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Agence France Presse March 22, 2003

Shock and awe doctrine is brutal and precise

By Francis Temman

The massive US bombing campaign launched Friday against Iraq is the most stunning demonstration yet of the "shock and awe" strategy that relies on brutal but precise tactics to bring an enemy to its knees.

The presumption is simple. With its undisputed technological superiority there is no longer the need to field the huge armies such as that sent into the 1991 Gulf War.

And Donald Rumsfeld has made it the cornerstone of US policy since he became Defence Secretary in 2001.

Enemies can be brought to their knees before a war really gets under way: bomb their computers and radars so they are blind, destroy their communications so they are deaf.

Harlan Ullman, a Vietnam War veteran and navy commander turned strategist, brought together a group of other commanders and experts in the late 1980s to rethink US post-Cold War military tactics based on safety in numbers.

Ullman and James Wade, a former US assistant defence secretary produced a book in 1996, with its radical proposals. "Shock and Awe: Acheiving Rapid Dominance" called for a better equipped, more flexible and mobile army.

Knocking out key facilities and installations before a major offensive starts undermines an enemy's will to fight before they are truly confronted, Ullman and Wade said.

The two pushed their campaign at meetings of defence study groups and one of the first to be convinced was Rumsfeld, a former defence secretary (1975-77) under then President Gerald Ford who returned to the post under President George W. Bush in 2001.

The two refined their theory to take into account the newest weapons, such as thermobaric bombs and microwave E-bombs that can knock out computer and power systems without major loss of life or property.

Ullman said he first realised the popularity of the theory when he started to hear generals use the term "shock and awe" when they warned Iraqi leaders of what they faced if the country refused to disarm.

"I hope it works," he said before the latest Gulf War started.

Wade, now 70, but still a member of the US government's Defence Science Board, says he knows nothing of the strategy being used against Iraq. He remains close to Pentagon circles and acknowledges that US commanders are building on the results of their work.

John Pike, a military analyst for the Globalsecurity.org consultancy, said Ullman and Wade "are going to be stuck in association with this war, for better or for worse, for some time to come."


Copyright 2003, Agence France Presse