Jewish World Review April 2, 2003 / 29 Adar II, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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The difference between hopes and expectations | DOHA, Qatar We are learning, the hard way, the difference between hopes and expectations. All of us had hoped the war with Iraq would be over very quickly. But we had little reason to expect this result.

Saddam Hussein has the support of no more than 10 percent of the people he has misruled for so many years, probably no more than 5 percent. As a proportion of population, this is trivial. But in a nation of at least 20 million people, it is a nontrivial number. And it is Saddam's supporters, remember, who have the guns.

We had hoped that Saddam's supporters would quit without much of a fight. But this, too, was unrealistic. Our goal in this conflict is not just to push an aggressor out of Kuwait, as it was in the last Gulf war. It is regime change. Thousands of Iraqis are implicated in Saddam's crimes. Tens of thousands owe their positions of power and privilege to his favor. For them, regime change means - at a minimum - loss of status, and could mean loss of life, as neighbors long trod under by their jackboots take their revenge. When your existence is at stake, you fight harder than when it is not.

We had hoped Saddam had learned nothing from the first Gulf war. But that, too, was unrealistic. A military genius Saddam is not. But a complete dullard could not have maintained an iron grip on power for 24 years.

The lesson of Gulf War I is that the United States can cream the Iraqis in a stand-up fight. Had Saddam chosen to meet our forces head on in the desert, the length of this war likely could have been measured in days.

So Saddam has interspersed his forces in cities, villages and towns, to take advantage of his principal strength - his ruthlessness - and our principal weakness - our humanity. Saddam's forces store arms in and make command posts of hospitals and schools. They use women and children as human shields. Soldiers and secret police doff their uniforms to blend in with the civilian population. They fly flags of surrender, and then conduct ambushes.

There is no law of land warfare the Saddamites haven't broken, except the use of chemical and biological weapons. And that likely is coming.

In heavily Shi'ia southern Iraq, we had hoped for mass surrenders. But the Fedayeen Saddam and the secret police are shooting soldiers who try to lay down their arms, and are executing civilians who show friendliness to American and British troops. It is unrealistic to expect mass surrenders under such circumstances.

Despite the dashing of unrealistic hopes, the war is going well - about as well as reasonably could have been expected. Every casualty we suffer is a tragedy. But none have so far been a "setback," and casualties overall have been remarkably low. The Republican Guard and the Fedayeen Saddam have often fought fiercely, but have rarely fought effectively. We have suffered more casualties through acts of treachery, and in accidents, than we have in direct combat.

Most Americans know what they know of war from movies and television. In Hollywood, wars last a couple of hours, and build steadily toward a dramatic climax. Real wars last longer, and proceed in fits and starts. Having made the most rapid advance in the history of mechanized warfare, our ground forces are now pausing to resupply and reposition for the next phase of the offensive.

The delay will be hard on an American public accustomed to instant gratification, and will be harder still on journalists who need something new to report in each news cycle. What journalists likely will report during this pause is how it might adversely affect the Coalition. But time is on the American side, not Saddam's. Each day brings more troops and more supplies to our forces. There is no reinforcement, and little resupply, for the Republican Guard. And each day brings it more visits from American bombers.

We had not expected to have to fight so hard south of Baghdad. But Saddam's resources are finite. The more of his troops who are killed, captured or bypassed on the way to Baghdad, the fewer remain to defend the capital itself.

The hopes that this would be a very short war were chiefly those of journalists, not of soldiers. The Pentagon planned for a war that would last for weeks, and could last for months. Proof of that is that roughly half of the ground combat forces planned to take part in the war have yet to arrive in the theater.

Our illusory hopes have been dashed, but not the military's expectations. And a war of weeks is still a very short war. The facts on the ground do not justify the pessimism now being expressed by so many commentators. Victory is nigh . . . just not as nigh as the next commercial break.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

03/31/03: Iraq is a steppingstone, not a final stop
03/24/03: European media and former 'human shields' are beginning to get it
03/20/03: Was getting the UN involved worth it?
03/18/03: South Koreans no longer behaving as if they were the French of Northeast Asia --- why?
03/11/03: Ultimatum's moment of truth
03/11/03: Thank you, Turkey, we needed that
03/07/03: The fight against Saddam isn't a distraction from the war on terror --- it's is the main event
03/04/03: Bioterror nightmare approaching --- how it could likely happen
02/27/03: Iranian student: Can America hurry up with Iraq already, so they can get on with attacking us?
02/25/03: Yahoos on both the Left and the Right are trying to prevent government from maximizing technology in protecting us
02/20/03: Anti-war group gets it right about great humanitarian tragedy in last Gulf War
02/18/03: Iraqis: Why are these people marching for tyranny?
02/07/03: French kiss(ed)-off
02/05/03: Does the FBI have the ability to protect us from terrorists already here?
02/03/03: The "Axis of Weasels"
01/29/03: A bit of the jitters
01/27/03: The world's mediocre intelligence agency
01/21/03: By reaffirming GOP opposition to racism, president demonstrates willingness to confront liars
01/16/03: Why the United States should withdraw all of its military forces from South Korea as rapidly as we reasonably can
01/14/03: Federal incompetence driven by political correctness, not trampling of civil liberties, is what we should fear
01/09/03: Bag this boondoggle: The V-22 Osprey would hurt our national defense
01/07/03: Another Korean war?
01/02/03: Ostriches
12/26/02: Learning from Canada's economic suicide
12/24/02: A moral dilemma: Support a vicious fascist dictator or the poor and downtrodden?
12/20/02: Time to tell the truth: The great movement of blacks to the Democratic Party took place for economic reasons, not because of civil rights
12/18/02: Nothing better illustrates Trent Lott's unfitness for the post of Senate Majority Leader than his desperate efforts to cling to it
12/16/02: Debunker mentality: It's hard work not seeing ties between Iraq and al-Qaida
12/12/02: GOP ideologues turning on Lott --- better sacrifice the leader than the party
12/06/02: Curing our democracy of afflictions
12/02/02: Conscription, like the horse cavalry, is an artifact of a bygone time
11/27/02: What Saddam faces
11/25/02: Why war with Iraq can be averted
11/19/02: A draft would harm the military
11/12/02: The 2002 elections and Nixon
11/07/02: Democratic overreaction to our recent "cosmically important" election
10/30/02: Show North Korea we're serious: Polish off Saddam
10/22/02: The squealing in the Pentagon is a proof of Rummy's effectiveness
10/16/02: The tactical challenge we face
10/10/02: Silence more despicable than seditious noise
10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly