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Jewish World Review March 26, 2003 / 22 Adar II, 5763

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Squaring expectations with reality

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 307 points. Sure, the recent uptick had to level off at some point, but this dramatic drop, I think, is based on largely unwarranted concerns over the war.

In the first few days of the war we constantly heard of how immaculately our forces were performing. In a brilliant display of executive decisiveness and flexibility, President Bush, based on extraordinary intelligence data, authorized a strike against the bunker in which they believe Saddam Hussein and his two sons were sleeping at dawn Thursday.

Incredibly, despite all the hype leading up to it, the attack achieved the element of surprise. No one, including the Iraqis, thought we would launch our first strike at the onset of daylight.

From there, the good news just kept getting better. Further intelligence led us to believe that we either killed or severely injured Saddam and his sons, thereby critically damaging, if not severing, the head of the Iraqi regime in the very first strike of the war. We were assured Iraqi troops were surrendering so fast that allied forces didn't have time to process them all. Ex-military TV commentators were delighted with the simultaneous military attack against remaining terrorists in Afghanistan.

They were gushing over the Pentagon's decision to begin the ground war right off the bat. They were blown away by the deftness with which our troops were negotiating the difficult desert terrain in their unprecedented lightning advance toward Baghdad. They were crowing about our military's foresight in dispatching Navy Seals and other special forces to secure the oil fields to prevent a repeat of Saddam's Gulf War I scorched-earth torching of oil fields. Things couldn't have appeared much brighter for allied forces in those first few days.

Then, reality set in. Events unfolded that sobered us into the realization that this wasn't the video game some had apparently allowed themselves to believe it was and that instead of rolling over, many Iraqis were fighting back -- and fiercely, within their comparatively limited capabilities.

This resistance shouldn't have been regarded as a setback. No one should have anticipated an effortless war in the first place. Neither the administration nor the Pentagon had such expectations. Perhaps it was because of the way Iraq's ground forces were so solidly decimated 12 years ago. But after all, Saddam and his henchmen doubtlessly learned lessons from that war, including that his forces are no match for American troops in the open field. Only by adopting terrorist tactics like the terrorists they are -- hiding among civilians and often in civilian clothing, and violating rules of war by staging false surrenders -- would they have a chance to slow us down.

Perhaps the first wave of reality hit when "shock and awe" wasn't quite as spectacular as some had imagined it would be. The fireworks were dramatic, and the precision of the strikes was awe-inspiring, but life in Baghdad appeared to return to normal way too quickly. Iraqi command and control, though damaged and maybe headless, remained defiant. Much of the bombing thereafter, both in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, occurred out of the view of our excellent media camera coverage.

Next, we learned of the Muslim airborne ranger's grenade attack on his own American unit, the televised torment and humiliation of our soldiers who were captured by deceit, and friendly fire (patriot missile) casualties. These incidents, coupled with our embedded media now reporting on "surprise pockets of resistance" and some combat casualties seemed to cast a pall over our flawless progress of the first few days.

But there should be no such pall. Those with unrealistic expectations just need to come back down to earth. The administration and the military are doing a phenomenal job, and we should all be proud. But we should also give them a break, recognizing that while they're nearly supermen, they're not individually indestructible or bulletproof.

Even if Saddam's troops don't surrender in the first phase of our assault on Baghdad and continue to resist fiercely, we're going to win this war, resoundingly and in relatively short order. And we're going to do so with the least amount of civilian casualties and damage, which is why it may take a little longer.

We should be exceedingly proud of our military and unflinchingly optimistic about the ultimate success of their mission: disarmament and liberation. This is war, and no one does it better than the United States military -- but it's still a war.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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