.06 at 1:52 pm }

Thanks Bryan. There are a lot of commanders who get largely forgotten. Marlborough is hardly a household name here, despite being Britain’s greatest general. General Slim is pretty well forgotten too.

2 jamsodonnell { 12.03.06 at 1:58 pm }

Ach I forgot o say thanks for drawin my attention to News Blog. very intersting indeed

3 Bryan { 12.03.06 at 4:16 pm }

Arthur Wellesley had better public relations people than John Churchill and a more famous foe. General Slim was amazing for being able to work with “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, although both suffer from fighting the land was in Asia, rather than Europe. Slim could have also used Montgomery’s PR people.

Steve does a lot of in depth studies and map work when he looks at military problems.