by Austin Bay
March 19, 2003
Forty-eight hours. By the time this essay hits print, thecountdown President Bush began on March 17 will be history.
The calendar tells the real story, however, not the stopwatch.Twelve years, seven months. That's the proper time metric for gauging TheSaddam War, which began on Aug. 2, 1990 when Saddam's Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Desert Storm, unleashed in January 1991, smashed Saddam'smilitary and temporarily thwarted his expansive ambitions. Key U.N.resolutions forbade using coalition troops to topple Saddam's fascist Baathregime. The United States kept that bargain, though the bloodbath in Kurdand Shia communities as the Republican Guard returned to murder Iraqisrevolting against Saddam morally stains the United Nations' deal.
Subsequent Security Council resolutions had implicit clocks.Saddam had to rid himself of weapons of mass destruction or sufferconsequences.
But the United Nations has failed. Its countdown never quiteconcludes. Another tick, another minute, another hour, another decade. TheU.N. clock, all wound up with the lingo of collective security, ultimatelylacks the steel spring of collective will.
Hence the devastating line in Bush's speech: "The United NationsSecurity Council has not lived up to its responsibilities. So we will riseto ours."
I've written this before, and every second makes it morecertain: The formula for Hell in the 21st century, weapons of massdestruction plus rogue states plus terrorists, must be broken. Breaking thefatal linkage -- stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,eliminating terrorists and reforming rogue states -- should be the civilizedworld's common goal.
America, with staunch allies, has accepted the necessary burden.
The biggest burden now falls on U.S. and British soldiers. Makeno mistake -- in wartime, the toughest job in a democracy is that of aprivate taking a machine-gun nest. A democracy's soldiers are the real humanshields -- shields against chaos and tyranny. Bush said it well: "We are nowacting because the risks of inaction would be far greater. In one year orfive years, the power of Iraq to inflict harm on all free nations would bemultiplied many times over. With these capabilities, Saddam and histerrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when the two arestrongest. We choose to meet that threat now, where it arises, before it canappear suddenly in our skies and cities."
What happens if Saddam and his clique do not leave Iraq as Bushdemanded?
U.S. commanders have characterized their battle plans as relyingon "shock and awe." The tyrant's battle plans appear to rely on "Shias andalleys." "Shock and awe" versus "Shias (refugees) and alleys" represent abattle for control of time. The United States intends to fight on "fast wartime" and Saddam hopes for slow.
"Shock and awe" means "smart" precision munitions dropped onIraqi military headquarters, on air defenses, on elite Iraqi combat units,on any resistance. As the "hard and smart" rain pins and destroys Iraqiunits, U.S. and British tanks and armored infantry strike. Helicopters moveinfantry (airmobile assault in Pentagonese) to seize key road junctions,weapons depots and neighborhoods. Special operations forces (SOF, e.g.,Green Berets), already positioned in Iraq, relay intelligence and directbombs using lasers. In concept, an overwhelming "fast" wave of power andmaneuvering forces breaks the will to resist of all but Saddam's worstthugs.
Saddam believes "slow time" gives him a chance. He wants wavesof refugees (in the south, most would be "Shia" Arabs) to vex advancing U.S.armor. Chemical weapons could also slow the allied attack. Saddam hopes thealleys of Baghdad are slow and costly. (Holding his own people as hostagesmay further stall allied city operations.) If Saddam's "slow gambit"succeeds, he could ask the U.N. Security Council for a ceasefire resolution.
Which time scheme will dominate the battlefield?
The U.S. military is an around-the-clock organization. Saddam'sunits are not. As for the alleys? Defending alleys requires a large cadre ofhard-core Iraqi fascists. When the rest of Iraq is liberated, even thosecriminals will realize their time is past.