Wednesday, March 23, 2005

2 years in Iraq: Is this any way to win a war?

Two years into a war that should have been over in two months, I’m beginning to wonder about U.S. strategy in Iraq.

The United States has been fighting this with one hand and one foot tied behind its back. The result has been 1,500 U.S. soldiers dead and thousands more wounded — most of them unnecessarily. Far too many American soldiers have died at highway checkpoints or guarding buildings or driving in convoys.

When you stand around waiting for the enemy to kill you, invariably, that's what happens. If you're hunting down the enemy, there’s a much better chance you’ll get them before they get you. It's easy to kill the enemy if they're wearing the same uniform and coming at you in an open field. But when the enemy is fighting a guerrilla war and mingles easily with the civilian population, it's nearly impossible to defeat them.

When the enemy has access to ammunition, shelter, food and water, he can drag the conflict out as long as he wants. When the enemy can plan attacks from safe bunkers and can regroup by crossing the border into a neighboring country, you’re in for a long war.

When the enemy can communicate with comrades at will, when the enemy can recruit new members from surrounding countries, when the enemy can use television and the Internet to promote its cause, you’re going to lose the war.

If you want to stop car bombings, stop selling gas to terrorists. Can't tell who the terrorists are? Stop selling gas to everyone in Iraq for a month. Are two guys in hoods going to push car bombs into buildings? Let the terrorists use donkeys to carry explosives. Let them resort to suicide bombing by bicycle.

Insurgents coming into Iraq through Syria and Iran? Close the borders. Have U.S. warplanes and helicopters fly up and down the borders with Syria and Iran around the clock. Shoot at anything that moves across the borders. That will end the flow of terrorists into Iraq.

The problem with how the Bush administration is handling the war in Iraq is that it's trying to fight a war at the same time it's rebuilding a nation. Can't be done. You have to win the war first. Kill the enemy, then worry about rebuilding the country. That’s the way we did it in Germany and Japan. We killed anyone who raised arms against us, then brought Democracy to those nations.

It took years to rebuild Germany and Japan, but you didn’t have American soldiers picked off by snipers or blown up by suicide bombers.

Another troubling aspect of the Iraq War is that the Bush Administration has allowed our enemies to use television and the Internet to recruit new followers and broadcast propaganda to the people of Iraq and the rest of the Arab world.

War is fought not only with weapons but also with words. Military censorship is missing from the Iraq War. Information that could be helpful to the enemy is made readily available by 24-hour news channels, Internet sites and various publications, including the most anti-American of newspapers, The New York Times.

In place of "Tokyo Rose" and "Berlin Betty" we now have the Al-Jazeera network. Undermining the will to fight of your enemy is a crucial stage to victory. Pull the plug on Al-Jazeera, the enemy’s primary means of propaganda. Shut down all pro-terrorist Web sites.

Somewhere along the way, the Bush administration has forgotten what we’re doing in Iraq. This is not a doctrine. This is not a diplomatic initiative. This is not a global test. This is war! You kill your enemy, you win the war!

America has forgotten the lessons it learned in World War II. You destroy the enemy by attacking him ceaselessly.

"There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time." — General George Patton Jr.

In three years of combat operations from North Africa to Sicily to France to Belgium to Germany, Gen. Patton never issued a defensive order. His battle plan was simple: attack, attack and attack again. He never gave the enemy time to regroup. He kept them on the run so they could never mount a counterattack. That’s how you win a war.

Where is Gen. Patton when you need him? Today’s generals want to become politicians or diplomats. They want to write books and go on lecture tours. I’m beginning to have my doubts if anyone in Washington has the resolve to win this war.

E-mail Tony Phyrillas at

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