JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, commentary from two members of our retired colonel corps. Former army Special Forces and Middle East intelligence officer Patrick Lang. And former air force operations planner and an architect of the air campaign in the first Gulf War, John Warden. Colonel Warden, today's bombing in Baghdad is said to have been the heaviest yet. What are the likely targets? What are they up to now?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: We heard from John Burns earlier that we plainly have begun to take down the communications system. One of the things that is a good way to think about this was an experience we had during the planning of the first Gulf War. We brought a guy over by the name of Ed Lutwak to help us out a little bit. He had written a book, a brilliant little book called "Coup de Tat." And what our objective was to hit the targets in Baghdad that would put the Hussein regime in a difficult position: Communications, electricity, internal petroleum flow -- lights, command centers, all of these things. It looks like we're beginning to close down those things absolutely essential for Saddam Hussein to maintain himself in a controlling position
JIM LEHRER: Much is being said also that the real targets in the Republican Guards in the outskirts of Baghdad. That says to you something else, does it not?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: It does and what it really says to me that it's important to think about what Saddam's strategy is here. From Saddam's standpoint as we heard earlier it's highly unlikely that he thinks he's going to have any success on a conventional military level. What he wants to do in fact is generate a bloody destructive battle for Baghdad. I believe what he is hoping and maybe somewhat forlornly on his side, but he is hoping that as the destruction and the inevitable high civilian casualty rates begin to build up, that there will be sufficient international pressure that will lead, that will force some kind of a negotiated settlement. So from our standpoint then the thing we really would like to do is figure out how to avoid a battle of Baghdad and that seems to me should be the thrust of what we're doing now.
JIM LEHRER: Well based on the experience and the issue what's is the ability of air power to do something to a dug in outfit like the Republican Guard? What can you do from -- from many thousand feet?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: Well, the answer very simply that s- that you can destroy it. Keeping in mind that a modern military force -- a conventional military force at any rate is heavily dependent on it tanks, its armored personnel carriers, its heavy equipment -- all of those things can be destroyed from the air, given a little bit of time, and that time is not even particularly long now when you have available to you so many precision weapons capabilities. Gen. Schwarzkopf's idea in the 1991 Gulf War was in fact to make the Iraqi army operationally ineffective. His assumption that proved out that was if you could knock out 50 percent of the heavy equipment that the opponents to the army would not be able to offer any kind of reasonable resistance. And of course when he reached that point and then began the ground war our forces were able to sweep through the thing with the same number of casualties they have suffered so far in the particular operation
JIM LEHRER: So if you were to overlay that in what is going on in this particular war in Iraq and particularly Baghdad, where do you think we are in that process in terms of getting the troops on the ground -- the enemy troops on the ground softened to a point where a land invasion would take care of it?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: Well, I think that in reality that although the Republican Guard looks impressive and very conventional terms it looks like it's blocking the way to Baghdad that in fact we can probably pretty much knock that out interest the air. But again what the problem is, think about this , if we took all of Republican Guard out from all the way around Baghdad that has not solved our problem. The problem is somewhere in the middle of Baghdad, underneath Baghdad who knows exactly where and Saddam's strategy is to pull is into that really, really messy thing which obviously we can win but it will be messy as we do it and if we can figure out a way to avoid actually going into the city that's the thing we need to be looking for
JIM LEHRER: Col. Lang the suicide bombing today, speaking of that kind of combat in the city that is coming, is this the kind of thing we should have expected? Is this inevitable?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: I'm surprised it hasn't before this. And I think it's related to the subject you were discussing before because the great fallacy in the planning of this thing which I can see now much better than I could before is exactly what the Prof. Khalidi was saying from Chicago before is that we discounted entirely too much the fact that Iraqi nationalism say potent thing and while these guys may not fight for Saddam they sure as the devil look like they are going to fight for Iraq.
And what you saw today was some young man who's described as a lieutenant of the Iraqi army blowing himself up to kill four GIs. They are promising more of same. It looks like, deaf to remember all the time the enemy has a will in these things to and that they get a vote as the army likes to say now. They seem to be voting for the idea that they're going fight a psychological battle against us of attrition in which there will be a lot of little strong points in defense and depth, a lot of suicide bombers think like this, see if they can wear down our will to continue this in the end. And it's a basic paradigm shift in the way they've done things before. It's really a kind of frightening phenomenon really.
JIM LEHRER: As a practical matter on the combat soldier level, what do you do -- how do you protect yourself against people who are willing to commit suicide to get you?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: You could ask the Israelis this. We're not supposed to say this but you can. You become suspicious and potentially hostile to people who look like they might harm you
JIM LEHRER: In this case, this guy, this lieutenant was posing as a taxi driver and his taxi had pulled off to the side. His hood was up and he called American troops over to help him and then blew them up.
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: What it's going to come down to in the end no matter what the officers say, people like me and John, and people like that, the troops, when it comes down to it if it comes to a choice between taking a chance on this guy or not, they are not going to take a chance.
JIM LEHRER: In other words there will be fewer people anxious to jump out of the jeeps and help some civilian along the side of the road or anxious to take prisoners, is that what you're saying?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: That's exactly what I'm saying, If there's a great deal of risk involved people's reluctance is going to go up meteorically the more the Iraqis do this. It's inevitable that will happen. You have to understand from the point of view of the Iraqis what this guy did is entirely positive; there are no negatives in it. In their culture, they see this guy as a hero who died for the country. Their nationalism and their Islam is mixed up together. So as far as they're concerned, this kid went straight for heaven for what he did. I don't think we should depend on the idea that there aren't a lot more who won't do the same thing
JIM LEHRER: There are parallels from the beginning of warfare, even resistance fighters from World War II many of those were essentially suicide fighters, where they not?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: Yes, true. And our culture, though has been moving deadly away from that kind of thing in the direction of people taking a utilitarian view of life, everything is a transaction of some kind this is a step back into another world in which there's no transaction here except he probably expects salvation
JIM LEHRER: Col. Warden, the word from the leadership today although there was some confusion about terminology was there is no pause, there is no official pause before going on, back to the big picture here, before going on to Baghdad it's serve resting for a moment. What is your reading of that? What is going on? Is there going be a pause, let the supply lines come closer and the bombing to be a little more severe --what is your reading of this?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: Jim, it's really rather interesting. We have had several thousand years of all of us read being military history. We have only had 100 years little bit less than that air power has been a significant part of what's going on. It seems strange to be talking about a pause right now when Republican Guard tanks and armored personnel carriers are disappearing by the minute and where the situation in Baghdad is improving from our standpoint, which mean it's deteriorating from the standpoint of the people in Baghdad. At most what you have is one of the components of the military operation that is replenishing itself but if you have ask in the Republican Guard division whether they thought there was a pause they would say, I don't -- I certainly have not seen one
JIM LEHRER: Finally Col. Lang, John Burns' comments earlier in the program about negativism seeing these things in negative terms too quickly. He was comparing it to the possibility -- he wasn't saying for sure but a possibility of a repeat of what happened in Afghanistan. Things didn't go well in Afghanistan. People said oh, my goodness this is a bad plan et cetera -- are we falling into that - the big we?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: I don't think so - I don't think there's going to be a pause either. John is right before that. We I hear Gen. Renuart at central command say there won't be one theater wide. I accept that and I think what's going to happen here is we're going to proceed to engage Republican Guard with air and helicopter piece by piece by piece, and it's going to be a question of will it come down. I don't think there's going to collapse all at once. I think we're going to have to go all the way with this
JIM LEHRER: What about my negative question?
COL. W. PATRICK LANG: Are we being too negative? I think we are. There's been entirely too much talk about that. The one thing I didn't like in the conference today was one of embedded reporters who do a job and one observed a memorial service in the field for two dead marines and recorded the images of these men weeping for the comrades. I think that's uncalled for. Soldier's grief for his friends is something that should about a private thing. I've been to a lot of services in the field and I would be unhappy if I were the men filmed like that
JIM LEHRER: Are you worried about too many negative things, Col. Warden?
COL. JOHN WARDEN: No, I'm really not. An awful lot of reporting is observing microscopic events which in some cases may be serious in themselves but from a bigger picture standpoint are simply not particularly relevant, but I would come back again to this idea that the more we can put the squeeze on Baghdad, make it uncomfortable for people in Baghdad and avoid that battle for Baghdad ,the better off we're going to be.
JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you very much.