- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Lawmakers already are second-guessing the 3-week-old military campaign in Afghanistan, prompting colleagues yesterday to caution against running a war from the halls of Congress.
"I don't want to be calling plays from the bleachers here," said Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat. "I think you need to let people do what they do best, and I have a lot of confidence in" Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
On a Sunday talk show, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said the Pentagon is not using air power to its best effect. Mr. McCain, a Navy pilot in Vietnam, also predicted that U.S. commanders will need to deploy a "very, very significant" number of ground forces in Afghanistan. Mr. Dodd echoed some of his criticism on the same show.
Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, said of his colleagues' penchant for Monday-morning quarterbacking: "My guess is the war will go on for a longer period of time, and at some point there will be numerous secretaries of defense."
But several lawmakers dismissed the suggestion that such criticism would lead to the same atmosphere as there was late in the Vietnam War, when politicians were accused of meddling in the military operation.
"Vietnam taught us a lesson we will never forget," Mr. Craig said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said yesterday there is "nothing wrong with Senator McCain or anyone else offering their views." But he reiterated that the war will be long, difficult and not always public.
"It is not for anyone in a position of responsibility to be speculating about what we might do next," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "In terms of the American people, I sense that there's a good deal of patience and understanding of the difficulty of the task."
Even before the military campaign began, the administration warned that the operation would be lengthy and would ultimately involve action in several nations where terrorists operate. Yet three weeks into the war in Afghanistan, and lawmakers and some media outlets are already criticizing the campaign for failing to make progress in its objectives.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said yesterday that his colleagues are still united in support of the military campaign.
"This is an unprecedented war in modern history against an enemy that may take years to fully bring to justice," said Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican. "President Bush successfully rallied the nation and the world to a sustained war against terrorism, and our confidence with the White House and our armed forces remains steadfast."
Mr. McCain is not alone in his critique of the war to date. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said last week that the United States could look like a "high-tech bully" if the bombing did not end soon.
Even former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an analyst for Fox News, last week criticized "the rope-a-dope we're currently playing in Afghanistan."
"We should destroy the Taliban as rapidly as possible," Mr. Gingrich said. "I, frankly, am mystified that we have the capacity in the north to destroy the Taliban forces in the front lines, and we're not using it. And I do not understand the strategy of being slow in blocking the defeat of the Taliban by not applying our power."
Mr. Dodd said lawmakers are trying to walk a fine line between speaking freely and interfering with the operation of the war.
"Everyone's entitled to an opinion, certainly, I respect that," Mr. Dodd said. "But I have a very high degree of confidence that [the military commanders] know what they're doing. In my view, it's a matter that's better left to them to do. That's what they're charged with doing."
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yesterday rebuffed suggestions that the Pentagon needs advice from pundits or politicians in carrying out the war effort.
"I want to emphasize that our operations are on track with the commander-in-chief of Central Command's overall campaign plan," Gen. Myers said. "I'm not going to get into details about that plan, but I'll point out that once again, the models from previous campaigns, like Allied Force and Desert Storm and any expectations based on them made by pundits, are not really relevant to this plan and our asymmetric warfare on terrorism. And we'll proceed at a time and place of our choosing."
Several lawmakers said yesterday that open debate on an action as serious as war is only natural in a free, democratic society.
"I'm not surprised that this process develops critics along the way," Mr. Craig said.

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