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Don't Dither as Hussein Builds Nuclear Devices

July 09, 2002|RANAN R. LURIE

Contemporary historians are already assessing the 1991 Gulf War as a logistic miscalculation that overestimated the number of troops and equipment needed to achieve the U.S.-led coalition goals. We could have achieved the same results with a third, some say a quarter, of that firepower and numeric superiority.

Get this: We used 4.5 times more troops than the number that invaded Normandy (130,000) on D-day, against what was then probably the most efficient and best entrenched forces in the world--the German army.

Our wrong, overcautious assessment of our requirements for the Gulf War cost us a fortune and, worse, valuable time. We should not repeat the same mistake now, especially considering that the Iraqi army--not an efficient fighting force back then--is only one-third what it was in 1991.

Allow me to recommend the shape and character of our first wave of attack on Iraq: No more than one squadron of fighter bombers will take off and drop hundreds of thousands of leaflets on all front-line Iraqi units. Every leaflet will be signed by the U.S. secretary of the Treasury and will contain a printed commitment guaranteeing "the bearer of this note will receive $100 in cash and safe passage to a decent prisoner of war camp, on the condition that it be presented to U.S. soldiers within 48 hours of the date and time of the drop." I predict that the only casualties we will have will be some of our GIs being overrun during the stampede to redeem the coupons. Saddam Hussein will lose most of his army and be left with a few of his closest first and second cousins.

Now we send in the Marine band to celebrate, and then the engineers to clean up the Iraqi laboratories once and for all. We also may start free elections in the prisoner of war camps and continue them in the new, democratic Republic of Iraq.

There is, of course, a grave risk here. There's a chance that Hussein already has operative, unconventional weaponry, maybe even one or two nuclear devices. This risk, however, should serve to accentuate the need for almost immediate action and not taking any chances by waiting too long.

We can take a lesson from the Iraqi anecdote that describes an uneducated Shiite (Hussein hates that Muslim minority) who was walking on the tracks while a train was catching up with him. The locomotive whistles and whistles, but to no avail because the Shiite doesn't realize it is meant for him. Eventually the train catches up with him, knocking the poor man off the tracks. The government compensates him after his hospital days with a new kettle. The proud Shiite puts the kettle on the stove. The kettle whistles at him. The man grabs an ax and hits the kettle with fury, shouting, "These have to be killed while they're still small!"

The Iraqi nuclear locomotive is coming closer and closer. We have no time for war games.


Ranan R. Lurie is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a syndicated columnist and cartoonist.

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