Originally created 02/24/02

Will war with Iraq be next stage in war on terrorism?



ALTHOUGH THERE has been much progress the last few months in our war against terrorism, there is much more to be done. Enron's collapse and the winter Olympics have diverted many Americans' attention from this war, but soon the war will come roaring back into the news.

Despite some disappointments, including our inability to locate either Osama Bin Laden and the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, progress so far has been impressive. America began from a standing start on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. Yet, within a month, a military campaign against the Taliban began and, within three months, the Taliban had been defeated and al-Qaida seriously damaged.

In addition, nations like Yemen, Singapore, and the Philippines have made serious and sustained efforts to destroy terrorist elements within their respective nations. Quietly, America is getting cooperation as we convince many other nations who have harbored or tolerated terrorist groups that it is no longer in their interest to continue to do so.

The big issue on everyone's mind is Iraq. Will we attack and, if so, will we be able to remove dictator Saddam Hussein and replace him with a more responsible regime?

My answer is "yes" to both questions. I expect that sometime between May and October of this year, America, along with a few allies, will engage in an intense, short and successful military campaign against Saddam.

We made two mistakes in 1991. First, we assumed that the center of gravity of Iraq was the Iraqi military. Second, we assumed that if we decisively defeated the Iraqi army, elements within Iraq would overthrow Saddam and replace him with a pro-Western, government. We will not make these same mistakes this time.

SINCE WE HAVE been watching Iraq very carefully for the past 11 years, we know of the targets which, if destroyed, will seriously undermine Saddam's ability to run his country and remain in power.

Like all ruthless dictators, Saddam has many vulnerabilities and few supporters. Using the most modern techniques of asymmetric warfare (exploiting Saddam's vulnerabilities), "effects-based" targeting (choosing targets that will maximize the effects that we desire), battle swarming (hitting all his key areas at the same time), and precision attack (maximizing the destruction of targets while minimizing the killing and wounding of the innocents), the United States should be able to remove Saddam from power within 30 days or so.

With the fall of Saddam coming quickly after the demise of the Taliban, America's credibility and leverage with countries like Iran and North Korea will increase significantly. I do not think it will be necessary to attack either of those countries.

Their leaders will come to the stark realization that America is deadly serious about taking action not only against those who would harbor terrorists but also those who would develop weapons of mass destruction with the intent of using them once they become available.

Last week a team of senior retired officers reported to the secretary of Defense the lessons learned from our war in Afghanistan. After close examination, they found that, although the military campaign was quite successful, there were some areas where improvements could and should be made before we launch our next military campaign.

For instance, because of bureaucratic delays some of the top terrorist leaders managed to slip away even though they had been located and targeted. I fully expect that the recommendations of these senior officers will be incorporated into the upcoming military campaign against Iraq.

During the past 25 years, I've been honored to work with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Dick Cheney. Americans are fortunate to have people of such high character, maturity, intellect, experience and decisiveness in such key posts.

They work well together and have gained the trust of our commander in chief. This may be the best national security team ever assembled. I have a strong sense they'll serve the nation well as they make many tough decisions over the next few months.

Editor's note: The writer, a retired Air Force major general, lives in Augusta. He is a military analyst for CBS Radio and NBC-TV and is the author of Rules and Tools for Leaders, Assignment Pentagon and A Hero Among Heroes: Jimmie Dyess and the 4th Marine Division.)