x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Conflicting ideas

Close to 20 years after its conclusion, the first Gulf War remains a difficult conflict to put into perspective. Was it a technically brilliant and devastating counterattack by coalition forces, or a job half done, a missed opportunity?

Gulf War One
Hugh McManners
Ebury Press
Dh130

Close to 20 years after its conclusion, the first Gulf War remains a difficult conflict to put into perspective. Was it a technically brilliant and devastating counterattack by coalition forces, or a job half done, a missed opportunity?

It is doubtful that Gulf War One - Real Voices from the Front Line will ever be considered the definitive text on the matter but it is an interesting addition nevertheless. Hugh McManners, a former Sunday Times correspondent, uses historical scene-setting to frame eyewitness accounts from the battlefield and the bunkers of power. In doing so, he assembles an engaging narrative history of a modern campaign.

It offers an insightful overview, although the book threatens to be overrun in its earliest pages by General Sir Rupert Smith, a now retired but once senior figure in the British Army. Predictably, Smith uses the platform provided by McManners to attack the successive rounds of defence cuts which have reduced the size and effectiveness of his nation's armed forces. It is a well-trodden line of attack in a book that, in general, cuts through much of the fog of war.