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Timothy Hoyt
U.S. Naval War College
Confronting Iraq Special Report
Confronting Iraq Discussion Transcripts
Talk: World Message Boards
Live Online Transcripts

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War In Iraq:
Military Strategy

With Timothy D. Hoyt, Ph.D
Associate Professor of Strategy and Policy
U.S. Naval War College

Monday, March 24, 2003; 1 p.m. ET

As U.S. military action in Iraq unfolds, Americans are getting an education in strategy and tactics. What exactly is "shock and awe?" How successful have bombing campaigns been thus far? What is the plan for ground forces?

Timothy D. Hoyt, Ph.D, associate professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College, was online Monday, March 24 at 1 p.m. ET, to field questions and comments about military strategy.

Hoyt has designed and coordinated political-military simulations for universities, the Department of Defense and the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He has written on a variety of subjects, including the diffusion of military technologies and practices, the proliferation of conventional and unconventional weapons, regional security in the Middle East and South Asia and the evolution of strategy and arms production in the developing world.

The views expressed here are Dr. Hoyt's own, and do not reflect the policy or positions of the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, or any other official body of the United States government.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Santa Barbara, Calif.: To what extent has the drone electronic jammer been used? Was it not intended to make electronic devices within a 1,000 feet dysfunctional? Was it effective?

Are the Iraqi TV and radio stations being jammed?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Santa Barbara, CA - I have not heard of this being used yet, nor of the "e-bomb". It does not appear that Iraqi media has been impacted significantly, since Saddam's taped announcements are appearing on Iraqi TV. Hacking into Iraqi official media might prove a highly lucrative psychological operation, if we can do it.

Boston, Mass.: Do you think most of the TV analysts have been critical enough in assessing the strategy of central command and DOD? Mechanized forces have always been lousy at hold ground and in need of infantry support. With the number of bypassed areas (Um Qasr, Basra, Nasariyah for starters) and the lengthy supply line, why is it such a shock that there would be bypassed troops who would attack the rear (Um Qasr) and jeopardize the supply line (Nasariyah)? Infantry will be needed to flush these people out and protect the supply lines and we went to war with very little infantry in place. Hasn't Iraq's best strategy all along been to force urban house to house and cause trouble in bypassed areas?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Boston, MA - I think many TV analysts are bewildered by the data that is coming over the pipeline 24/7, and don't necessarily reflect on the big picture.

The strategy is clearly to try to affect the willingness of the Iraqi people to allow Saddam to stay in power. To do that, there's an effort to limit civilian casualties, to embarrass Saddam and attack symbols of his legitimacy, and to demonstrate the Coalition's ability to quickly defeat his elite forces and reach the capital. That required heavy mechanized forces. Given the unavailability of additional forces to cover our supply lines, we have a force protection problem - at least until reinforcements enter the theater. Even then, we are trying to avoid fighting a strictly linear war, and are focusing on force projection (getting to Baghdad, defeating the Republican Guard) over force protection.

The media, however, have a dilemma. First, they are a business, and must sell stories. Second, although they have expended great resources and effort to provide 24/7 coverage, not a lot is happening so far. Forces have moved very quickly through unpopulated areas (the 3rd Infantry division, for example, which has moved well over 200 miles in just a few days). As a result, they need stories to fill up space. Media coverage is far from complete - for example, how many live shots have we seen of F-16s or F/A-18s delivering ordnance on a battlefield target? Yet we know the Coalition has flown over 6000 sorties, and dropped massive amounts of ordnance. Where did it all go? Because we can't "embed" reporters in a single seat strike aircraft, that dimension (and it's impact on the war effort) is relatively under-reported.

In the absence of a lot of news, the first casualties therefore become a big story. The first PoWs become a bigger story. The first signs of less than 100% optimism at the Pentagon become a story. And suddenly a day which saw some hard skirmishing becomes a day to reflect on whether the campaign itself is a failure or not. That's just not an accurate picture. There is, for example, no evidence that the Coalition advance on Baghdad has slowed significantly. There was little reporting of the fact that after the Marines took casualties in Nasiriya, they promptly cleared the battle zone out and reasserted control.

There has not been a lot of discussion of the problems of urban warfare - although there was some in the pre-war period. There hasn't been a lot of discussion about whether occupation of Basra was ever in the Coalition plan, which might be fruitful and interesting. Or of the availability of reinforcements in the near term, if mopping up or containment of urban centers is necessary. But saying that this needs to be done is not tantamount to saying that the strategy has failed, or is inadequate. We don't know that yet. We just know that, for the moment, it has not lived up to the most optimistic expectations. I doubt that most of the military planners believed in those anyway.

Baltimore, Md.: The establishment of policies and procedures for military engagement can actually be counter-productive when it starts to replace the judgments that each member of the armed forces must make when actually faced with battle. If the enemy followed policies and procedures, then the logic would be clear and outcomes would be predictable.

How helpful are policies and procedures for our men and women when the enemy seems to not have policies and procedures to follow? It's great for our senior officers to sit in the Pentagon generating strategy and policy, but won't the enlisted men and women on the front lines also have other tools?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Baltimore, MD - It doesn't appear to me that the leaders in Washington are micro-managing our military operations. The forces in Iraq appear to be very flexible, and responding to Iraqi countermoves quickly and effectively. Opposition in Nasiriya, for example, apparently was met with a very successful response even though the Iraqis reportedly used false surrenders and other ruses to lure Marines into a trap. Policies and procedures also provide you something to fall back on, tactically, when things start to get difficult - it means you don't have to make everything up as you go along (although sometimes that can be both necessary and helpful).

Phoenix, Ariz.: Would you care to comment on the following hypothesis?

The strategy adopted in Iraq, which apparently consists of taking territory without consolidating gains with the aim of forcing an early confrontation with the enemy's most capable forces and an early attack on the enemy's top leadership, is the best possible under the circumstances, given the possibility of enemy use of WMD and the asymmetric capabilities of our forces and the enemy's.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Phoenix, AZ - That certainly appears to be the plan. Remember, however, that the original operation also included an invasion from the north with the 4th Infantry division. Turkey's Parliament refused permission for that part of the operation. If a simultaneous advance was moving down from the north, with the use of Turkish air space earlier in the conflict, the current situation might look a bit different now. Mosul, and possibly Kirkuk, would be facing considerable pressure, and both the northern and southern oil fields might be under Coalition control. The other issue we are not seeing reflected well in the media is the use of airpower. In the first four days, Coalition air forces flew over 6000 sorties. Those sorties are almost certainly degrading Iraqi air strength, command and control, and ground forces in ways that have not been reflected in much of the reporting so far.

Wheaton, Md.: Is any U.S. strategy and tactic inspired by other nations, such as our allies in Israel who have much experience and great success in fighting wars in this region?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Wheaton, MD - There's a story that in the first Gulf War, an Israeli who was told about our plans suggested that we construct fewer hospitals and more PoW camps. The Israelis do have experience in this region, but with the exception of the Lebanon Campaign in 1982 (which was a costly failure) they've never attempted to occupy an Arab state and replace the government. So I don't think there's that much we can learn from the Israelis, at this level. It's clear, however, that our military planning is based on rapid maneuver and overwhelming firepower at the point of attack - something the Israelis have also used with great success against Arab enemies in the past.

Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: I guess "The Rumsfeld Plan" to leave Baath Party Headquarters and the Defense Ministry buildings untouched in the bombing in Baghdad didn't pan out? The Iraqis don't appear particularly grateful given the reported treatment of our POWs. I guess even know-it-alls and control-it-alls like Generalissimo Rumsfeld don't always get it right. As Chester A. Riley ruefully observed: "What a revoltin' development this is." Thanks much.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Mt. Lebanon, PA - The campaign is still being waged in an effort to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties. The hope, and intention, is that the Iraqi people be in some position to govern themselves as soon as possible after the war is over - an effort that will only be helped by not destroying infrastructure or causing even further hostility by indiscriminate attacks on innocents. I doubt that will change much. Mistreatment of PoWs shouldn't be much of a surprise, sadly - remember that PoWs were beaten and dragged in front of cameras in 1991, and that Saddam's regime has killed hundreds of thousands of people. Current reports indicate that the PoWs on the Al Jazeera clip may have been captured by "fedayeen" - a group of paramilitary thugs led by Saddam's son Uday. I would not blame entire Iraqi people for the actions of a sociopath, and wouldn't want to see us take our anger out on innocent Iraqis.

Bronx, N.Y.: Sir,

The military strategy of the American forces thus far seems questionable. Clearly, they are extending themselves too far north to quickly, thus leaving southern pockets of resistance. Not only does this leave American forces more vulnerable to attack, but it also raises very serious questions about the military objectives of this campaign. Namely, if America is not going to secure some cities, what is the guarantee that badly needed humanitarian aid will flow through unfettered? Also, is there not a real possibility that these remaining forces will exact revenge on the Shiite population as they did after the first Gulf War if the Americans do not secure these towns?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Bronx, NY - You raise some excellent points. This is a very bold military plan, and deliberately avoids tying up military forces in urban operations wherever possible. This is particularly problematic where those areas are necessary for military operations (Nasiriya, for example, for its bridges across the Euphrates) - control of sections of the city is clearly essential.

The humanitarian mission is equally important - something the President does remark on frequently. While the air strikes appear to have deliberately avoided targeting key infrastructure in Baghdad (electricity and water still working, for example), there are reports that Basra is a real problem. For that, Umm Qasr needs to be clear, and the President said yesterday that we would be making major humanitarian shipments within 36 hours. If the fighting in Umm Qasr can be moved off the main roads and harbor, which it appears to have been, that's going to be good enough for the initial humanitarian mission. Shipping by road from Umm Qasr to Basra may be risky, but would the Iraqis really want to ambush humanitarian relief shipments? They might, but it would be costly.

Re: the Shi'ites. I have not seen, so far, suggestions of organized Shi'ite resistance to the regime. If that is not occurring, it would be counterproductive (but not impossible - Saddam's regime has indicated its willingness to use unjustified repression in the past) to provoke that resistance and international concern through a repressive campaign. In the short term, and perhaps I am being unduly optimistic, I would be surprised to see that happen. If it did, you might find locals revealing Iraqi "stay behind" and security forces to the Coalition.

Leaving large cities behind unoccupied obviously raises risks, however. One "solution" to the supply problem, at least for forces now approaching Baghdad from the southwest, might be to stage logistics out of the airfields captured near the Jordanian border, or the airfields already under coalition control.

Laurel, Md.: From all reports, U.S. strategy of "Shock and Awe" seems to have failed. And the troops seem to have left their behind open for attack. The Iraqis have forced the Coalition troops to fight an inner-city conflict where the big military equipment may not help. Do you think this is what US was expecting to be up against. And how long will the war last? Also, the psy op have been an utter flop.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Okay, you'll have to forgive me from now on. I answered a few of these questions before I actually came on line. NOw I'll be limited by how fast (and accurately) I can type.

The Coalition hasn't been "forced to fight an inner-city conflict", although we have seen instances of urban fighting - particularly in Nasiriya and Umm Qasr. The troops that are doing that are among the finest trained at this sort of thing in the world - the US Marine Corps and the Royal Marine Commandos. But urban fighting is a bloody business, and we are certainly attempting to avoid it wherever possible.

I'm not sure Shock and Awe has failed, but it has not kept up with the most optimistic assumptions. We don't know a lot about the state of Iraq's high levels of command, or of their ability to control forces in the field. We do know that Iraqi aircraft aren't flying, and that missile attacks have been largely ineffective. So while Iraq did not collapse, clearly their military forces have been badly punished, and I suspect that their ability to command forces has been undermined.

The President and Sec Def have been suggesting for some time that this could be a long conflict. Many other sources, however, including administration leaks, have suggested that it would all be over quickly. It looks as though, realistically, hopes that the IRaqi military would melt away or quickly defect have not proven accurate - at least in the short term. This may have come as a surprise to some, but probably not to the military leaders who planned this operation.

I don't know how long the war will last. I think in the next few days, we will see how well the Republican Guard stands up to Coalition assault, and what is happening in the north of the country. Those are crucial determinants in the ability of Saddam to survive. But it is clear that a wave of reinforcements is coming into the theater, so additional forces will be available if necessary.

Hampton, Va.: How many different countries are involved with the actual fighting?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: The last figure I heard was four - the US, UK, Australia, and Poland. That may be out of date now. In addition, Kuwaiti forces are engaged in helping coordinate air defenses, if I understand correctly.

The administration says that over 35 countries now support the war, but most of that support will likely only emerge in the political sphere or after the conflict is over.

Austin, Tex.: What do you think of the casualty and POW numbers so far? A lot of people seem to be surprised and upset. It seems to me, on the other hand, that the numbers are about as low as one could hope, and are probably going to get a good deal larger.

I don't mean to sound callous: I opposed this war precisely because of the human suffering I knew it would cause. But a lot of the "hawks" seemed to think it would be practically cost-free. I'm no military strategist, but things don't work that way.
Your comments?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I suspect that when many thought about this war, they instinctively compared it to the Gulf War of 1991 (when the Coalition suffered very low casualties, and was successful after only four days of ground combat) and Kosovo in 1999, when the Coalition lost no soldiers and prevailed without ground forces.

This war is very, very different. Iraq is the size of France, heavily urbanized (an obstacle to rapid military assault), and has a large military. Ground to ground combat produces greater numbers of casualties than war in other geographic dimensions. Urban combat is also relatively much more favorable to the defender.

This is why the Desert Storm and Kosovo examples do not accurately reflect what is happening in this conflict. In Desert Storm, with the exception of Khafji and Kuwait, the ground war was largely fought in the open desert after five weeks of preliminary bombing. In Kosovo, victory took almost three months. This war will last longer - weeks, perhaps months.

Casualties will be higher, as well. We will have air superiority, but fighting in cities is one way to negate that advantage. It also increases civilian casualties, which is something we are trying to avoid.

We are engaged in a substantial calculated risk, for an important objective. It is reasonable to expect that the casualty figures will be higher than the First Gulf War, unless Saddam's regime abruptly collapses.

San Antonio, Tex.: Was our military fully prepared for the start of this war? It appears ground units are being sent into combat in a piecemeal fashion. It also appears the military and/or Administration may have depended too much on the active support of Turkey, in providing a second front.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Clearly, we hoped for Turkish support, which would have fundamentally changed the nature of this campaign (imagine an additional advance from the north by a force very similar to the Third Infantry division, with substantial local support). We would control oil fields in both north and south - a substantial piece of leverage, and could be using northern bases to stage against Baghdad as well.

It appears that the ground assault was moved up, in response to two variables - I'm not sure which was most important. The first was to take advantage of the apparent failure in IRaqi command after the first night's "target of opportunity" strike. Rapid ground advances might (I stress "might") have been viewed as a means of putting additional pressure on the regime, possibly resulting in its collapse. The second issue is more operational - the movement of IRaqi artillery and battlefield rockets to positions that could attack Coalition jump-off points for a ground campaign.

SO it appears the ground assault was moved up by something like 12-24 hours. I do not think that has had any significant degrading impact on Coalition operations, though.

New York, N.Y.: Hi Dr. Hoyt, I am sure you have thought about it a lot and was wondering what your estimate on the number of American soldiers who will be killed during the Iraq war and how long you believe it will last?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I wish I had good answers for that, but so many things are contingent on how effectively Iraq resists and whether Saddam can maintain political control of the country.

I would suggest that the campaign will take weeks, and quite possibly months. I think the casualties will be higher than the Gulf WAr, but much, much lower than Vietnam. I know that's not a very specific range, but this is very speculative. We don't know, just for example, whether southern Iraq might choose to side with Coalition forces in the coming weeks, as it becomes apparent that Saddam's rule has been largely removed from Shi'ite areas. Iraqi defections could fundamentally change the course of the conflict. The use of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction remains a serious threat. And we don't yet know if Coalition forces will have to move into Baghdad in force to throw Saddam from power. Those are all issues that will significantly affect Coalition casualties.

Rockville, Md.: Why did we leave that Apache intact? Can't we at least destroy it from the air?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I don't know the answer to that (something you may hear from me again in the course of this interview ). I suspect, however, that if we need to bomb it, we probably can.

Washington, D.C..: Dr. Hoyt,
Where are the 1st Cavalry and 1st Armored Divisions? They both had deployment orders to the Gulf... are they in theatre? It appears as if they have not been in combat yet, and may be being held in reserved.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Before the war, both the 1st Cavalry and the 1st Armored had, according to press reports, been issued deployment orders. So had the 1st Infantry, if I recall correctly, although it may have been tasked for Turkey.

At present, I don't know where they are. But combined with the 4th Infantry (equipment moving through the Suez Canal, to be in Kuwait or Umm Qasr in roughly 10 days) these divisions constitute a second wave of Coalition forces that is as strong as the ground forces we currently have in theater. If this conflict is not resolved quickly, these follow-on forces will be vital in securing order in the south and ringing Baghdad, if necessary.

Washington, D.C.: We started out with a kill on Saddam and a quick surrender, with Gen. Franks modulating the missile strikes based on the Iraqi's compliance with demands. But by the close of the weekend, Saddam was still alive. All we heard was mounting casualties and the military insisting everything was going as planned.

What's your suggestion for a quick end to the war?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: At the risk of sounding flippant, the quick solution is for Saddam to surrender.

But we can be fairly sure he won't do that.

Iraq is the size of France, or California. Simply moving forces, and securing control of "liberated areas", will take time. The best way to win the war quickly is probably the destruction of his military forces, particularly the Republican Guard. It is not clear that this will happen (they may hide in Baghdad), or indeed that it would be sufficient (Saddam may hide in Baghdad). But in general, if you're fighting a conventional opponent, one of the best ways to win quickly is to destroy his army and compel him to do your will (this is not original - Carl von Clausewitz thought of it first ).

But Saddam is fighting for his very survival. It may be that military defeat alone will be insufficient, and that we also need to persuade either the Iraqi people or one of his deputies that the best thing for them is to get rid of him - either killing him or handing him over to the US. That also would end the war quickly, but is difficult to assure. That's one of the reasons we're using "shock and awe", and not pummeling the citizens or economic infrastructure of Baghdad.

So there is no certain quick solution. But working on his commanders (apparently we're calling them regularly on their cell phones, which must be a bit disconcerting) and destroying his military forces is a good start.

Indiananpolis, Ind.: The administration said arrangements for aid were well on the way and I think a date when shipments of grain would start has already been reported by the White House that described such aid as being imminent. On a separate note an embedded Post reporter said Iraqi soldiers were known to be putting land mines in roads that have already used by advancing coalition forces with the goal of disrupting supply lines that will be needed to support their occupation.

How will that effect the delivery of aid? What's the strategic advantage of announcing aide so early in the process? How will the failure to deliver food aid effect the perception of other Arab nation's as the examine our effects to decide whether or not the U.S. is doing all it can to help noncombatants?


Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Announcing aid is one more way to try to influence the Iraqi people that we are not coming as conquerors, but as liberators - and that it's better for them to work with us than to work with him. We also recognize that the war will severely disrupt large sections of the Iraqi economy, and do not want to cause undue suffering.

The major problem right now appears to be Basra, which we do not control but which has been suffering from water and electricity problems. It has a population of over a million, and some international organizations suspect an imminent humanitarian crisis. Fortunately, it is not far from the port of Umm Qasr, and plenty of Coalition forces are nearby to protect initial convoys if necessary.

Failure to deliver food will only reinforce concerns in the Islamic world that the US does not care about IRaqi citizens. Providing food may not change anyone's mind, but it's both the right thing to do and may actually persuade some that we are not as bad as they thought.

Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Hello,
Can you shed some light on all the helicopter crashes we've seen in Iraq and Afghanistan so far? I don't have the exact figures, but would bet the number of U.S. and British personnel killed in helo crashes far exceeds direct combat casualties. Have they worked out all the bugs on the Apaches, yet? You'd think after 60 years of development, military choppers would be more robust. is this a weak spot in our arsenal?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Helicopters are fickle, complicated and difficult to fly. There have always been problems with them in the past (we lost well over a thousand in Vietnam, for example), and I suspect they have only gotten more complicated, with more moving parts, as they get faster, stealthier, and more effective.

I'm not sure this is an Achilles heel - we clearly gain considerable military effectiveness from helicopters. But with them comes the risk of losses.

Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C.: One aspect of the "shock and awe" bombardment that I find curious is the use of a $10 million. Cruise missile to destroy a junky building worth $1 million. Is there still a place for good old, cheap artillery shells in modern warfare? It seems to me that blasting the holdouts in Basra and Umm Qsar with 16" projectiles from the now-retired Iowa-class battleships would be cheaper and instill a lot more "shock and awe" than super expensive high-tech weapons.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Bringing a battleship out of retirement is an expensive proposition - they require large crews and cost a lot to operate. It's true that big guns also have big advantages - but they can be much less accurate than, say, a smart bomb. The JDAM attachment converts an ordinary bomb into a "smart weapons" for thousands, rather than millions, of dollars, and is being used quite prolifically.

There are times when we could use a battleship. But pounding the port of Umm Qasr with 16" shells would also increase civilian casualties and collateral damage, which we're really trying hard to avoid.

La Mesa, Calif.: It seems clear to this observer that current strategy dictates bypassing major population centers (Basra, Nasiriya, etc.) on the march to Baghdad. Given the likely cost of occupy-ing them instead, that is a strategy I support.

That said, do you think it might also be feasible to "bypass" Baghdad once the troops arrive? By that I mean -- surround the city, sever all of its lines of communication and let it simply "decay in splendid isolation." As for the civil population, through leaflet drops, radio broadcasts and other means, why not invite them to abandon the city and accept temporary relocation elsewhere in Iraq? With that largely accomplished, take down Baghdad's electrical grid, waterworks and other essential services. Then leave Saddam Hussein and the rest of the current Iraqi regime to dwell under ongoing and thoroughly unpleasant "house arrest" until such time as they prove willing to accept our terms of surrender. Granted such a strategy would hardly be problem free, do you think it might nevertheless be preferable to the alternate cost in blood and treasure of trying to conquer the city? Is it perhaps possible that a Middle Ages military strategy (the siege) could work well in a 21st-century conflict such as the one we are now facing?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: That may end up being a serious military option. The one problem I could see with it is that it takes a long time, in which both Coalition and civilian casualties could mount. It might also cause considerable civilian suffering - a siege in all but name.

However, press discussion of military options before the war included one proposal to "isolate" Baghdad in a strip about 100 miles by 100 miles, and asserting control over everything else.

Hyde Park, Chicago, Ill.: Dear Tim,
I am troubled by the sight of the downed Apache, which must be chock full of sensitive equipment. Why haven't we bombed it already?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Again, I don't really know. But I suspect that if we have to, it will get done. the Iraqis, of course, may know that, and either move it or try to use it to set up an ambush. We'll see what happens in the next few hours (night in Iraq).

Phoenix, Ariz.: Victor Davis Hanson has a column ("West meets East") in the New York Post. He states (hopes, perhaps?) that we are now engaged in a new Western way of war, in which "victory is judged only by what a Grant, Sherman, or Patton would call unconditional surrender, occupation, the removal of enemy leaders and the reconstruction of a consensual society." Do you think we will actually execute this new way of war over the necessary period (which could be some years) -- which will involve, as Professor Hanson says, "fighting in the hit-and-run manner of our enemies"?

I am sure we will try to do the rest of what Professor Hanson says, namely, offer "freedom and liberation to millions enslaved by psychopaths like Saddam Hussein," but I am less sure than him that it will work before our patience runs out, because it might take a generation or so. The League of Nations' mandates after World War I didn't exactly work out well.

(To put my question into context, my personal opinion is that we probably did need to act in Iraq now, for our own safety, whether we have a solution to the postwar problems or not.)

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I suspect that for us to succeed in Iraq, we will not only need to win a military victory and overthrow the regime, but also stay in Iraq as first an occupier and later an ally for decades, at very high economic and military costs (preparedness, not necessarily casualties). That requires patience and commitment, and I'm not sure that the American people are currently signed up for that kind of commitment.

It took South Korea and Taiwan decades to move from militarist regimes to something like a capitalist democracy. I see no reason not to use that as a rule of thumb for Iraq. Iraqi infrastructure will have to be rebuilt, and the US will bear considerable cost and responsibility - would anyone be comfortable with the thought that we may give more aid to Iraq over the next five years than Israel, for instance? That doesn't seem implausible.

I think highly of Victor Davis Hanson, and love some of his books (although I don't always agree with him). But if we're engaged in a great war to overthrow all our enemies, I am not yet convinced that the American people have signed on wholeheartedly to this notion, nor prepared themselves for the necessary sacrifices. Instead, we want even larger tax cuts and greater budget deficits. I don't see that as a good sign for long-term security commitments.

Stanton Park, Washington, D.C.: Dr. Hoyt,

The strategy employed by the U.S. in Iraq is one based on bombing from afar. While this certainly is good for minimizing own casualties, it also places Iraqi civilians in great danger, and is going to lead to a great number of civilian deaths, especially if the conflict is prolonged. Does this break the laws of war?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: At the risk of sounding morbid, Iraq claimed only 4 civilian fatalities on Friday night - a night when hundreds of powerful munitions were dropped on Baghdad.

Compare that to the bombing raids of the Second World War, when tens or even hundreds of thousands of civilians perished, or the bombing in Vietnam. Or even, in fact, the first Gulf WAr, where electricity production was an important target.

We are clearly trying very hard not to cause unnecessary civilian losses. The laws of war focus on intention - are you deliberately trying to harm innocents? I believe we clearly pass that test.

But in a war, innocents will die. And that is genuinely a terrible thing.

Burke, Va.: What effect do you think the volunteer fighters from other Muslim countries will have on the war?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Very little, unless they engage in effective acts of terrorism or sabotage. There are reports that Syrian volunteers are joining the fray on the side of Iraq. If I were Assad, I'd try to stop them before they got me in trouble.

Somewhere, USA: Criticism of war strategy claim that we have not committed enough ground troops to this action. As a result we cannot defend rear enemy positions from attacking our forces, cannot maintain our extended supply lines and must avoid cities that we know are armed. What are your views about this lack of foot soldiers?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: As I mentioned earlier, there is an additional wave of forces that may soon be available. In addition, air power can help to cover flanks and lines of communications. So long as we are not actively trying to occupy and police cities, we may have enough to carry out the initial stages of our war plan.

It would be great to have more forces in theater, however. Depending on the level of resistance, we may find that we need them. This was a very bold plan, that has already had substantial results at low cost.

Austin, Tex.: Is the main ground assault on Baghdad likely to be something that will start in a big way at a clearly definable moment? If so, can we expect it to begin in hours? A couple days? A week? A few weeks?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I'm not sure we have the forces near Baghdad to really try to take the city in the near future - barring some sign of significant political disaffection from the populace.

However, I think you'll see a continuing drive towards Baghdad, with the intent of destroying the Republican Guard forces in front of the city. I'm not sure when, or indeed if, an assault on the city will be ordered. But I suspect we would at least wait for the 1 MEF (US Marines) to get closer.

Harrisburg, Pa.: As it has been reported we don't have the resources to feed and house large numbers of POWs, our forces have been telling some surrendering soldiers to just go home. Wouldn't we get more soldiers to surrender if it was known they could get decent food and shelter from the Americans and coalition forces, instead of just being sent home?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I think one of the main reasons we're not getting large numbers of prisoners is because unlike Kuwait, the Iraqis know they can just "melt away" and go home. In Kuwait, they were surrounded on foreign soil, and were in a hurry to get out of that situation.

Certainly food wouldn't hurt, though.

Cleveland, Ohio: Would you be surprised to learn that some of the Iraqi soldiers who were "surrendering early" (before the war officially started) and whom we sent back to their units were actually quite intentional to give us a false sense that this would be easy?

In hindsight it's hard for me to imagine them being willing to go back to their Iraqi units after having done that.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: That might be the case, but I suspect it would be an exception. The Iraqi Regular Army units have always been relatively low quality (particularly the infantry formations), and rely heavily on unhappy conscripts. I suspect that when these guys go home, they go home - unless they get rounded up by security forces and sent back to the front.

There appear to be "stay behinds" left by the Iraqis who are far more committed to the regime - the Fedayeen and Special Security Organization, among others. They're the ones apparently causing trouble in Umm Qasr and maybe Nasiriya.

Washington, D.C.: Based on what I've seen, the strategy when ground forces encounter defensive fire is for them to call in the tanks and helicopters. That risks a lot very expensive equipment (a Longbow helicopter runs about $20 million). When will we see some combat fighting that results in towns being captured and medals being awarded?

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: I think we're trying to avoid capturing towns, because then we have to garrison them (unless we can trust the locals to not allow Saddam's troops to operate there).

There has clearly been some tough fighting around Nasiriya, in Umm Qasr, and around Basra. NOw it appears that the Republican Guard is getting hammered in the Karbala area - only 60 miles from Baghdad. That's pretty impressive fighting, at very low losses. If that means we expend a large amount of expensive ordnance to achieve those objectives, I don't think the soldiers, their families, or our country should really regret that expenditure.

Dr. Timothy D. Hoyt: Thanks you all for your patience.

If I could make one closing remark, it would be to note that this is not Kuwait. The toughest part of this operation is just now beginning. Many readers may not agree with this war, and are worried (as am I) at the longterm humanitarian costs. The best way of ending this war and the suffering associated with it is probably to hope for a very quick and decisive Coalition victory.

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