The New York Times reports that in Basra, Saddam loyalists are seizing children and threatening to execute them to force their fathers to fight. The column of tanks and other vehicles that came out of Basra yesterday was apparently manned by such reluctant warriors; not surprisingly, it was quickly destroyed.
On the radio this morning I heard some commentary by liberals who berated the Administration for allegedly being “surprised” by such tactics. I’m not aware of any evidence, however, that either the Administration or our military is surprised to see Saddam and his henchmen committing various kinds of war crimes. I think that the real point here is not the Baath party’s evil nature, which we all knew, but the military desperation that must underlie its current tactics. The measures now being used by Saddam are cruel but ineffective. It is hard to imagine–strictly in military terms–a more pathetic strategy than forcing men with no leadership and little military competence to venture out in search of battle by threatening their children. I think it is fair to assume that Iraq is using such tactics because it has run out of better military options. I conclude from this that, while it may take a while to take Baghdad to fall, given our aversion to casualties, the war as a whole will not last as long as some pundits are now predicting.
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