Many observers, intoxicated by
the initial promise of the March 19 decapitating air strike against
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, now are unrealistically impatient
with the progress of the war against Iraq. In particular, some
elements of the American and international media are chomping at
the bit to declare that the U.S. is bogged down and the war is
beginning to go awry.
Yet this is only the ninth day
of the war and things must be kept in perspective. Despite the carping, the spearhead
of the allied forces has made great progress. In nine days the lead tanks have
advanced approximately 250 miles and now are within 50 miles of
Baghdad where the crucial battle of the war is expected to take
place. This is farther and
faster than American troops advanced in the 1991 war against Iraq.
To put it in historical
perspective, this is the equivalent of the World War II advance of
American troops from the Normandy beaches to Belgium after the
D-Day invasion of June 1944. It took American forces five
months to travel that distance and they lost thousands of soldiers
in that campaign, which helped seal the fate of Nazi Germany. To date, 26 U.S. soldiers have
been killed in action in Iraq, seven captured and eight
American troops have made steady
progress in advancing toward Baghdad. They have been slowed by the
desire to avoid civilian casualties bypassing Iraqi forces
entrenched in cities and towns. But the chief source of delay so
far has been a huge sandstorm that impeded movement for two days.
resistance generally has been light. There have been a few fierce
battles, but the U.S. and British forces have won all of them, with
the exception of an Iraqi ambush of a logistics unit at Nasiriyah.
The strongest resistance has
come not from the Iraqi army, which appears sluggish and poorly
motivated, but from Saddam' s Fedayeen paramilitary organization,
which often fights in civilian clothes and takes refuge in
residential neighborhoods to avoid crushing blows from superior
American firepower. These
diehard supporters of Iraq' s dictatorship fight determinedly
because they have no alternative - if they surrender they fear the
treatment they may get from the Iraqi people, whom they have
victimized for 30 years.
Lt. General William Wallace, the
U.S. Army' s senior commander in Iraq, predicted that overextended
American supply lines and the guerrilla attacks of Saddam' s
Fedayeen in rear areas, recently have slowed the advance to Baghdad
and increased the chances of a longer war than many had expected.
Wallace said, The enemy we
are fighting against is different than the enemy that we' d
wargamed against. Such surprises are inevitable in every war and
American commanders are adjusting rapidly to the new
Overly pessimistic armchair
generals need to keep the war in perspective. Although there have been some
setbacks, American and British troops have decisively defeated
Iraqi troops everywhere except in populated areas where the
presence of Iraqi civilians has led the allies to pull their
More than 4,000 Iraqis have
surrendered and many of those that have not yet done so have been
deterred by the fear that Saddam' s henchmen will kill them. The
New York Times reported on March 27, that:
and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and
British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has
told captors a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting
at gunpoint, threatened with death by tough loyalists of President
Such intimidation may work in
the short run, but over time the Iraqi army will be undermined
severely by desertions and growing distrust.
The Republican Guard forces, the
most powerful Iraqi military units, have yet to join the fighting
in a major way. They have
been targeted with intensifying air attacks and likely will be
weakened and possibly demoralized by many more days of air attacks
before they are forced to join in the desperate battle to halt the
drive towards Baghdad.
While some in the media have
become impatient for a final victory, it is important for Americans
to remain realistic about the pace of the war. The Bush Administration, to its
credit, never promised a fast or easy victory.
President Bush, asked yesterday
how long the war will take, replied: "However long it takes to
achieve our objective ... It isn't a matter of timetable, it's a
matter of victory."