Thomas Ricks has a good piece in today’s Washington Post on the likely shape of the war against Iraq. It is going to be, he thinks, entirely different from the Gulf War:
"The ground operation points to a Pentagon war plan that is
shaping up to be dramatically different than the one carried
out by the United States and its allies in the 1991 Persian
Gulf War. Instead of beginning with a massive aerial
bombardment, the plan envisions a series of preliminary
ground actions to seize Iraqi territory and effectively encircle
Baghdad before a large-scale air campaign hits the capital,
defense officials and analysts said."
The political consequences of this will be significant. If you can occupy three-quarters of Iraq virtually immediately, without firing many shots, and be received as liberators among the population you will: One, learn a lot about where some weapons are and, two, placate many of the Arab states because you will have done it quickly with minimum damage. But, of course, then the critical question will become whether or not Baghad will surrender, or can be taken reasonably quickly. The assumptions that the aerial bombardment (precise, no doubt) will be very useful in taking Baghdad, and that even the Special Republican Guards, presumably in Baghdad, will not put up much of a fight, are large assumptions. And this article claims that some military planners think that our air strategy is too timid.