In WW1 millions of soldiers were slaughtered in the front lines in Flanders. Hardly any of the generals who were commanding them were killed. In fact I can’t think of any. The principal British general, Douglas Haig, survived the war. So did French generals like Foch and Nivelle and Pétain. And also German generals like Hindenburg and Ludendorff. Might not the war have ended much earlier if, instead of ordinary soldiers being killed in millions, it had been the generals who had been the principal casualties?
When Richard III was killed during the battle of Bosworth in 1485, very arguably his death ensured the victory of his opponent, Henry Tudor. For after his death, his soldiers became leaderless, and there seems to have been nobody else to rally behind.
And when Julius Caesar was assassinated in Rome in 44 BC, the legions under his control became leaderless and ineffective. There followed a civil war,
And when Alexander died in Babylon in 323 BC, that was the end of his all-conquering army. The army became divided among rival generals with their own territories (e.g. Ptolemy in Egypt).
So there would seem to be a very good argument that if you want to defeat an enemy, you shouldn’t fight their foot soldiers: you should go after their leaders.
And that’s exactly what Donald Trump has just done, by assassinating Iran’s top general, Qassem Suleimani, in what seems to have been a very high precision, night-time air strike. It seems to have thrown the Iranian leadership into confusion. Perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise. According to some reports Suleimani wasn’t just Iran’s top general, but was the No. 2 man in Iran below Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. What if he had actually been the real leader, with Khamenei a figurehead?
Trump said that he had acted to prevent a war. And perhaps he has succeeded, simply by killing the principal military leader who had been planning a war.
If Napoleon had been assassinated in 1800, or Hitler in 1929, would there have still been a Napoleonic war, or WW2? Both were charismatic leaders, and without them their armies would have been leaderless. And Hitler seemed to have been very much aware that he was likely to be assassinated, and spent much of his life under several metres of re-enforced concrete. Equally, a charismatic general like George Patton carried pearl-handled revolvers on his hip, probably not because he was brash and showy, but because he too knew that he was likely to be subject to attempted assassination, and intended to put up a fight.
There’s been talk of WW3 starting in the wake of Suleimani’s assassination. But perhaps WW3 will not be fought between armies, but between the generals commanding them. And the US army does target leaders: Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and now Qassem Suleimani. And it makes perfect sense to do so. If nothing else it’s a lot cheaper to use a single missile to kill a top leader than it is to fire off millions of shells, or drop thousands of tons of bombs. WW3 might be one in which the top leadership of both sides are targeted, using accurate intelligence and drones.
Maybe Donald Trump just won WW3, using a single cruise missile to decapitate Iran’s leadership?
It seems he’s not stopping there:
Round Two: US Drone Airstrikes Kill Six Pro-Iran Militia Commanders
Iraqi official media has also confirm that two vehicles were targeted north of Baghdad, carrying commanders of the pro-Iran militias in the PMUs.