DESERT Shield has become a Desert Storm whose intensity seems to
have caught even those involved by surprise.
When the United States-led military alliance launched initial
attacks against Iraqi targets in the early hours of Thursday morning
they hit with massive force, as US officials had been warning all
along would happen. What Washington hadn't predicted was the
apparent high degree of success in this first, heavy punch.
After months of tension and agonizing over the possibility of
military force going badly awry, reports that most of the Iraq's Air
Force and a large portion of its best ground forces had been
destroyed resulted in a surprised sense of relief in the halls of
the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. Aides began openly voicing hopes
that the war could be over by the weekend.
But others cautioned that the first blush of optimism would
almost surely give way to a more realistic assessment of the task
still at hand.
Initial reports are often too rosy, cautioned one consultant to
the Pentagon on conventional forces. "There's a lot more to go," he
Reports of initial strikes had an almost antiseptic quality, with
the only damage reported being hits on four French Jaguar airplanes,
none apparently serious.
As of early Thursday morning no US personnel had been reported to
have been even scratched - a situation which, in war, will almost
certainly not be sustained.
For days US Rep. Les Aspin, chairman of the House Armed Services
Committee, has been one of the most optimistic voices on the battle
outcome in Washington, talking of a quick fight and moderate
casualties, but Thursday he warned that things were far from over.
"I'd be stunned if there weren't some casualties," he said.
At this writing the most important aspects of the young war were
things that hadn't happened.
The first involved Iraq's much-feared Scud missiles. A threat to
civilian populations in both Saudi Arabia and Israel, they were a
primary target of the first wave of UN air strikes. Though there
were unconfirmed reports that as many as five had been fired, none
reached any target of significance, and as the day passed in Tel
Aviv it seemed clear that a Scud attack - Iraq's best tool for
dragging Israel into the war - was no longer a significant danger.
A scenario involving Israeli retaliation, inflaming Arab public
opinion, had been the concern of Washington officials. …