The Defense Department has handed Bush the most detailed plans for attacking Iraq yet. For obvious reasons, everyone is light on details, but the New York Times asserts that the plans involve an extensive air campaign to eliminate the Iraqi command and control centers, as well as their means of delivering weapons of mass destruction, followed by a troop invasion from Kuwait.The Washinton Post follows up on this with massive coverage on Saturday, mostly agreeing with the NYT coverage. It adds many specifics: Rumsfeld’s close-knit team of advisors is urging a Special Forces-type operation, instead of a full-blown land war, and WaPo cites specific troop deployments and bombing strategies. This is supposed to end the war quickly by removing Saddam Hussein and his government, scrupulously avoiding attacks on Iraq as a country in the form of infrastructure or civilian targets. This is similar to the tactic used against Slobodan Milosevic during the Kosovo crisis in 1999.
“All this might would be focused on toppling the regime as quickly as possible while minimizing the suffering inflicted on the Iraqi population, said several people familiar with the thinking of Air Force planners. ‘You don’t want to go after bridges and other infrastructure targets,’ said retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney. ‘All you want is regime targets.’
“Even most Iraqi troops would be exempted from attack. ‘The Iraqi military will be told, “if you come out of your staging areas, you’ll be destroyed, but if you stay, you’ll live,” ‘ said one person familiar with Air Force thinking.”
WaPo also emphasizes that the Administration has not decided specifically how to deal with a WMD response, the “agent defeat” issue. There are worries that any biological or weapons attack could drift downwind into Iran. It also mentions that “turning” portions of the Iraqi army against Hussein will be an essential component of the campaign, which would avoid the potentially messy prospect of urban warfare.
The WaPo piece concludes with a broad agreement among its sources that a protracted conflict would not withstand American public opinion and could possibly radicalize already nervous Islamic opinion in the region.
The AP analysis confirms the WaPo coverage, quoting Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “They’re saying the obvious. Obviously no one would want to harm the people of that country. We favor the people of that country. But what the president will decide to do is entirely in the future.”