- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

War planning proceeds in secrecy here and overseas. As the stress in the Taliban spokesmen's faces shows, military action draws nearer as each day passes. The "fronts" in this war financial, diplomatic and military will all be fought in unusual ways and places. The military front will take us into countries more used to war than peace. If this war is to be won, it has to be won on terms that change these nations' cultural acceptance of war as a way of life.

President Bush has many military tools at his disposal. So far, four U.S. Navy carrier battle groups, packing the punch of hundreds of fighter-bombers, battalions of Marines and other assets, are either there or on the way. Air Force B-52 "Buffs" have been positioned on the island of Diego Garcia, about 3,000 miles south of Iraq, about two pots of coffee in flying time from Kabul. Army airborne units and other forces will undoubtedly be committed later.

The decisions being made about where American forces can operate from will shape what comes next. Some allies in the Middle East Turkey among them are providing bases from which our military will operate. That our forces can operate from those places does not relieve the need for other, closer locations. Airborne troop assaults require closer basing, and shorter logistics chains make success on the ground more likely. Saudi Arabia high on Osama bin Laden's enemies list is ducking its responsibility by denying our use of the bases there that were built for the Saudis' defense. Courageous decisions such as those made by Turkey make the job easier and decrease the probable number of American casualties.

This war will be conducted in phases. First, reconnaissance is being done by satellite and by special forces on the ground in Afghanistan. Soon, aircraft and cruise missiles, along with surgical strikes by American and British special forces, will target the Taliban and try to capture or kill bin Laden. These strikes may not be conducted solely against targets in Afghanistan.

Later, there will be a concerted air and ground campaign against terrorist targets in other nations. Our weapons and people are 10 years smarter and more capable than those that dazzled the world in the Gulf War. The Taliban, remembering the Russians' defeat in the 1980s, are clearly underestimating what we can do, hill-by-hill and cave-by-cave.

One of the key decisions will be whether the president decides to finish what his father started in 1991. The air and ground campaigns will be long ones, focused on known military targets like the Iraqi weapons facilities given immunity by the United Nations and the Clinton administration. Ending the enemy's ability and will to conduct war against us is one of the measurable goals.

Any peace to be made must be based both on military victory and on the ultimate recognition by our enemies that they have lost. They must be made to understand in terms their religions and cultures can absorb. Without that realization, the war may not be the end of terrorism, but just another bloody episode in the fight against it.

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