- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

In the American Civil War, the most innovative medical tool on the battlefield was the saw; the surgery of choice was amputation. In the modern military, field hospitals can employ such modern miracles as laser surgery. Military combat tactics, too, have come a long way, and no longer have to destroy a country in order to save it.
Fearing gangrene, Civil War military doctors would regularly amputate soldiers' wounded limbs. It was an effective life-saving tool, but the consequences were life-altering. Today's military medical facilities, however, have taken on sci-fi dimensions. What was once the most advanced medical treatment in the world is now standard fare on the battlefield, and larger-echelon headquarter units have such sophisticated capabilities as portable MRIs and EKGs.
Combat, too, has changed dramatically. Military tactics of the Civil War featured frontal assaults, cannonading and razing entire cities. Now the military assault of choice features the precision attack of Joint Direct Attack Muntions (JDAMS) and Tomahawk missiles which one military expert described as being so accurate that a military planner could choose through which window on a building he wanted it to enter.
War fighting has come a long way. Rather than burning entire cities as Gen. Sherman did in the Civil War the military is able to completely destroy command centers and other military targets in the middle of high-density urban areas with little or no damage to surrounding structures. In less than 48 hours from the onset of the current air campaign, three times as many bombs and missiles were dropped on Baghdad than during the entire span of Desert Storm. Yet, critical civil infrastructure remains in place as the military targets are destroyed. This is, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described it recently, "as targeted an air campaign as has ever existed."
Though the U.S. military maintains the capabilities to raze entire cities, it is taking a more difficult approach in Iraq but to achieve a far greater outcome. By using such precision, the military is able to sustain most of the basic Iraqi infrastructure; it would do little good, and in fact, great harm, to liberate Iraqis if they had no roads, no electricity and no water with which to get on with their lives. Despite the "shock and awe" of the military campaign, the lights have stayed on in Baghdad.
Such targeted bombing not only ensures the Iraqis will have something to work with when the war is over, it ensures that more Iraqis will be there to do the rebuilding. Though media coverage of this war is live, constant and closer to the front than ever before, we've seen no mass civilian causalities. "Collateral damage" the military's rather euphemistic term for civilian deaths has been minimal. Though civilians surely suffer in this campaign, great measures have been taken to dramatically reduce injuries and deaths.
This was not the case in the Civil War. When Sherman marched across Georgia, he left in his wake a wide swath of destruction. Rather than destroy only military targets, his armies would fire cannons into civilian areas of cities, and follow the cannonade with coal oil and torches. This tactic left no infrastructure, and more devastating, killed many civilians.
Sherman was not the only general to employ this tactic, and the destruction wrought by the Civil War was widespread.
When Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, Iraqis will still have their cities. But, they will also have their civil engineers, road crews and power plant foremen. The military's civil affairs brigades, the Navy's Seabees, and thousands of humanitarian personnel and other assistance will subsidize this human capital to ensure a rapid resurgence across the nation.
In a matter of days, Iraqis will no longer have theBa'ath regime, but they will have electricity, water and roads carrying truckloads of food and medicine. In coming days, a tyrant will be gone, and with him the sanctions, intimidation and brutality that have inhibited the country's growth and modernity. Yet, although combat was required to bring about these needed changes, post-war Iraq will fare significantly better than post-Civil War Atlanta. The modern military, like modern medicine, relies on specific surgical operations rather than the blunt destruction of amputation: the laser, not the saw, is now the tool of choice.

Robert Stewart is a former Army intelligence analyst.

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