OP-EDS

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April 15, 2003

A reflection on war's results

?Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival,? wrote Sir Winston Churchill. And it is victory that we have achieved in Iraq, liberating a once-proud nation from the chains of tyranny and showing the Muslim world that the United States is prepared to risk its own soldiers? lives to create democracy and freedom in the Middle East.

Now that much of the war is over, I?ve been trying to decide what we should name this war. ?The Three Weeks War??lasting from the first cruise missile strike to the fall of Baghdad?is a bit catchy, evoking Prussia?s stunning victory over Austria in the Six Weeks War. Germany isn?t exactly in our good graces anymore, so that probably wouldn?t work. ?The Second Gulf War?? Too unoriginal. And shouldn?t the Iran-Iraq War be dubbed the First Gulf War anyway? Other suggestions, from friends, included ?The Resolution-ary War? and ?Operation Iraqi Freedom.? Just joking! So, after lots of pondering, I?ve settled on ?The Shock and Awe War? because that seems to be the best way to describe the conflict.

More than the 1991 Gulf War, this was truly a ?splendid little war,? to use the term coined for the Spanish-American War. Considering the scale of resistance predicted by everyone, it?s incredible that Baghdad fell less than a week after we got there. Our casualties were light, lighter than in 1991. And?more remarkably?so were Iraq?s civilian losses. Smart weaponry was used on an overwhelming scale, even by the standards of last year?s Afghan War. But even more impressive than our smart weapons were our smart soldiers.

General George S. Patton once opined that, ?Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.? He might also have included women, had he seen PFC Jessica Lynch?s heroic stand against a platoon of Fedayeen thugs. This war, unlike Desert Storm and the Afghan War, was fought by American infantry and it was fought entirely on the ground. Though last year?s Operation Anaconda offered ample proof that America was not above a serious ground engagement, this campaign proved that we were willing to get down in the mud with the grunts to secure victory.

Almost as impressive as our military achievements were our political ones. As the left correctly pointed out, the West helped create the Hussein monster in the ?80s with arms from the French and cash from us. We then proceeded to turn a blind eye to his numerous aggressions and human rights abuses. Even in 1991, we let Saddam slaughter the Kurds and Shiites, rather than risk upsetting the stability of the Middle East. This time no one can accuse us of being Machiavellian in our goals. Though deposing Hussein and creating an Arab democracy were always two separate goals, using American power for the latter, as well as the former, is sure to impress many on the ?Arab Street.?

Now for the bad news: though this was indeed a triumph of American arms and soldiery, this will be little more than a sideshow war because our enemy simply could not resist us, even if they wanted to. Had Iraq been able to deny us air superiority or had the terrain not been as conductive to maneuver warfare as it was, the campaign would not have been as easy. Let me rephrase: though launched in 2003, this war was essentially a 20th-century war, not a 21st-century war. Iraq has been under an embargo since 1990, so while our forces have vastly improved in quality, theirs have been stuck in a time warp.

The two major possible wars on the horizon, though one hopes they will not happen, are against North Korea and China. No one likes to talk about them. If war does break out with either country, our fighting men and women will be coming home in body bags by the thousands. After his famous victory over the Russian Navy, Japanese Admiral Heihachiro Togo is thought to have said, ?In victory, tighten the strings on your helmets.? Our military and civilian leaders would do well to take that quote to heart.