- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

Air power was integral to Gulf War victory

In his March 3 Commentary column, "Lesson that still applies," Gordon R. Sullivan minimizes the compelling role of coalition air power in the Gulf war. As a senior military statesman, I feel I have an obligation to correct the record.

Contrary to the article's assertions, the Gulf war gives us evidence that revolution in military affairs is possible. Before the air campaign, military planners estimated that dislodging Iraqi forces from Kuwait would create up to 20,000 U.S. casualties. The actual total was 613. The remarkable difference in numbers and what happened was no accident.

Instead of a horrific loss not seen since Vietnam, what Americans saw on television was a Desert Storm. Coalition air power led by the Air Force using precision-strike, stealth and information technology redefined the concept of attack. The enemy was hit everywhere at once, making it virtually impossible for him to adjust, adapt or mount a counteroffensive. Nearly half of Iraqi armor was destroyed, and 50 to 75 percent of Iraqi troops in the first two echelons were either casualties or deserters. At one point, more than 80,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered in just four days.

The Iraqi 3rd Corps commander, when asked why he had given up, responded, "It was the airplanes." It was a simple answer and a telling fact.

The obvious effectiveness of air power in the Gulf war does not lessen the important contributions made by the Army or the other services. Without question, the swiftness of victory was the result of the synergy of combat power of all the services and coalition warfare.

Fortunately, theater commanders who are responsible for implementing the battle plan and defeating the enemy at the least cost of life are well-schooled in warfare. One such man, Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, saw the potential of aerospace power as the Gulf war developed and took advantage of it. On the battlefield, what is best for the nation always must come first. There is no room for internal conflicts.

As the top-down defense review and new approaches to military security ordered by President Bush take place, I would hope that service parochialism can be kept out of the dialogue. Certainly, no one in uniform is arguing that air power or sea power or ground forces can go it alone.

We must be professionally responsible to the public as we make the best use of the resources available to protect the nation, our friends and allies. The defense review under way requires innovative thinking, a true spirit of jointness and an accurate assessment of history.


Executive director

Air Force Association


Rat flattery not supported by evidence, reason

In the March 11 letter "Lab rats and mice should receive same consideration as other animals," Peggy Cunniff of the National Anti-Vivisection Society adds her own contribution to four previous letters condemning columnist Debra J. Saunders for her March 6 column about the use of rats and mice in medical research ("When rats have rights," Commentary).

Inexplicably, not one of the five letter writers risked diluting his or her strong opinions with a single verifiable fact. Ms. Cunniff outdoes them all, however, when she insists, "Mice and rats can count, think and feel pain and emotion. They prefer freedom to captivity and have lives that are important to them."

In the interest of medical science, if not our better understanding of lab rats, Ms. Cunniff has a solemn duty to report the means by which she gained this intimate knowledge of a rat's thoughts and preferences. Have lab rats been trained to talk? Have they been communicating their thoughts to Ms. Cunniff telepathically?

Granted, we newspaper readers are but mere human beings. As such, we cannot expect the sympathetic consideration due a lab rat. Still, some of us can count; a few of us even appear to think. With this in mind, perhaps animal-rights advocates should stop feeding us garbage that would gag any thinking lab rat.



National Anti-Vivisection Society Executive Director Peggy Cunniff is correct that Rene Descartes believed animals were akin to machines, a view the modern physical sciences contradict. However, Descartes' conception of animals was hardly typical of how animals were viewed in what she calls the "dark age of science" before modern advances in the physical sciences. Rather, Descartes was departing from a scholastic philosophy of the world that identified animals as conscious, though not self-conscious, beings. In this pre-Cartesian, Aristotelian line of thinking, animals indeed feel pain, but they do not know that they feel pain. This perspective is both philosophically and scientifically sound.

Animals can suffer, and it is indeed humane to limit their pain. However, Ms. Cunniff's contention that animals "have lives that are important to them" is sloppily anthropomorphic. Animals do not have the capacity to reflect upon their own lives or their suffering as humans do.



Volunteer firefighting ban stamps out good deeds

The March 1 Metro story "Judge upholds firefighter 'two-hatting' ban" is a fine accounting of the latest round in the sad battle going on among firefighters in Montgomery County.

For most of us, the thought of volunteering to be a firefighter is more than we can ever imagine. We lack either the courage, the training or the "stomach" for this dangerous, complicated and valuable service to the community.

However, there are some wonderful people who not only want to volunteer, but consider volunteer firefighting a life calling, a way of doing good works for their fellow human beings. For many in this category, volunteering has been a tradition passed down from generation to generation for more than 100 years.

In contrast, some people have a low regard for volunteerism and feel strongly that if work is worth doing, one should be paid for doing it. Others resent the volunteers because they firmly believe that if it were not for them, firefighters who are paid would have more hours of work and higher pay rates. Some of these people filed suit against the county to stop the volunteering.

When I was president of the Montgomery County Council in 1996, the issue of "two-hatting" working for the county as a firefighter and then donating time as a volunteer on the side came to a head. At that time, the U.S. Labor Department and the White House refused to act on our pleas for common sense in solving the problem. How is it possible to deny people the right to volunteer in their own field of expertise? No one is forcing volunteerism. How could there possibly be something wrong with having both paid workers and volunteers in the fire department, as long as it is completely at the employees' discretion? We received no help from the administration, and so, to avoid exorbitantly costly damages to be paid by the taxpayers, the council reluctantly agreed to a ban on two-hatting.

Common sense did not have a chance to prevail on this issue in 1996, and it is not having any luck today. How else to explain the Montgomery County government's need to defend an agreement it never wanted in the first place?

Is there any chance the new administration will do what is right and let common sense prevail? As long as this issue is in the courts, it will be decided not on common sense, but on interpretation of current law. It is up to legislators to change the law, change the regulations and do whatever it takes to allow firefighters to both work and volunteer for their community.



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