Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2002 / 10 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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The tactical challenge we face | We hear a great deal about the dangers of urban combat from those whose military experience consists of watching films of the siege of Stalingrad on the History Channel.

The brief siege of Ba'adre, a Kurdish village in northern Iraq, in December, 2000, gives us a pretty clear picture of how intensely the Iraqis will fight. A Republican Guard formation surrounded a much smaller Kurdish force and prepared to attack. A few American warplanes buzzed the Iraqis. More than 100 immediately surrendered. The rest retreated.

A few months later, Michael Rubin had lunch with the father of an Iraqi soldier in a restaurant in the city of Sulaymaniyah. "Do you really think my son wants to be in uniform?" he asked. "Or anyone in his unit? He hears about life outside of Iraq. That's what he wants to live, not what he wants to fight."

The notion that many Iraqis will fight house to house in Baghdad for Saddam, who isn't even there (he's been holed up for nearly a year in Tikrit) is ridiculous. Even if many were willing to fight, we wouldn't fight them that way. Saddam is elsewhere. His weapons of mass destruction are elsewhere. The oil is elsewhere. We wouldn't fight house to house. We'd cut off the water and the power, and we'd wait.

Also ridiculous is the notion that an attack on Iraq will produce an explosion in the Arab "street." History makes it clear that the more resolutely the West acts, the quieter the Arab "street" becomes.

An attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen illustrates the far more likely danger. On October 6, an explosion tore a 26 foot hole in the hull of the Limburg as it waited for a pilot boat to guide it into the port of Mina al Dabah. Initially, Yemenese and French officials said the explosion was the result of a fire on board. But Lloyds of London said photographs show jagged edges of metal pointing inward, and the skipper said his vessel was struck by a small boat laden with explosives.

The method was similar to the attack on the destroyer USS Cole in another Yemeni port two years ago, and occurred on the second anniversary of that attack. Hours after it, al Jazeera television broadcast a tape purportedly from Osama bin Laden in which the speaker said: "I call on you to understand the lessons of the New York and Washington raids. The youth of Islam...will target key sectors of your economy until you stop your injustice and aggression."

If al Qaeda was behind the Limburg attack, it would be the first time the terror network has attacked Middle Eastern oil interests, which Osama bin Laden once described as "Allah's gift to the Arabian and Muslim peoples." The tanker attack could delay war with Iraq and refocus attention on al Qaeda, which would be good for Saddam but bad for the terror network, concluded STRATFOR, a private intelligence service.

If Al Qaeda was behind the Limburg attack, it could indicate closer cooperation between al Qaeda and Iraq than many currently believe exists. The Limburg attack indicates what Saddam is most likely to do with his weapons of mass destruction if he is attacked. Chemical and biological agents are terrific terror weapons, but poor military weapons, especially if one has to rely on missiles for distribution. The warheads on SCUD missiles are too small, and the number of missiles Saddam is thought to possess too few to have much effect upon troops in protective suits.

But if Saddam were to use biologicals and persistent chemicals like the nerve agent VX against his own oilfields and those of neighboring countries, he could do savage harm to the economies of the West. Attacks on oil tankers could give Saddam's sailors a better chance of survival than attacks on U.S. warships.

A CIA report declassified by the Senate this week estimated the probability that Saddam would initiate the use of weapons of mass destruction is low, but the probability he would use them once attacked is high. Part of Saddam's retaliation could be conducted by sleeper agents here in the United States.

The tactical challenge we face is to distinguish real dangers from illusory ones. The strategic challenge is to determine if the risks of inaction are greater than the risks of taking action. I think the risks of inaction are greater. But the risks of acting are profound.

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10/08/02: Bu$h and the bu$ine$$ of war
10/01/02: Gore's calculated risk may well get him the Dems' nomination
09/25/02: Schroeder may find the fruits of victory sour
09/25/02: Making Saddam change his spots
09/19/02: Bush's resolve already has paid dividends
09/17/02: Courageous Iranians
09/13/02: If you never served in the military, you have no right to an opinion
09/10/02: Why the 'air marshals' will fail
09/05/02: Resurrecting the "Happy Darky"
08/31/02: Are Bush's inactions against Iraq calculated?
08/23/02: Dems can't take the minority vote for granted any longer
08/20/02: No proof of Saddam's wrongdoing? Yeah, right
08/15/02: Mineta's war on what?
08/13/02: When Gore said he wanted to be his 'own man,' what was he thinking!?
08/08/02: Picking a tree for Cheney's hanging
08/06/02: Fears about the Department of Homeland Security are misplaced
08/01/02: The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais?
07/30/02: State Dept.'s anti-American actions
07/26/02: Journalists are making sure Americans can't differentiate between the stock market and the economy
07/23/02: Iran's is on the verge of a social and political explosion. So why is media ignoring it?
07/17/02: FBI isn't supposed to stand for Foolish, Blind and Incompetent
07/12/02: The ICC tramples on rights Americans take for granted
07/09/02: Was LA International Airport shooting, in fact, good news?
07/02/02: What the "intelligence community" can learn from Alexander the Great
06/28/02: Muslim link in Oklahoma City bombing revisited
06/25/02: A good environmental scare needs two ingredients - an impending catastrophe, and someone to blame for it
06/21/02: Stirring the security pot
06/18/02: Why the military is so messed up
06/14/02: Vast majority $68.7 billion proposed for weapons will be spent on systems of little use in the war on terror
06/12/02: Bush saw them and raised them, and he's holding the aces
06/10/02: Some heads need to roll
06/04/02: A new draft for the 'war on terror'?
05/31/02: So the FBI has finally caught up to our priorities?
05/29/02: Taking on common sense
05/23/02: Political terrorists
05/21/02: There is a great deal to fret about, but I've never been more optimistic
05/15/02: If there is a way for America to lose the war, Gen. Tommy Franks can find it
05/13/02: Impartial justice against Americans by the UN?
05/07/02: Want to win the 'war on terror'? Reinstate the draft
05/03/02: An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU
04/29/02: Islamic 'smarts'
04/26/02: Did Bush play his Aces with Abdullah wisely?
04/23/02: Why peace in the Mideast is closer than ever
04/19/02: What the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank gained from the "peace accords"
04/17/02: Logical Muslim allies
04/10/02: How to guarantee an infinite Mideast war
04/08/02: Saddam's American friends
04/05/02: Arab winners and sinners
04/01/02: Why is the commander of U.S. Central Command not coming clean to the American people?
03/31/02: Dubya under attack by conservatives
03/26/02: Saddam watch coming to an end?
03/21/02: Get the Jews!
03/19/02: It's time pols and gov bureaucrats be held to the same standard of accountability we insist for corporate execs
03/15/02: Khaki Throat
03/12/02: Making foreign cheaters pay
03/08/02: Timidity and indecision by senior American commanders
03/04/02: Why 9-11? Ex-CIA officials come clean
02/25/02: Don't rule out a quick victory --- even if prez says otherwise
02/21/02: Saving our military from itself
02/19/02: Front Page fiction
02/15/02: Our European allies are like the fat kid who wants to play quarterback
02/13/02: Is the Army in danger of becoming "irrelevant"?
02/11/02: So, I "propagate hatred"
02/06/02: Bush whacking the media
02/04/02: Why serious folks disregard the European Union --- and why Bush must, too
01/30/02: Give economy pneumonia in order to protect it from a cold
01/28/02: Media is its own worst enemy
01/25/02: Journalists making road to peace a bumpy ride, or: A case study in stupidity
01/23/02: Toward a stronger defense at a lower cost
01/21/02: How Bush could be Generations X and Y's Kennedy ... and guarantee a GOP victory in the midterm elections

© 2002, Jack Kelly