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Jewish World Review Feb. 27, 2003 / 25 Adar I, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Invasion? More like a coup | AMERICAN plans for Iraq look a lot more like a coup d'etat than an invasion. By aiming surgically at the leaders in Baghdad and isolating them from the rest of the military structure they command, President Bush seeks to decapitate the Iraqi leadership rather than conquer the nation.

In a coup, regime opponents try to interdict the opposition's command and control structure, block communications with the population and encourage enemy commanders to disobey orders and defect. Reported U.S. plans for the invasion of Iraq quite closely parallel that. And in leaflets now being dropped on Iraq and e-mails sent to Iraqi commanders and scientists, American psy-ops are aimed at driving a wedge between Saddam and his men.

In the Gulf War of 1991, the U.S. military engaged Iraqi troops to break their hold over Kuwait. In the plans being reported now, U.S. troops would bypass Iraq's regular army and attack the Republican Guard only if they intervene on the outskirts of Baghdad.

By using aerial bombardment to disrupt the regime's communications with its minions and employing e-bombs to overload their computers, American strategists are enhancing their chances of killing or capturing Saddam without having to damage all of Iraq. Even if the dictator escapes alive to hide out somewhere in a cave near Osama's, his regime will be toppled and the coup will have succeeded.

But this is a coup from outside the nation. To rally dissident military units and induce a rebellion, U.S. troops must first penetrate Iraqi airspace and land on the ground. Reports that elite Delta Force units will be sent into the capital in the operation's earliest phases reinforce the parallel between the invasion and a conventional coup d'etat.

Leftist propaganda about massive civilian casualties or the expense and difficulty of rebuilding a crippled nation do not take account of the subtlety of American military planning for Iraq. The coup won't be bloodless, but it will not leave a scorched earth in its wake, either.

So the nation won't take years to rebuild: A regime will have fallen, not a country. International critics, now predicting massive civilian casualties, will be confounded when the administration plans hold collateral damage to an absolute minimum.

In a sense, we are returning to the polite notions of war of the 18th and early 19th centuries. When the British captured Philadelphia, they figured the American Revolution would collapse. When they burned Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812, they felt they had won the war. Union generals were forever trying to capture Richmond to end the Civil War. Then generals like Ulysses Grant realized that the key was to destroy the other side's army - and the modern meat-grinder war was born.

By focusing on capturing the instruments of power in Baghdad, we are returning to the earlier idea - but in a different context.

The American plans, as thus far revealed, reflect both wisdom and humility. Rather than assume that they must defeat Iraqi divisions in the field, the U.S. planners take direct aim at the weakest link - the dictator's control over his military.

If these coup plans succeed, they will set an important precedent for future operations. Can Kim Jong II's control over his military be any better than Saddam's? Can any tyrant, ruling through secret police, survive a determined effort to get in between his leadership and his supposed followers?

The creativity of the plans in Afghanistan (relying on the Northern Alliance to do the bulk of the fighting) and in Iraq (fomenting a coup with outside forces) attests to the wisdom of U.S. policymakers. Their combination of creativity and fortitude stands us all in good stead.

In Afghanistan, the Pentagon showed that it had learned the lesson of Vietnam - that Americans would not tolerate massive U.S. casualties. Now they're incorporating the lessons of international politics in the media age - to take major measures to hold down civilian casualties. Good for them.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


02/21/03: The first casualty of Iraq war: Liberal credibility
02/19/03: Old Europe's last hurrah
02/14/03: Corzine throws down gauntlet on Wall St. fraud
02/12/03: An exile deal for Saddam
02/07/03: The Dems give up the House
02/05/03: France: Saddam's ally
02/03/03: War critics will suffer
02/30/03: Even by Clinton standards, it's sheer chutzpah
01/24/03: Rebirth of the balanced budget Republican
01/22/03: Next to Bubba, Dubya's got it good
01/16/03: End racism in affirmative action
01/13/03: The new swing voter
01/10/03: Political e-mailing comes of age
01/07/03: In Dem race: Home field no advantage
12/31/02: Hey, Hillary: Want to appear like a stateswomyn? Stay silent
12/19/02: Kerry in the lead
12/19/02: Lieberman the frontrunner
12/17/02: In defense of Lott
12/02/02: An issue for Bush: Drugs
11/27/02: Women gone wobbly?
11/25/02: The U.N. over a barrel
11/15/02: Gore's suicide
11/15/02 One-party control is an illusion
11/13/02 The House of Extremes
11/08/02 I have egg on my face
11/01/02 Is Bush losing control over events?
10/25/02What is causing Bush's free fall?
10/25/02: Anybody sense a trend?
10/23/02: A deadline for Iraq
10/18/02: Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst
10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2002, Dick Morris