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War Analysis by Dr. David McIntyre - 2003-03-30


MR. BORGIDA:
Now joining us, our military analyst, Dr. David McIntyre, a retired U.S. Army colonel, who has been with us from the beginning of the war.

Colonel, as we have just presented to our viewers, the Fedayeen and of course the suicide bombing attacks on U.S. troops -- these represent, in some way, don't you think, kind of non-conventional military warfare, and I wonder, did U.S. war-planners plan on all this?

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, certainly, you always plan for the unexpected. That's part of planning. I do think they probably didn't expect this degree. And it isn't just a matter that they weren't expecting outside attacks or hit?and-run attacks, they weren't expecting, I think, the disguising and blending into the civilian populace. And the reason that they didn't expect that is because it makes the impact on the civilian populace so bad. This isn't just a technique that strikes against U.S. troops, it's a technique that then later falls back on the civilian populace. It really splits the civilian populace itself. And I don't think American planners had planned for that degree of brutality.

MR. BORGIDA:
And of course, the history of this sort of attack, talk to us a little bit about how this has come up in previous wars.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, it's not the first time we faced suicide attacks. At the conclusion of the Second World War, for example, repeatedly the U.S. military faced suicide attacks from Japanese soldiers, and many people will be aware of the Kamikaze. Off of the Island of Okinawa, more than 2,500 pilots committed suicide, became suicide bombers, in Kamikaze aircraft -- 2,500 of them. They took quite a toll. They didn't impact the way that the war ended.

The big difference, however, is that those were all uniformed soldiers fighting as soldiers. They were not hiding among civilians, pretending to be civilians, and thus endangering future civilians. This is quite a difference.

MR. BORGIDA:
Now, to put this into some context for viewers and playing the role of devil's advocate here, there are those who would say that, in this particular context, with an overwhelming military force, what other techniques, what other ways, can a minority, smaller military compete?

DR. MCINTYRE:
Well, you can wage a guerrilla war. Which means you dress as soldiers, you fight as soldiers, you hide and strike. That wouldn't be comfortable for the Americans, but it would be a legitimate means of war.

It seems to me the key issue here is what defense officials have said on the Iraqi side, that all means would be allowed. That is, after all, why the Americans are there at all, because they thought from the beginning that Saddam had said all means, terrorist means, poisoning means, gas, radiation, all means would be allowed. That's what the war is over. So, to some extent, I guess it isn't a surprise, but it does surprise even me that by all means he means also sacrificing his own civilians.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's take a look at our map, and give us some sense of what's going on on the ground level, on the ground in Iraq today.

DR. MCINTYRE:
We're seeing a little bit of buildup in the north. We had the 173rd Airborne go in in the north yesterday, and they are being joined by troops from the 10th Mountain Division from within the United States, and air strikes in that area to support them. What they'll try to do is establish a base, maintain stability among the Kurds in the north. We know that the Iraqis have built up forward of Baghdad. What we're seeing now is -- and we saw the U.S. forces move, the marines in the center, the U.K. to the south, and the 3rd Infantry Division to the north. That's the way we've seen the lineup in the past. What we're seeing now is the shift of attacks onto these forces south of Baghdad. And when you talk about attacks in Baghdad, what they're really shifting to, of course, these are not attacks on the city itself, it's an attack on logistics facilities.

You're also beginning to see the very first buildup of troops, troops from the 101st Airborne Division and from the 82nd Airborne Division, securing those long supply lines. So, while it does look long like a snake, I think you're going to see a fairly rapid buildup of troops that makes it very difficult to cut that snake into pieces.

MR. BORGIDA:
Are we to presume then that the fight for Baghdad is at hand, as these targets appear to be, in the military vernacular, being softened up to some extent?

DR. MCINTYRE:
I'm not sure still exactly what the term "fight for Baghdad" means. It's one a lot of people are using on the Iraqi side and on the U.S. side. I'm not exactly sure what it means. I'm not sure what the objective would be in Baghdad. To my mind, the real objectives are Saddam, his weapons of mass destruction -- and we have teams looking for both of those -- and the Iraqi Guard, the Iraqi troops. So, eventually we're going to have to answer the question, why is it that the Americans will go into Baghdad? I don't know. I don't know that they will. I don't know that there will be a city-by-city fight. This is something we're just going to have to see in the coming days, how it develops.

MR. BORGIDA: This is the first I've heard you talk about this. It's new to me that there is not going to be this momentum into Baghdad. Is there something that you're aware of that you're not telling us?

DR. MCINTYRE: No. All I'm saying is I'm not sure. As we've talked before, I've taught this for many years. And so what I always try to present is various sides, the various arguments. There are many tools that the Americans can bring to bear, and they don't necessarily have to go after the populace unless there is an objective there.

Now, what they have said all the time is that they were afraid that the Iraqi Guards would retreat within Baghdad and they would have to go after them. But the reason to go into Baghdad would be because that's where the Iraqi Guards are or because that's where weapons or stored, or because that's where Saddam is located. It's not the populace and it's not the city itself.

MR. BORGIDA:
All of those would appear to be the case, though. Saddam probably is there. Well, we would assume he is there. And of course, the Republican Guards are lining the exterior of the city. We would presume that that would be --

DR. MCINTYRE:
It would appear to be the case. All I'm saying is it's still very early. There was a time in the Afghan War a year ago when people were saying, oh, how are we going to do this? It's going to be a very long war. The Taliban are entrenched. But in fact we didn't have to fight our way through the downtown cities. The Taliban did collapse. Let's see what happens after a week of this concentrated bombing.

MR. BORGIDA:
An interesting discussion. Let's see if there is another place, in your view, where there will be some active ground fighting going on.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Out to the west we've seen some things that are not really -- I wouldn't call them active ground fighting, but it's really worth recognizing. And that is the importance of airfields out to the west, where they have been able to locate additional helicopters. And we don't really have an aircraft, a fighter aircraft, but they have apparently -- this is a bomber -- but they did apparently seize airfields out to the west, so they're able to shorten this distance and no longer having to overfly so many flights over other countries. Some countries are uncomfortable today with the U.S. overflying them. Overflights are being reduced by forward-basing U.S. aircraft in Iraq.

Now, the more aircraft that you put on the ground, the more soldiers you have to put to guard them. So, we're just going to have to see if that buildup comes about over the coming days.

MR. BORGIDA:
Let's talk, too, for a moment before we wind up our segment, Colonel McIntyre, about what appears to be an ongoing discussion in official Washington that involves what some might say is second-guessing of the military plan and so on. There has been a level of defensiveness over at the Pentagon about this. What is your view of this? We are into this past day 11 really. We're into the second week full-time.

DR. MCINTYRE:
This war is being waged at many levels. And there are a number of conflicts within the United States that really have nothing to do with Iraq. One of those questions is: What should the U.S. military look like in the future? And there have been people who thought there should be more Army, more Marines, more Air Force, lighter, heavier, all of those people have had various arguments about how this war should be waged. Some of those people are beginning to emerge and say we should be fighting it differently.

My own thought is that before we have that criticism, we need to see the way this plays out. But when it's over, when the war is over, you're going to see a number of different voices arguing about should it have been waged differently.

MR. BORGIDA:
Well, it should be pointed out that some of the criticism, some of the other voices that we referred to, are coming from retired military officials and some within the military establishment who may disagree.

DR. MCINTYRE:
Absolutely. Those who are Air Force officers think there should be more Air Force. Those who are Army officers think there should be more Army. All I'm suggesting is it's too early. Let's see what happens when the weight of air attacks really falls on the Republican Guard, and when other forces arrive in two or three weeks, we'll have a better feel for this. And then, after that is over, there will be time, and I'm sure there will be an accounting, of what decisions were made that were right and what were wrong.

MR. BORGIDA:
Dr. David McIntyre of the ANSER Institute, outside the Washington area, a retired U.S. Army colonel, of course providing us with astute coverage of this war. Thanks so much for joining us.

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

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