Jewish World Review Nov. 18, 2004 / 5 Kislev, 5765

Zev Chafets

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The victory beyond Fallujah | Thirty-to-1. According to the U.S. military, that's roughly the ratio of enemy insurgents killed to fallen American soldiers in the battle of Fallujah.

One week. That's how long it took U.S. forces to capture a city of 300,000, an urban maze where terrorists had been digging in for months.

By any military standard, Operation Dawn was a great success, and it has liberated more than a city.

Ever since Vietnam, American politicians and generals have dreaded the difficulties and consequences of urban fighting. That fear kept U.S. forces from conquering Baghdad in the Gulf War. It also kept Marines from taking Fallujah last April.

The battle of Fallujah demonstrated that the paralyzing fear of city warfare was vastly exaggerated. The U.S. military now has demonstrated that it cannot be defeated, or even seriously slowed, by back alleys and booby traps.

This is important information, and not just for the U.S. The Arab world has watched the fall of Fallujah with dismay. Al Jazeera's moral indignation over civilian casualties cannot disguise the simple fact that Iraq is not going to be Vietnam. Not even close.

Partly, this is a function of sheer firepower. Unique night-fighting technology, smart bombs and absolute control of the skies give American warfare a shooting-fish-in-a-barrel quality. The only thing that can stop American military power in Iraq is America. But a reelected President Bush has no reason to abandon his mission, which is to defang anti-American dictatorships in the Middle East. Iraq is the main theater in that mission, and U.S. forces will be there until it is accomplished.

Pentagon reporters got a hint of that when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met with them on the first day of Operation Dawn. The journalists naturally wanted to know about Fallujah, but Rumsfeld had a different message: He's building a new Middle Eastern army.

The secretary talked about redeploying forces from Cold War borders to more appropriate staging areas (meaning the ring of bases the U.S. has established around the Middle East). He spoke of building a "more agile, efficient and expeditionary force" - a military, that is, suited to desert warfare, anti-terror special ops and urban fighting.

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Asked if he needed more troops, the secretary replied that the U.S. is well along in the effort "to create a deeper pool of troops in high-demand military specialties such as military police and civil affairs." Translation: occupation troops.

The years since 9/11 have been a time of learning and adaptation for the American military. Its generals no longer believe, for example, that Ramadan is a month of peace or that mosques are strictly halls of prayer. Strategic planners now understand the limitations of Arab armies (including, hopefully, the pro-American Iraqi forces in training). And, after Fallujah, they have a better sense of what the terrorists can do in urban settings, and what can be done to them in return.

In one week.


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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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