Jewish World Review March 27, 2003 / 24 Adar II, 5763
What's not going on is the key in this war
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | TEL AVIV It's been a week since President Bush unleashed the dogs of war in Iraq. That's enough time to notice which ones haven't barked.
The Arab street, for example, which was supposed to yelp at the first sign of American aggression, has remained eerily quiet. There's been more anti-war agitation in Cleveland than Cairo. The Arab League met in solemn conference over the weekend and produced an anti-war resolution not much stronger than the peace pronunciamento of the New York City Council. In the real world, Iraq's Arab neighbors, with the exception of Syria, are active partners in the anti-Saddam Hussein coalition.
Iraq has failed to undermine this partnership by dragging Israel into the war, as it attempted to do in 1991. Iraq hasn't managed to launch a single Scud missile at Tel Aviv - or any other neighbor. The puny missiles fired at Kuwait have been mostly downed by the reassuringly successful Patriot anti-missile system.
The terror dog also has been conspicuously silent. No Saddamite sleeper cells have sprung into action. The only Islamic bomber so far has been a disgruntled Muslim American G.I. in Kuwait. And, despite dire warnings, there has been almost no eco-terrorism. The Iraqi dictator has managed to ignite only a few oil wells; Iraq's major petroleum assets are already in coalition hands.
There have been no unconventional attacks on U.S. troops, and, hysterical headlines about fierce battles notwithstanding, not much in the way of conventional attacks, either. The plain truth is that so far, the Iraqi army hasn't put up a real fight.
The proof is in the numbers. In the first six days of the war, only 11 Americans were killed by Iraqi fire - nine in a single ambush. Every casualty is a tragedy, of course, but Brooklyn has had mob wars with higher body counts.
It is too early to know exactly how many Iraqi civilians have been killed, but obviously coalition planners are keeping that toll down, too. Whatever the military merits of the policy of precision bombing, it has prevented mass slaughter in Baghdad. So has the tactic of bypassing towns and cities on the march north from Kuwait. The best evidence for this is the absence of reports about imperialist-crusader massacres, even in the highly fictionalized coverage of Al Jazeera and the rest of the Arab "news" media.
Critics of the war correctly point out that some key administration assertions and assumptions remain unproven.
No weapons of mass destruction have been found. No Al Qaeda link has been unveiled. The army hasn't deserted en mass. And if Iraqi civilians in Basra and other southern cities feel gratitude toward their American "liberators," they have been extremely good at controlling their emotions.
But it's still early. Once Baghdad is taken and Saddam is definitely dead, there will be time enough for insincere Iraqi rejoicing and the disclosure of genuine horrors.
In military terms, the first week of the war has been an almost unqualified success, a fact that should occasion confidence, not smugness. In the coming days and weeks, there will be setbacks: more casualties - many more if Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons - more captured Americans and Brits and perhaps an uptick in terrorism. War is unpredictable and unpleasant, especially against an enemy like Saddam.
Americans will continue to see this war's temporary setbacks (and
ultimate victory) through the eyes of its embedded reporters. But it is
not enough to watch a war. You need to listen, too - especially to the
silence of the dogs that are not barking.
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03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?