We have been watching events unfold in Iraq without much comment lately. Today, Iraq showed international reporters its “disclosure” to the United Nations; the Washington Post describes the scene in Baghdad and the timetable for digesting Iraq’s report. Apparently review of the document for military secrets will take about a week; only then will members of the Security Council receive copies. As expected, the bottom line of Iraq’s disclosure is that it has no weapons of mass destruction. The Administration has already stated that it will consider such a claim to be a material breach of the latest U.N. resolution. The Administration has also said, however, that it will not initiate war solely on the basis of that breach. This has been interpreted to mean that the inspections dance will go on. To what end, I have no idea.
The big unknown, to me, is how the Administration intends to get into the end game. As recently as yesterday, an Administration spokesman reiterated that war remains a “last resort.” The Administration cannot possibly be counting on the inspectors actually finding something to trigger the conflict. What the trigger will be, I don’t understand.
Whatever it is, I believe it will come soon. General Franks is now in Qatar for a war games exercise. We are said to have approximately 50,000 troops in the region. Some reports claim that we need to increase that number to 200,000–which would take considerable time, and doesn’t seem to be happening–to be ready for war. I don’t believe it. Iraq has no air force. That means that when Saddam masses his troops together–necessary, obviously, for infantry action–he is just making it more convenient for us to kill them. There has been speculation about how many of Saddam’s troops will be willing to stand and fight. I think this is a moot point. The reality is, they can’t stand and they can’t fight. Picture the effect of some daisy cutters on an infantry or tank division. This brutal reality is, I think, the reason why we hear that Saddam’s strategy is to pull his men back into Baghdad to threaten a house by house defense. Absent an air force, human shields, in the form of Baghdad’s residents, are the only protection his army can have. This strategy will allow all of Iraq, including the oil fields and nearly all military facilities, to fall more or less immediately into our hands. (Debka File has reported that our special forces already have both the northern and southern oil fields surrounded on three sides.) How to topple Saddam and reduce Baghdad will be the tactical issue; but I doubt that this task will require any forces other than those already stationed in the Gulf. So I think the war is ready to begin as soon as President Bush gives the word. What I am not clever enough to anticipate is what the Administration plans to use as the occasion for the attack. If it isn’t the report being released today, what is it?
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