- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

The Bush administration's desire to spare dual military-civilian targets in Iraq has produced an air war plan that is too timid and does not properly prepare the battle space for ground troops, according to interviews with military officers.
But a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, which will run the operation, called the war plan "comprehensive, modern and flexible."
The officers said the plan, as of a few weeks ago, would largely spare infrastructure targets, such as bridges, and most, if not all, telephone communications.
The officers said the plan deviates in significant ways from the 1991 38-day air campaign during Operation Desert Storm, in which telephone communications, power systems and bridges were targeted from the first day to isolate Saddam Hussein and his military forces.
The reason for the change: The Bush administration wants to spare hardships to Iraqi civilians and to show that the real target of the bombing campaign is Saddam.
It hopes that Iraqi citizens, in return, accept U.S. military rule during an interim period leading to the establishment of a democratic government. Bush officials also want, to the extent possible, to avoid civilian casualties.
But not all senior Air Force officers agree with the limited target list approved by Gen. Tommy Franks, chief of the Central Command, who will direct the air war and the land invasion.
The officers, who have been briefed informally in recent weeks about the target list, say it risks not creating sufficient chaos within the Iraqi Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard, Saddam's most loyal units.
These officers said they were told that the plan spares most or all of the country's bridges, including those in Baghdad, and leaves the lights on in the capital city.
If this strategy becomes part of the final plan, it means the Iraq bombing campaign will be similar to the air war that began in Afghanistan in October 2001. There, Gen. Franks, who commanded the effort, also spared bridges and electrical power systems in the capital, Kabul, as a way to ease rebuilding efforts once the Taliban regime was ousted.
But Air Force officers counter that Iraq is a far tougher foe, with a 350,000-troop army that has been trained against the tactics the United States used in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
"Air Force senior officers believe air power is being used in such a timid way it is unnecessarily exposing ground troops," said one officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity. He named several generals who do not like the plan but asked that their names not be disclosed.
"There are so many political restrictions placed on the air-plan part of this they should just march the troops and let air power help ground troops wherever they can," the officer said.
In Desert Storm, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, then the head of the U.S. Central Command, gave Air Force planners wide latitude in picking targets for 38 days of bombing that paved the way for a 100-hour ground war to liberate Kuwait.
But in this plan, Gen. Franks and his staff are taking a more active role in picking targets. "He is micromanaging at a level that is mind-boggling," said another officer on the condition of anonymity.
Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communications at Central Command, responded by saying, "We don't discuss plan specifics for reasons of operational security. However, I can tell you the plan is comprehensive, modern and flexible, and Gen. Franks continues to work closely with all the services."
A senior military official added: "Sometimes service preferences become more important to some than the overall military plan."
Some analysts say Gen. Franks simply has a different view of air power than some Air Force officers.
"Franks doesn't look at air power as dominant as it can be, as Schwarzkopf did," says retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney. "If you look at Desert Storm, the Air Force was the supported service and the Army was in the supporting role. Schwarzkopf that didn't bother him."
Gen. McInerney said he is not against a restricted target list as long as it does not impose hardships on the Army and Marine Corps ground troops.
Whenever disputes on targeting come up, officers are reminded of the Vietnam War, wherein President Johnson so micromanaged the air campaign that he picked individual targets from the Oval Office.
The current war plan calls for less than 10 days of air strikes before a ground force of 60,000 to 80,000 invades Iraq from Kuwait and Turkey. One of the air campaign's first goals is to take out what is left of Iraq's integrated air defense system and to bomb troops loyal to Saddam.
"It is a war of liberation versus an invasion," Gen. McInerney said. "So it will be different. … I don't have as big a problem with that as some would. I think the important point is to separate Saddam from the people."
He said leaving electrical power and phone lines in place would be a signal to Iraqi civilians that the U.S. goal is to liberate them from Saddam's harsh rule, not to destroy the country.
"We're not going to take out classical targets," he said, adding that Washington must explain to the Iraqi people during the course of the war why it has left some targets alone.
Gen. McInerney said the message should be: "You're not the target. It's Saddam."

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