Jewish World Review May 15, 2002 / 4 Sivan, 5762

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | I'd love to play poker with General Tommy Franks, commander of U.S. Central Command, because the first thing he does after he looks at his hand is discard his aces.

Franks has been briefing a plan for the invasion of Iraq that is so parochial, simplistic and myopic that the Air Force, Navy and Marine components of CENTCOM have taken the unprecedented step of expressing alarm about it, said Johns Hopkins University professor William Arkin in the Los Angeles Times May 5.

The plan calls for simultaneous ground and air attacks against southern Iraq by five "heavy" (armor or mechanized infantry) divisions and five aircraft carrier air wings. The plan makes no provision for air strikes to soften up the Iraqis before the land invasion begins. The plan makes hardly any use of the Air Force or the Marines at all.

"The Franks plan clearly ignored successful elements of the last three major U.S. military campaigns: Iraq in 1991, Kosovo and Afghanistan," said Arkin, who is also an adjunct professor at the U.S. Air Force School of Advanced Airpower Studies.

"The heart of all those engagements was making maximum use of fighting capabilities in which the United States is strong and the enemy weak," Arkin said. "In Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan, that meant using air power and high-tech weaponry to attack key strategic targets while also using bombs and ground troops to attack enemy forces directly."

The Franks plan also exaggerates both Saddam Hussein's strengths and the likely assistance that would be provided to the United States by Iraqis opposed to his regime, Arkin's sources told him.

Arkin is an air power enthusiast. The principal purpose of his oped was to grouse about a plan which places primary reliance on the Army for victory. Air Force partisans customarily exaggerate the impact of air power. But the breathtaking advances in precision-guided weaponry in the last decade have narrowed considerably the gap between Air Force boasts and reality.

I'm inclined to think a ground force about the size that Franks envisions will be necessary to be sure of victory. But to ignore the contribution the Air Force can make is jaw-dropping stupid.

The Franks plan, in Arkin's description of it, is filled with idiot assumptions.

"Launching ground and air attacks simultaneously - instead of leading off with a substantial air assault first to soften up Iraqi defenses - would produce shock and awe in enemy forces, according to briefing documents," Arkin said.

The one thing an armor attack from Kuwait wouldn't provide is surprise. We have only a brigade of heavy armor in Kuwait. It would take about six months to build up a force of the size Franks wants to use. There is no way to conceal that buildup from Saddam. He'd know pretty much when an attack could be launched, and where it would be coming from. Some shock.

The Franks plan also makes little provision for countermoves by Saddam. One of the first things he is likely to do is to launch rocket attacks on Israel. Neutralizing mobile Scud launchers in Western Iraq would seem thus to be a high priority. It's hard to imagine how to do this without using airplanes. It also seems not to have occurred to Franks that Saddam might launch rocket attacks on U.S. assembly areas in Kuwait, instead of waiting passively for the hammer to fall.

Surprise in war is desirable, but difficult to attain. Complete surprise, such as the Japanese obtained at Pearl Harbor, can be obtained only when the enemy doesn't suspect he's going to be attacked. Saddam knows our gunsights are trained on him. He could still be surprised by when and where we attack...but only if we use airplanes to deliver the first blow.

We may not have the time for the leisurely buildup the Franks plan assumes. If we wait until after Saddam has developed nuclear weapons, we've waited too long. The timing of our attack must depend principally upon how close we think he is to the bomb.

If the political leadership is determined, I don't think it's possible for the United States to lose a war to an underdeveloped country with a population the size of New Jersey's. But if this plan is any indication, if there is a way to blow it, Tommy Franks can find it.



Comment on JWR contributor Jack Kelly's column by clicking here.

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01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
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© 2002, Jack Kelly