In This Review

Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War
Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War
By Robert H. Scales, Jr.
Brassey's, 1994, 464 pp.

This is a reissue by Brassey's, under the auspices of the Association of the United States Army, of an official U.S. Army study directed by then Brigadier General Scales and closely supervised by senior generals. An attempt to put forward the army's story on the Persian Gulf War, the book is not nearly as good as it should have been given the talents of its principal author, a serious military intellectual. The study was a replacement for a vastly more critical internal army report by Major General (Ret.) Thomas Tait, who receives scant mention. Although there is a good if occasionally stylized combat narrative here and ample documentation, the book succumbs to an unnecessary and unseemly boosterism. American soldiers are invariably brave, competent, superbly trained and equipped, and above all brilliantly led. Deficiencies when mentioned are almost always "perceived" or "alleged." A war cannot be fought without a credible opponent, so the book includes guest appearances by grimly determined Iraqi antitank teams, an Iraqi colonel who is a hard-nosed commander with the army in his blood, and so on. Certain Victory gives only passing mention to problems like fratricide (there is no attempt to tally the percentage of vehicles and personnel lost to friendly fire, for example) and concludes by declaring the victory in the gulf a lasting touchstone for generations to come. Such purple prose bespeaks an unfortunate institutional effort to treat the Persian Gulf War not as history but as morality play. The overriding lesson is the need for keeping official studies free of oversight by the chain of command.