Precinct 333

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Iraqi Tet Offensive

One of the enduring truths learned by enemies of America during Vietnam is this: Americans can be convinced they are losing if the enemy engages in a series of spectacular attacks, even if the Americans win. That's what happened during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The Viet Cong and NVA attacked, the Americans and South Vietnamese decisively defeated them, and North Vietnam won a PR victory.

The same thing is going on in Iraq, according to writer Austin Bay.

On April 2 and again on April 4, the terror gang led by al-Qaida's Iraq commander, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, launched "military-style attacks" on the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Baghdad. In the April 4 assault, U.S. forces took 44 casualties (most of them minor wounds). The terrorist gang, however, took 50 casualties, out of a force estimated at 60 gunmen.

On April 11, the gang attacked a Marine compound at Husaybah near the Syrian border. As I write, terrorist casualties are unconfirmed, but the assault flopped.

While bomb attacks on unarmed Iraqi civilians continue (particularly against Shiites), public opinion now matters in Iraq, and the thugs' public slaughters have killed too many Iraqi innocents. January's election dramatically lifted public morale and changed the media focus — suddenly, democracy looks possible, and an Arab Muslim democracy is al-Qaida's worst nightmare.

Hence the "Tet gamble." Bombs haven't cowed the Iraqi people — but perhaps the American people will lose heart and buckle if al-Qaida concocts a military surprise.

U.S. forces, however, are "hard targets" — unlike civilians standing in line to vote, U.S. troops shoot back. Since 9/11, al-Qaida has never won a military engagement at the platoon level (30 men) or higher. Coalition forward operating bases are heavily fortified.

Unfortunately for the American military, the press at home and the pro-terrorist Left are ready to paint every unsuccessful attack by the terrorists as an unmitigated failure of the US military. The terrorists do not have to win -- the ;eft-wing media and left-wing ideologues consider every assault on Americans (and innocent Iraqi citizens) to be a victory for the enemy by virtue of the fact that they still have the capability to make the attack. Under their logic, terrorist Eric Rudolph's cowardly bombing of abortion clinics was a victory for those of us opposed to abortion (it wasn't, as it betrayed our principles).

Looking at the bright side, we have the ability to defeat the terrorists in a war of attrition. The ultimate question is if the American and Iraqi peoples have the will.


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