KOSOVO VS. MOGADISHU….Did the administration mislead the American public about how easy the war would be? Of course they did. Proponents of all ideas try to make the benefits sound higher than they really are and the costs lower, and war with Iraq is no different.
On the other hand, it’s too early to say how egregiously they’ve done this. The smoking gun in this debate is Dick Cheney’s statement that the war would last “weeks rather than months,” but it’s too early to say that he’s been proven wrong. In fact, anything short of three full months would be close enough for him to claim that he was pretty much right.
The fact that the climactic battle is going to be a siege of Baghdad makes this all the harder to predict. After all, while saturation bombing may not be sapping Iraqi morale, it is destroying infrastructure, which means the ability of the Iraqis to fight back is being steadily eroded even if their morale stays intact. The problem is that their ability to fight back probably won’t decline smoothly. Rather, it will stay fairly robust until the day their last bullet runs out, at which point it’s all over. This is more or less what happened in Kosovo and Afghanistan, where fighting remained rough all the way until the final few days, when the opposition suddenly collapsed.
Until that day, however, it can easily look like no progress is being made. So if progress is slow, you can take your pick between (a) things are going fine and we’re just waiting for the collapse, or (b) we’ve underestimated the Iraqis and we’re now stuck in a king-size version of Mogadishu. Your choice probably says more about what you think of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld than it does about how the war is actually going.