- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

As President George W. Bush orders U.S. forces into action against Saddam Hussein, it will be to wage a very different type of war. In the past, America resorted to war only if there were a casus belli, a smoking gun that aroused the nation and justified the use of force. And, the primary aim was to win the war by defeating the enemy's military as a first order of business. A second war with Iraq will not fit this description. History shows why.

In 1898, the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor was the spark for the short war with Spain that established the United States as a global power with overseas colonies. Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare, brought home by the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania, gave President Wilson the rationale for entering the "war to end all wars." In 1941, Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor awakened a sleeping giant. North Korea's invasion of the south in 1950 and the Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964 led to America's fighting in two Asian wars. And, even the intervention in Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989 and the first Gulf War in 1991 all had provocations.

That there were miscalculations is, of course, true. The Maine was sunk by an internal explosion in its coaling bins. The Tonkin Gulf incident was grossly misrepresented by the Johnson administration as a pretext for sending forces to Vietnam. And, while the Reagan administration publicly feared for the safety of American students in Grenada, the real reason for the intervention was to prevent a potentially Marxist regime from keeping power.

War against Iraq, however, lacks the direct provocation of other wars. The reasons for war are pre-emptive and preventative. Mr. Bush believes that the possibility of future links between Saddam and terrorist organizations, combined with Iraqi mass-destruction weapons, constitutes a clear and present danger. War now rather than war later is justified to protect the United States from future attack. No doubt there is near-certain knowledge in the White House that Saddam has these weapons and that they will be uncovered after Iraq is liberated from his rule. On that, he is betting not only his presidency, but the reputation of the United States.

In all other wars, victory was won by defeating the enemy's military. Spain proved, fortunately, to be a weak opponent. The United States entered World War I late enough so that the central powers had been exhausted by war. World War II was won by an "arsenal of democracy" that made victory inevitable, outproducing the Axis enemy in every area of military capability.

Korea was a draw. And, we lost in Vietnam. The victory in Desert Storm was based on then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell's powerfully concise statement of strategy. Regarding the Iraqi army in Kuwait, we will "cut it off and kill it." And we did, to a large extent.

That is not the aim in a next war against Saddam. The object is to remove Saddam and the Ba'athist regime as quickly, decisively and inexpensively as possible. In essence, the operation is a hostage-rescue scenario on a huge scale. The Iraqi army is a secondary target. Much of it will be bypassed. Much if it is expected to surrender without a fight. Hence, destroying it is a waste in human and political terms, provided that it poses neither threat nor resistance.

The means for removing Saddam is based, if the press is accurate, on a strategy of "shock and awe." The rapid, overwhelming might of the United States will be brought to bear on Iraq's military and political leadership with stunning effect. As a principal author of the short book "Shock and Awe" and co-chairman of the group that spent several years in developing the concept, I was bemused to learn from friends in the press that the Pentagon had embraced this notion. Whether this is indeed true, I know not. But the object of shock and awe is to compel the enemy to do our will through the precise, intense and selective application of all forms of power and coercive force.

By most accounts, the superiority of U.S and coalition forces over Iraq is many times greater than it was in 1991. There is little question that we will prevail and probably quickly. However, war is, by nature, filled with uncertainty. And, while a rapid, stunning victory with relatively little loss of life will surely create a favorable political condition, that may not be enough.

Because this war is so different, there is a final irony. It is the peace that will dictate who ultimately won the war. In that regard, the Bush administration would be well-advised to concentrate its future intellectual and practical efforts.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide