For War on the Rocks, Navy veteran James Holmes writes about the lessons he learned while serving aboard the USS Wisconsin during Operation Desert Storm, 25 years ago. Holmes explains how defeated forces have a say in whether or not the battle has ended, and cites Saddam Hussein’s unwillingness to obey United Nations Security Council ceasefire resolutions as proof of this. Additionally, the Iraqi army’s hostility toward dissenting opinions within its own ranks underscores the importance of freethinking if a military expects to be successful.
“I tend to interpret the mismatch between Iraq and its coalition antagonists as the difference between totalitarian and free societies, not Arab and Western societies,” writes Holmes. “Groupthink makes you stupid. Leaders who brook no contrary views — or punish devil’s advocates with extreme prejudice — deprive themselves of the intellectual ferment that begets sound war-making methods.”