TCS Daily

Combat Checklist

By Ken Adelman - February 12, 2003 12:00 AM

One year ago [2/13/2002], the Washington Post published my article "Cakewalk In Iraq" which predicted that "demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk."

Though that view has been denounced, even disparaged, by nearly everyone from Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz on down, I remain as confident now as I was then.

Like Hamlet during his crisis, many of us stand amazed that we "yet live to say 'This thing's to do,' since [it has] cause, and will, and strength, and means to do it. Examples gross as earth exhort [us] - witness this army of such mass and charge..." [Hamlet, IV, iv].

Given "this thing's [still!] to do," our "army of such mass and charge" needs shrewd directing.

Conventional wisdom goes that, once the war starts, the generals should take command, and the civilians step back.

Like most conventional wisdom, it's mostly unwise.

Since wars are launched for political goals, ala Clausewitz, they should be waged to accomplish such goals, set by political leaders.

So here's a first cut of a checklist on how President Bush should direct - and closely, continually monitor - his troops waging the war:

  • Strive for "shock and awe" to stun the Iraqi military so most surrender fast and Saddam's command structure collapses quickly;

  • Warn firmly on WMD use, to inform all Iraqi officials - whether military or civilian, of any rank - that anyone handling chemical or biological weapons in any way will land in Guantanemo Bay, at best;

  • Minimize collateral damage, which will be neatly accomplished with our smart bombs that assure few civilian casualties and preserve Iraq's infrastructure for the post-Saddam period;

  • Protect and seize suspected WMD facilities fast, not only to assure that WMD aren't deployed - regardless of whether Saddam orders them launched against Israel, Turkey, or our troops in the region - but also to show the world ASAP that Iraq was indeed hiding gobs of chemicals and biologicals which - alas! - the inspectors never found to inspect;

  • Protect and seize government and party installations, to assure that our forces don't target known intelligence or military facilities chock-a-block with records of Saddam's barbaric system, unless absolutely essential for the initial "shock and awe;"

  • Warn of Saddam resorting to a "scorched earth policy" so that damage to Iraqi oil facilities, bridges, population centers aren't automatically attributed to U.S. collateral damage, but to his Hitler-like vengeance of lashing out against his own people and their assets;

  • Feature democratic-minded Iraqis in the liberation of Baghdad and other key sites, to legitimize them for the democratic-Iraq period, much as the Allies legitimized Charles de Gaulle in the liberation of Paris; and

  • Provide food and medical aid to liberated Iraqis fast, to reenact the "we're here to help, not to conquer" message masterfully made by U.S. foodstuffs dropped in Afghanistan upon its liberation.

Surely more items can be added on this checklist. But without it, and the President taking firm control during the fight, conditions afterwards will prove more nettlesome.

Here, too, this President Bush can prove better than the first President Bush. Unfortunately, he allowed General Norman Schwartzkopf to stick to his spontaneous concession - after our 100 hour victory in 1991 - that Iraqi helicopters could fly around the country. Schwartzkopf had been told that Iraq's helicopters would help its humanitarian relief.

After President Bush let stand the general's seemingly - kind concession, these helicopters mowed down rebellions in Iraq's north and south, thereby helping Saddam cling onto power.

Twelve years of needless misery for the Iraqi people, twelve years of agony for the world, ensued. Should this President control all major decisions, a good political outcome will follow the cakewalk.

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