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War Analysis by Dr. David McIntyre - 2003-03-28


MR. BORGIDA:
Joining me now on our set, our military analyst, Dr. David McIntyre, of the ANSER Institute, and a retired U.S. Army colonel who has been with us during much of this war and has helped us work our way through the military strategy, which has just been so important.

Dr. McIntyre, thanks for being with us. The drive to Baghdad, both in terms of air and on the ground, how important is this symbolically? Does Baghdad, in effect, really count at this point?

DR. MCINTYRE:
That's a really good question. If we're not careful, we'll get carried away, focused on the wrong thing. The issue of this war is weapons of mass destruction and the man who has ordered their creation, Saddam Hussein, and the people who have constructed them, the weapons-makers themselves. That is what this war is about.

So, it is possible that we will end up with United States soldiers inside Baghdad, but I'm not sure. If we could get Saddam, if we could get the weapons, if we could be sure we had the weapons manufacturers before they fled the country, then there might not even be a reason to go into Baghdad. The real focus right now is Saddam's military forces outside Baghdad, and that's really what we ought to keep our eye out for.

MR. BORGIDA:
Well, that is a fair point, I agree with you. It is a fair point to make that the U.S.-led coalition is not after the destruction of downtown Baghdad, but rather disarming Saddam Hussein. In our report, we mentioned the northern front has opened, with 1,000 or so paratroopers. How important is that and what does it signal?

DR. MCINTYRE:
The northern front is very important. Maybe we ought to go to the map for just a minute and we'll take a look and we'll kind of recap what has happened in the last day or so.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's take a look at the map.

DR. MCINTYRE:
We had, of course, U.K. forces that started off down south, and have seized the port areas down to the south. We had U.S. forces a little north of that that moved up through the center of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. And then the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division that has moved up along the side of the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. And then, finally, we've had the 101st Airborne Division that has acted as a screen -- those are the helicopters -- off to the side also.

So, what you see is a collection of U.S. forces to the south of Baghdad. The Iraqi forces are arrayed around Baghdad, and they're going to be oriented in a sort of semicircle to the south.

Now, what we saw earlier today, with units from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, was that they landed far to the north and established an airhead. And a number of troops will come into that airhead with lighter vehicles, and they'll be able to form a force that can come to the south. It won't be as heavy as it would have been if we had had Turkey allow our forces in. Originally, we had planned to have 60,000 troops that were going to be in this northern area right here, so we would have Saddam in a vice. Instead, we have a very conventional fight south of Baghdad, and that's what we've seen shape up for the last couple of days.

MR. BORGIDA:
How does that hamper us, Dr. McIntyre? There is a big difference between 62,000 [60,000] troops and 1,000 paratroopers or so to the north.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, the 1,000 paratroopers will seize an airhead, and we'll be able to fly in, using the C?17, a very capable aircraft on short runways, and they will be able to fly in some armored vehicles, and we will pose a threat to Saddam in the north. We'll reinforce and reassure the Kurds in the north, and we will perhaps reassure the Turks that there won't be an unsettled revolution in the north. But that's a far cry from the pressure that we had hoped to bring on Saddam if the Turks had opened that ground pathway from the north.

So, as a result, we're seeing something shape up much more like a conventional tank fight in the south. That's not the way this was planned, but that's the way it's working out.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk big picture for a moment. The notion of shock and awe apparently has not shocked and awed the Iraqis at this point. And even U.S. officials are conceding that it's going to be a bit of a longer go. What is your view of all this? And what has gone well and perhaps not gone well?

DR. MCINTYRE:
As we have discussed previously, there was really a division of opinion over the last 10 years in the American military, and there are a number of people that said, as technology moves ahead, we will eventually build technology that so overwhelms the enemy that merely by showing up they will be intimidated, see the inevitable and surrender. And that has been a threat of the American military throughout. And I think that was dominant as this plan was put together.

There has been another set of military thought that said it's always better to modernize your equipment, to have the best trained, best equipped forces on the field, because you're liable to have to fight. Well, I think the first one was hopeful. It didn't turn out. The second one has come to bear.

What has gone not well is that we have not had the Iraqi main guard lay down their arms as we had hoped. I think the reason is because these are the people who are going to be called to account once the war is over. We have had much discussion of Saddam and rapes and murders and so forth. Somebody was doing those bad things. It is these people that won't surrender now. They know they are going to be held to account.

What has gone well is the equipment and training on the U.S. side. We have spent a lot of time, invested a lot of money, into simulators, into training in the United States. The troops are well prepared for this. They weathered a terrible sandstorm and continued to move forward.

So, on the basic tactical level, I think the U.S. forces are in good shape.

MR. BORGIDA:
The American public has got to be ready, however, as the President has suggested, for a much longer battle here. There is no sense here in believing that this is going to be a one-week affair.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Yes, absolutely. The President tried to say that from his very opening remarks, that this may take quite a while. It is interesting, I think one of the things that misled many people in the American public, interestingly enough, was technology and the media.

The media was riding aboard the lead tanks. They broke through into the open desert. And it seemed as though there was nothing in front of them. Well, there wasn't until we ran into the enemy 300 miles later. So, in some respect, the immediacy of the event sort of misled us.

MR. BORGIDA:
It is a fascinating example of how the media is showing us the war in one way, but in another way it may be misleading, according to you.

DR. MCINTYRE:
What is really happening right now is really fascinating. What I am seeing in American newsrooms is exactly the same confusion that really takes place in American tactical operations centers right down at the front line. You're now having the front-line information fed to you right in your homes, and you're realizing how confusing war really is.

MR. BORGIDA:
Dr. David McIntyre, of the ANSER Institute here in the Washington area, a retired Army colonel, showing us what he knows about the subject, and it is quite insightful. Thanks so much, Dr. McIntyre.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Glad to be with you, sir.

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