War on Two Fronts: An Infantry Commander's War in Iraq and the Pentagon. By Christopher Hughes. Phila.: Casemate, 2007. Notes. Appendices. Index. Pp. xi, 309. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-932033-81-6
This engaging contemporaneous history takes the reader from prepping an infantry battalion through the early battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Hughes continues the story through his follow-on assignments to the Pentagon and National War College (NWC). The last chapters include a mixed bag of personal thoughts and theories concerning the "Global War on Terror." However, as commander of the 2d Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, Hughes' most compelling work relates leadership lessons from OIF ramp-up through the battles for An Najaf and Al Hillah and his battalion's later occupation duties.
Hughes presents valuable eyewitness accounts of the early phase of OIF through June 2003, from himself, other officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and embedded media. Beginning with the SCUD threat, field living problems, and the confusion caused by the deadly attack of an American Muslim sergeant on the brigade headquarters, Hughes' battalion goes on to gain global recognition for its careful mix of lethality and cross-cultural diplomacy. One of the most widely recognized incidents came when Hughes shrewdly handled a mob situation fueled by Ba'athists near the Golden Mosque. He ordered his battalion to kneel and ground weapons. When an interpreter further infuriated the crowd, he ordered the unit to withdraw with weapons remaining pointed down with an order to smile! Many credited Hughes' fast thinking and the battalion's discipline to a warming of relations and several future successes.
Hughes' writing is thoughtful while also being purposeful and direct. He provides many valuable lessons in effective leadership, combat innovation, and "post hostility" operations. Taken in this vein, it provides valuable insights for those with an interest in the military. Air power advocates will also...