SLUG: 3-287 RALPH PETERS
INTRO: While the White House and State Department are dismissing Saddam Hussein's latest threat that any invaders should be prepared to dig their own graves...the fiery rhetoric being exchanged between Washington and Baghdad is heating up. Author and military analyst Ralph Peters says there is more going on than meets the eye in the verbal exchanges between Washington and Baghdad:
MR. PETERS: You are seeing several things. One, I think there is a conscious effort on the part of the administration to keep Saddam off balance, to keep him worried, to drive him to do foolish things; for instance, let us find his location or to turn him against people within his own circle. Because the ideal situation would be to have him fear his own military and purge it right on the eve of a war. The other thing that is happening, I think the administration has been getting our European and other allies accustomed to the idea. Now, the third thing, and really the most important, is that there is a healthy internal debate. All the discussion about what's the best way to do this, should it be done, how to do it, that's healthy. I mean, a lot is going on behind closed doors, but even the public debate is good. Because in a society like ours, this kind of discussion is apt to raise difficulties that lone-gun planners might not foresee. So I think we'll get a good result at the end of it.
MR. CROSBY: When we talk about a military operation against Iraq, there are some who are already questioning whether it would be the same comparatively easy walkover that we had when we battled Iraq during the Gulf war. Is that a genuine concern?
MR. PETERS: It's always a concern. In military operations, you never assume the best. You always prepare for the worst. And the one thing that worries me on a practical level is when I hear people without military experience in our government talking about walk-overs or elegant ways to do it or ways to do it on the cheap. It's great if we could bring down Saddam on the cheap, but you cannot count on it. And we cannot afford failure. If we do attack Iraq, we must succeed. And if there is an initial reverse, we have to have resources on hand to right that reverse and go forward and depose Saddam. That's absolutely critical.
MR. CROSBY: Would it be necessary, though, to use massive force as we did during the Gulf war, or could we resort to small unit tactics such as we're now seeing in Afghanistan?
MR. PETERS: I think you would need a much larger force than in Afghanistan. Now, certainly things can break your way. You can have good luck. But my point is you cannot count on luck in war. In fact, you must assume luck will run against you. So you have to have reasonably large forces, perhaps not quite as large as Desert Storm because we're even more capable now, but large forces in theater, in case you need them. You cannot try to do this on the cheap. That almost guarantees that it would end badly. Then in fact if one of Saddam's body guards shoots him or his Republican Guards turn on him, that's great. But you cannot count on it.
MR. CROSBY: His ego having been severely wounded by the Gulf war, though, do you think that President Saddam might resort to more drastic measures in another battle?
MR. PETERS: Well, I do indeed. And I believe that he resembles Hitler in 1945 to the extent that he would be perfectly willing to take thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of his own people down with him. It's a Dicerdemaron complex, if you will. And so I do worry about him using weapons of mass destruction against our troops or against his own people or against his own people and our troops if we were in Iraqi cities. So I am very concerned about that. But we have to make it clear from the beginning that any use of weapons of mass destruction against American troops or our allies will meet with a literally annihilating response if necessary with weapons of mass destruction. You cannot allow a bully to back you down. You cannot be governed by fear. So, again, we must be prepared for the worst if we attack Iraq, if we try to bring down Saddam. We must be prepared for the worst and we've got to be willing to do it right and go all the way this time.
MR. CROSBY: But oftentimes chemical weapons of mass destruction don't readily evidence themselves on the battlefield, do they?
MR. PETERS: Well, it depends. If you are hit with a chemical weapons attack, most of them, you will know you've been hit right away. Whether it's old-fashioned mustard gas or modern nerve agents, they will either torment you physically or kill you on the spot. But what you have to worry about are residual effects from weapons, from passing through an area where they have been used and you didn't know it. And of course you have to worry about new bio-engineered agents. So there is plenty to worry about. Again, you prepare for these things as best you can, but you can't be paralyzed by fear. Fear is never a good strategy.
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