St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on January 25, 1991 · Page 29
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · Page 29

St. Louis, Missouri
Issue Date:
Friday, January 25, 1991
Page 29
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ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH NEWS ANALYSI EDITORIALS 2 COMMENTARY 3 OBITUARIES 4 GENERAL NEWS 4 SECTION FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 1991 raWDDS U.S., Press Exaggerated Early 'Successes' By William H. Freivogel Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau WASHINGTON It?"" THE INITIAL SNAPSHOT of the Persian Gulf War brought to the American public by the press, with help from the Pentagon now appears to have overstated allied success in some respects. Some news reports in the first days of the war said that: The initial allied attack had "decimated" Iraq's elite Republican Guard. As many as 150,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded in the initial attack. Nearly all of Iraq's fixed and mobile Scud launchers had been destroyed. The United States had eliminated nearly all of Iraq's long-range threats and had gained air superiority. About 80 percent of the bombing sorties had hit their targets. From today's vantage point, this information appears erroneous or overblown. The Republican Guard troops probably were not decimated in the first hours of the bombing. Iraqi losses did not approach 150,000. More Scud launchers survived initial attacks than had been reported. Most of the Iraqi air force is still intact And the 80 percent figure did not mean that the bombs actually had destroyed their targets just that the planes were over their target when the bombs were dropped. 1 1 & c AP Gen. Colin Powell briefing reporters on Wednesday at the Pentagon. rest with the press, which sometimes stretched sketchy information too far in the face of inelastic deadlines. Most of the blame for the misinformation appears to Twenty-four hours after the initial attack on Baghdad, the San Jose Mercury News carried a front-page headline: "Iraqi troop loss Is put at 150,000." The newspaper has acknowledged that the report, based on a Pentagon intelligence report, was unrealistic. That number would have approached the U.S. casualty figure for the entire Korean War. The first-day story in the SL Louis Post-Dispatch on the allied attack included a report from Cable News Network quoting a Pentagon official as saying that the Iraqi air force and Republican Guard had been hard hit: "Decimated" was the adjective. A number of news reports likened the initial strike to other great aerial surprise attacks, like Pearl Harbor. But at a Pentagon briefing last Friday, reporters were surprised to learn that as few as 11 of Iraq's 700 to 800 aircraft had been destroyed. The rest apparently were bidden in hardened concrete bunkers or had withdrawn to the northern part of the country. The number of warplanes destroyed had risen to 41 by Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Pentagon's summary of Iraqi strength in the Kuwait theater was about the same as the pre-war estimate 545,000 soldiers, 4,200 tanks and 2,800 armored personnel carriers. Another point widely misinterpreted in the first days of the war was the Pentagon's repeated claim that 80 percent of air sorties had '"been effective." Army Gen. Colin L Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the figure meant that 80 percent of "aircraft got to its target, delivered its ordinance and returned." Initially, many understood this to mean that 80 percent of the bombs had destroyed their targets a conclusion that appeared plausible when military briefers were releasing dramatic videotapes of '"smart" bombs going in the doors of military targets. But not all the bombs dropped were smart bombs, and the 80 percent figure did not mean that 80 percent of the bombs had destroyed their targets. Bomb-damage assessment, which has been slowed by bad weather, will determine what percentage of targets were destroyed. Pentagon spokesmen repeatedly have cautioned against over-optimism and have generally avoided the rosy predictions of the Vietnam War. But on some points, the Pentagon has contributed to the confusion. The Pentagon has vacillated on whether the United States achieved air superiority, and it appeared to underestimate the number of Scud missile launchers in early statements. Last Friday, the Pentagon said that about 25 mobile Scud launchers might remain. On Sunday, allies believed that all of Iraq's 30 fixed Scud launchers had been destroyed and that 16 of the 20 or more mobile launchers had been put out of action, said Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, allied commander in the gulf. But by Wednesday, Powell acknowledged that tracking down Iraq's mobile launchers for the surface-to-surface missiles had been more difficult than anticipated. He backed away from an estimate of how many launchers remained. Jon Sawyer of the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau contributed information to the story. Army Looks To Lessons Of World War II By Harry Levins Of the Post-Dispatch Staff GROUND ASSAULT against the Iraqi army is no longer a i matter of "if." It's a matter of when. The assault will be an allied effort, but American forces will play by far the biggest role. Although the Marines will attack by land and sea, the major push will be the Army's and that campaign is stacking up as the Army's biggest since World War II. In fact, to understand what will take place, you have to look back to World War II. Almost a half-century later, that war still reflects what the United States Army wants to be. America wages most of its wars with relatively small armies. The exceptions were the Civil War and World War II, two wars that West Point linked together, in some important young minds. West Point was where most of the Army's generals In World War II had learned their trade. In 1915, the year Dwight Eisenhower was graduated, the Civil War stood only a half-century in the past about the same period that separates us today from World Warll. Eisenhower and his contemporaries studied war in general but the Civil War in particular. Among the Civil War's lessons: Industrial might can build the military power needed to wage war grindingly, relentlessly and remorselessly. The cadets took note of the elegant cavalry campaigns of Stonewall Jackson, who used maneuver to make up for the Confederacy's lack of mass. But in the end, the cadets saluted the memory of the man who accepted the surrender of the Confederacy: U.S. Grant, a grinding, relentless and remorseless general. Firepower had defeated finesse, and the lesson stuck. Even before Pearl Harbor, the Army laid out its plan for World War II: Hold off the Japanese and concentrate on Germany, the more dangerous enemy. What's more, the Army wanted none of the British schemes for fancy end-runs through Norway or the Balkans. In the Pacific, Douglas MacArthur was end-running the Japanese. But in Europe, the Americans wanted to land in France, go head-to-head against the Germans and be done with it Such a strategy suited the American temperament (which grows impatient with long, inconclusive campaigns) and the American economy (which could afford the firepower needed to batter the German army). From the Normandy landings on, the American Army functioned as a blunt Instrument that hammered the Germans to death. It wasn't pretty, in a staff-college sort of way, but it worked. The generals who won the European war came home to run the Pentagon. They shaped the postwar Army to fit their philosophy of attrition; through West Point, their philosophy shaped the postwar generation of cadets. A War Waged Grindingly, Relentlessly, Remorselessly sink its teeth into. -; ' jf r tr f tf rWr- AP Cpl. Scott Slabaugh, 22, taking a break Tuesday as he waited with his gear in Saudi Arabia. Slabaugh, from Detroit, is with the 101st Airborne Division, which was recently airlifted to a location near the Iraqi or Kuwaiti border. From then on, the cadets studied World War II. Their new heroes were the generals who had hurled mechanized armies straight at an enemy already reeling from firepower without precedent. What started with the Civil War became institutionalized as The American Way of War. Unfortunately, America's Cold War combat refused to fit into the formula for The American Way of War. In Korea, mountainous terrain and a bottomless reservoir of enemy infantry canceled out American firepower to produce a stalemate at the front line. Vietnam didn't even have a front line. The enemy was everywhere but nowhere an elusive target that frustrated firepower, just as politically imposed restraints frustrated the generals. But the Army looked on Korea and Vietnam as aberrations. The war the Army prepared for would take place against the Soviet Union, a European land power that would fight as an enemy should fight in a massive, mechanized campaign across European farmland. True, the Army held on to its paratroopers and even raised a few light infantry divisions for brush-fire conflicts. No Army general was willing to cede the rapid-deployment mission totally to the Marine Corps. But even at the height of Korea and Vietnam, the Soviets dominated the Army's thinking. The Army tailored its weaponry to a European war; for example, the maximum heft of American tanks depends on the load limits of European bridges and the dimensions of European rail flatcars. More important than its tanks, the Army tailored its training, its doctrine and its soul for this update of World War II. American firepower would stop a Soviet invasion in its tracks, after which American armor would counterattack and carry the day. If they made it into a movie, they'd call it"Patton II." Then, overnight, the Soviet threat collapsed. So did the budgetary outlook for a big, heavily mechanized Army. But before the Army could slim itself down, Saddam Hussein sent his tanks into Kuwait's flat, open desert At last, the United States Army had an enemy it could Of all the Army's choices of how to fight what Saddam is billing as "the mother of wars," two seem most logical: Maneuver: Pull an end run around Kuwait by looping through southeastern Iraq, thus avoiding the dug-in Iraqi defenses. Frontal Assault: Punch through the Iraqi defenses somewhere and head north and east. Either way, the aim is twofold: 1. Cut the supply lines to the immobile Iraqis along the Saudi border. Without food, water or ammunition, they soon become prisoners or corpses. 2. Eliminate the elite Republican Guard, Iraq's 10- or 12-division armored reserve. If the maneuver option went right, it might emasculate the Republican Guard merely by interdicting its supplies. The frontal assault option envisions a tank battle against whateter part of the Republican Guard survives American bombing. - The very term "frontal assault" has raised fears of a bloodbath. In fact, Saddam hopes the United States will assault all along his line, in a smaller-scale version of World War I. The Army has no such intention of fighting Saddam's kind of war. Instead, air power would breach one small segment of the line, and the Army's frontal assault would pour through, like a river through a levee's weak spot. The maneuver option may seem to run against the Army's tradition. But in the '80s, Army planners in Europe devised a rather elegant doctrine called the Air-Land Battle. It finally conceded that Soviet superiority in numbers might be a problem. It aimed at countering that mass by using maneuver, speed and timing to range deep behind Soviet lines and break up the Soviet follow-up armies behind the first wave of invaders. The Air-Land Battle ties in nicely with the maneuver option. Better yet, that option would probably mean fewer casualties than a frontal assault. But the maneuver option has two drawbacks: 1. Its wide loop would complicate an already dicey supply picture by dramatically stretching the supply line that follows the tanks. As a supply line gets longer, it gets dangerously vulnerable. 2. It would probably take more time than the frontal assault and as the initial burst of home-front euphoria fades, time may run short The Pentagon wants this thing over with quickly, before disillusionment sets in at home. If keeping casualties down is Priority No. 1, the Army will prefer the maneuver option. But if time and logistics so demand, the Army will carry out a frontal assault Either way, the Army will finally fight a war on its own terms. GREGORY FREEMAN URBAN VIEW The Pros And Cons, Should Bush Weigh Subbing Powell For Quayle COLIN POWELL for vice president? A year ago, the idea would have been considered wishful thinking on someone's part. But today, with the U.S. engaged in war in the Persian Gulf, the idea sounds a lot less far-fetched. Powell Is one of the key leaders in the war effort, and he has demonstrated himself to be a man who has matters in control and who is at ease with power. During normal times, few Americans even know who the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is. But these are not normal times, and through the daily press briefings on the war, Powell has emerged as a leader in the minds of many viewers and readers. Most important Powell has established himself as a man with leadership abilities. Despite President George Bush's defense of him, Dan Quayle has been more of an albatross than an asset to the president More than two years after the 1988 election, the Quayle Jokes persist and polls show that Americans still aren't sure about him. That uncertainty seems to stretch across ideological lines. A conservative friend, commenting about Quayle earlier this week, said to me, "Can you Imagine him calling up troops to fight?" He was referring to Quayle's dodging of the Vietnam War in the 1960s. I had an opportunity to meet Powell two years ago at a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists. He was very good one-on-one, projecting both warmth and strength. His personality, along with his leadership in the war, would help him go a long way. Some might argue that Powell has never been elected to office before and is, therefore, unqualified to be vice president. But other generals the most recent being Dwight David Eisenhower won the presidency without ever running for political office. How politically feasible would it be for Bush to dump Quayle in favor of Powell, the nation's top military officer? Political experts disagree. Some argue that Powell's appearance on the Republican ticket with George Bush in 1992 would go a long way toward bolstering the support of many blacks who were shaken by his veto of the Civil Rights Act last year. Bush has made attempts to attract blacks to the GOP, and that might help that effort considerably, they suggest They also argue that Powell being a political moderate would be able to appeal to large segments of the population. And he would be able to counter any black the Democrats might run for vice president such as Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder, who Is reportedly trying to position himself onto the ticket David Bositis disagrees. Bositis is senior research associate with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a Washington-based think tank. Bositis questions whether Bush can take on a black, moderate Republican at a time when the right wing of the GOP is already dissatisfied with the president "Dan Quayle is the representative of the right wing," Bositis said. "They've never been real comfortable with George Bush. If Bush eliminated Quayle in favor of Colin Powell, there could be a real revolt in the party. " Dan Quayle has been the administration's point man on the right To remove him could cause the president serious problems." Such an intraparty dispute could be fatal to Bush's reelection, Bositis argues. He says that President Jimmy Carter lost more because of the split in the Democratic Party in 1980 between the more moderate wing represented by Carter and the more liberal wing represented by Sen. Edward Kennedy and that Gerald Ford was killed in 1976 because of a party divided between moderates like Ford and right-wingers like Ronald Reagan. "Bush has to be careful not to do anything to enlarge that split" The disadvantages of dumping Quayle for Powell probably outweigh the advantages, Bositis said. It would be extremely difficult to get blacks to convert to the Republican Party, even with Powell on the ticket he argued. "Blacks have risen to positions of importance with and within the Democratic Party," he said. "They've been given power and representation two speakers of state assemblies, a governor, several House chairmanships and it took years for them to get that point They're not about to abandon the Democratic Party." So is there no scenario where Bush might select Powell as his running mate? There is one caveat Bositis said. "If the war went really well and Powell came out as a hero, then Bush might consider replacing Quayle with Powell," he said. "But the fact remains that the right won't be happy with Colin Powell, no matter what."

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