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POST-STRIKE ANALYSIS: A look back on Operation Iraqi Freedom

I took a glance at my newsletters from this time last year, in the months leading up to the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). I’m happy that for the most part I called it pretty closely—but I’m dismayed at the areas where I totally blew it.

Like most commentators, I assumed that OIF would initially be a replay of Operation Desert Storm: I believed all the talk about “shock and awe.” If we were going to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime, it was totally logical for me to believe that we would do it from the air. After all, we had complete surveillance over ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of his country, and air superiority over two-thirds of it.

True, we didn’t have access to bases in Turkey and only limited access to bases in Saudi Arabia; and we had drastically cut the numbers of combat aircraft since Desert Storm. The mission was different this time: we weren’t trying to oust Saddam’s army from Kuwait, but bring down his regime by destroying its strongest, most repressive military arm, hoping that the people would rise up and bring down the government for us. That meant boots on the ground, marching right into the jaws of the monster. A bomber can certainly destroy or guard territory, but it cannot capture it.

Now some commentators are suggesting that since we didn’t use “shock and awe” on Baghdad—didn’t turn out the lights, didn’t level every government building, didn’t take out every bridge—that the Iraqi people thought we were weak and didn’t feel we were committed to destroying Saddam. Even after we started rolling tanks through the capital and statues of Saddam were being toppled, the people didn’t think it was a real liberation.

In fact, when it became clear that it was Saddam loyalists who did turn out the lights and shut off the water, Operation Iraqi Freedom was perceived as a failed operation. It was believed possible for the Iraqi Republican Guard to rise up and defeat the Americans, or at least make them turn tail and run. After all, we were letting thousands of Iraqi soldiers get away—we didn’t have the manpower or resources to set up prisoner of war camps. Those same soldiers were obviously still circulating throughout the country, taking pot-shots at Coalition troops but mostly making sure that no citizens dared rise up against Saddam’s regime. Many even thought—and perhaps still do believe—that we faked Saddam’s capture!

Do I buy any of these arguments? No way. Here’s why:

We need to keep the objectives of Operation Iraqi Freedom in mind: the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, establishing a foothold in the Persian Gulf region, and creating a stable, friendly government in Iraq. Saddam’s regime was defeated within days and removed within weeks. We have a shaky toehold in the “Sunni triangle,” but we are on the ground and Coalition forces control most of Iraq. Within six to ten months, Iraq may have a new constitution and a newly elected government.

No, it wasn’t “shock and awe,” but we couldn’t afford to simply destroy Baghdad. The 2003-2004 price tag for rebuilding Iraq is $27 billion, plus another $60 billion for the Coalition forces—imagine for a moment what the price tag would have been if we destroyed every power plant, every bridge, and every government building in Baghdad! Simply wiping everything out was not an option if we ever hoped to establish a non-threatening, representative government there.

There was no doubt in my mind, or in anyone’s mind, that a ground offensive in and around Baghdad and the other Saddam strongholds was going to be a tough mission. Almost six hundred killed is terrible.

But the fight for peace—peace for the very important and sensitive Middle East that is so vital to U.S. national interests—and freedom—freedom from fear, freedom for trade, freedom from tyranny and repression—is worth the lives lost. America will be stronger, more secure, and ultimately better for their sacrifice.

What about weapons of mass destruction?

It would be amazing to me if it is ultimately found true that scores of Iraqi scientists, politicians, bureaucrats, and advisers were lying to Saddam about their nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) programs—that all the information we had been gathering over the years about Iraq’s NBC programs were all elaborate, totally believable fabrications so someone could dare steal from the government and others could avoid a firing squad. Our intelligence community does better cross-checking than that; and Saddam’s regime was more brutal than to allow such a deception to go on for very long.

I believe, as we have been told for over ten years, that Iraq really does have an advanced biochem warfare program. Just because chief weapons inspector David Kay can’t find the “smoking gun,” even after almost a year searching, is not proof positive that it doesn’t exist. We are still digging up buried weapons all over Iraq.

There could be thousands of spider-holes like the one that Saddam managed to hide in all these months scattered around Iraq, each one containing enough anthrax, ricin, smallpox, or nuclear material to kill several thousand of our soldiers. And just because we haven’t found the Iraqi equivalent of Sandia National Laboratories or Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories doesn’t mean that the facilities for manufacturing NBC weapons weren’t located elsewhere—such as Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, China, North Korea, Russia, or Pakistan, just to name a few.

We are in Iraq because it is in our national interest to be there—maintaining a presence in the heart of the Middle East, establishing a less hostile government, and supporting our allies and threatening our enemies with our resolve. Accomplishing the mission might take considerably longer than most Americans—and many American politicians, especially the Democrats running for President—want. It will certainly require the ultimate sacrifice from more soldiers.

I still have a brother in Iraq and I hope for his safe return every day. But I still believe in his mission. As much as I’d like him to come home safe, I want him to succeed even more.

Click here for more on Plan Of Attack!

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Plan Of Attack (MAY 2004)

The unthinkable is about to happen in this high-flying novel of adventure and suspense.

In Air Battle Force, Dale Brown introduced U.S. Air Force aerial warfare expert Major General Patrick McLanahan and his air combat unit of the future. Armed with a force of these robotic planes, the general and a handful of commandos were secretly deployed to the oil-rich nation of Turkmenistan to stop a Taliban invasion. And though the Americans won the battle, the war is far from over....

To punish McLanahan and his fleet of robot warplanes for their audacity, Russian president General Anatoliy Gryzlov decides to do the unthinkable: a sneak attack on America-unlike anything ever believed possible-that devastates her strategic air forces.

McLanahan has collected information that not only foretold the Russians' daring plan, but also gave him the data he needs to plan a counterstrike that could stop the Russian war machine dead in its tracks. But Patrick is no longer in charge of Air Battle Force, and the Russian sneak attack has left the embattled U.S. president with few options: retaliate with every weapon in his arsenal, even if it triggers a global thermonuclear war, or to a cease fire on Russia's terms...

...or listen to a disgraced and discredited young bomber commander's long-shot plan of attack.

"The novels of Dale Brown brim with violent action, detailed descriptions of sophisticated weaponry and political intrigue... His ability to bring technical weaponry to life is amazing."
--San Francisco Chronicle

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