Politics & Policy

Reading The Writing . . .

…in the "shock and awe."

“We hoped to be persuasive enough that it was not in their interest to obey orders to fight,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a news conference Friday afternoon, following the launch of the “shock and awe” air attack on Baghdad.

Mr. Rumsfeld went on to say about the Iraqi leadership that “so far they’ve made very poor judgments . . . . we urged them to surrender. They have not done so.”

Mr. Rumsfeld is a warrior, not a bureaucrat; exactly the right man for this difficult job. His tone is stern, as it should be in a war, but he is also brutally honest. The U.S. keeps waiting for a surrender, but as yet none has emerged. So the incredible war campaign continues in the air and on the ground. That is as it should be.

As the brilliant Washington Times military correspondent Rowan Scarborough puts it, the “shock and awe” campaign is phase three of the war. Phase one was the successful bombing of the leadership target in a villa just south of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein, his sons, generals, and other Baathist leaders were meeting.

Saddam may be dead, his oldest son may be dead, and other officials may be dead — perhaps they were all wiped out. Trouble is no one knows exactly what happened. Clearly the Saddam clique has lost control of the government and the military.

But the hoped-for surrender, or coup d’etat, from opposition citizens in Baghdad has unfortunately not yet materialized. Even as the phase-two launch of the ground war was successfully launched, and moving rapidly on the road to Baghdad, there was still no sign of surrender.

It may well be that total confusion reigns, with Iraq’s entire command-and-control system completely disoriented and disrupted. In the event, the launch of the phase-three “shock and awe” air attack has been devastating. As Mr. Rumsfeld noted, this regime has been responsible for the deaths of hundred of thousands of human beings. They are paying the consequences now, difficult as it may appear to those of us watching on television. But the clear lesson is that both individuals and nations must be responsible for their actions.

As President Bush put it, the U.S. intends to disarm Iraq, free its people, and defend the world from this grave danger. With this combination of self-defense and moral idealism he made it quite clear that the only acceptable outcome will be victory.

The president also emphasized his respect for the people of Iraq, their great civilization, and their religious faith. There can be little doubt after the Baghdad bombing pause that followed the beginning of “shock and awe” that the president would prefer that Iraqi citizens take matters into their own hands by mounting a coup and surrendering before their entire country is totally decimated.

The bombing pause, however, will not last for long. U.S. military intelligence is listening to try to pick up any movement inside Baghdad that would hint at some change in the direction of surrender. But the bombing will begin again before long if no change is quickly forthcoming.

One would think that even the Iraqi military would have some soldierly code of conduct that would lead them to surrender for the sake of their nation and their nation’s people. But the Special Republican Guards are a paramilitary security force made up of fanatics especially chosen by Saddam. For them, apparently, capitulating would represent a very big step, one that so far they refuse to take.

While ordinary Iraqi citizens are greeting American ground forces on the way through Basra with joy and gratitude, two large Iraqi divisions named Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar are still at large south and west of Baghdad.

There is tragic irony here. It was King Hammurabi who wrote the great Babylonian code of laws. And it was just after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonian Empire, that the handwriting was seen on the wall.

Mr. Kudlow is CEO of Kudlow & Co.


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