We hoped to be persuasive enough that it was not in their interest to obey orders to fight," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a news conference Friday afternoon, following the launch of the "shock and awe" air attack on Baghdad.
Rumsfeld went on to say about the Iraqi leadership that "so far they've made very poor judgments. ... We urged them to surrender. They have not done so."
Rumsfeld is a warrior, not a bureaucrat; exactly the right man for this difficult job. His tone is stern, as it should be in a war, but he is also brutally honest. The United States keeps waiting for a surrender, but as yet none has emerged. So the incredible war campaign continues in the air and on the ground. That is as it should be.
As the brilliant Washington Times military correspondent Rowan Scarborough puts it, the "shock and awe" campaign is phase three of the war. Phase one was the successful bombing of the leadership target in a villa just south of Baghdad where Saddam Hussein, his sons, generals and other Baathist leaders were meeting.
Saddam may be dead, his oldest son may be dead and other officials may be dead -- perhaps they were all wiped out. Trouble is no one knows exactly what happened. Clearly the Saddam clique has lost control of the government and the military.
But the hoped-for surrender, or coup d'etat, from opposition citizens in Baghdad has unfortunately not yet materialized. Even as the phase-two launch of the ground war was successfully launched, and moving rapidly on the road to Baghdad, there was still no sign of surrender.
It may well be that total confusion reigns, with Iraq's entire command-and-control system completely disoriented and disrupted. In that event, the launch of the phase-three "shock and awe" air attack has been devastating. As Rumsfeld noted, this regime has been responsible for the deaths of hundred of thousands of human beings. They are paying the consequences now, difficult as it may appear to those of us watching on television. But the clear lesson is that both individuals and nations must be responsible for their actions.
As President Bush put it, the United States intends to disarm Iraq, free its people and defend the world from this grave danger. With this combination of self-defense and moral idealism, he made it quite clear that the only acceptable outcome will be victory.