Jim Hoagland reminds us how ugly it’s going to get, and how important it is we not lose our nerve:
U.S. generals will also need to cope with Hussein’s penchant for sacrificial battlefield surprise and his belief that an Iraq that fails him and his grandiose ambition does not deserve to exist. Failing to become Saladin, he could settle for being Sampson in the temple.
He may again use force immediately to express his disdain for the Arab “traitors” helping the Americans, as he did early in the 1991 campaign. Then, he sent an armored Iraqi column with no air cover on a suicide mission into Saudi Arabia. This time Kuwait and Qatar could feel his sting, however symbolic. He will also again try to draw Israel into the battle.
There is a mad logic at work. The goal is to turn weakness into strength: Hussein’s last hope will be to manipulate international revulsion over massive Iraqi losses into pressure on Washington to halt the campaign short of his overthrow. He will not protect the regular army troops any more than he did in 1991, when he ordered commanders and most staff officers out of Kuwait while leaving their troops behind.
Saddam Hussein’s strategy will be to consume Iraqi lives, not to preserve them. It was, after all, effective before. Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emotionally called for a halt to Operation Desert Storm after watching television film of devastating airstrikes on retreating Iraqi convoys.
We have a few things going for us today that we didn’t in 1991. We aren’t saddled with a UN coalition unwilling to topple Saddam. We have a President lucky and smart enough to have people like Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, rather than Larry Eagleberger and James Baker. We’re fighting for the honor of New York City this time, not Kuwait.
And, if I may quote Elroy Blues, we have a President who beleives “we’re on a mission from God.”
All in all, I’m not concerned — or at least not yet — that we’ll pull out too soon.