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Interview With John Warden

Aired December 7, 2002 - 14:25   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: It's become a truism that you don't win a war by fighting the last war. Now to learn how a new war with Iraq would probably be like and unlike the Persian Gulf War, let's talk to the man credited with planning the Gulf War air campaign. He is retired U.S. Air Force Colonel John Warden, author of "Winning in Fast Time." He joins me from Montgomery, Alabama. Hello, colonel.
COL. JOHN WARDEN (RET)., U.S. AIR FORCE: Hi, Kyra, how you doing?

PHILLIPS: Good. Thanks for being with us.

Let's talk about the troops now. Definitely in perfecting mode, right?

WARDEN: Yes, everybody out there practicing every level from the lowest, lowest squad, flight level all the way up as we just saw with General Franks. Exercising, practicing the kinds of things that they would anticipate doing in a war situation. And their readiness is simply beyond any doubt, as is really the outcome of any kind of a military conflict.

PHILLIPS: All right, let's talk about similarities, differences from the first Gulf War. Air Force, of course, tremendous role this time around just like last time, right?

WARDEN: Yes, Air Force and air power in general. What we really need to be thinking about, though, is the fact that from a U.S. standpoint, we have this extraordinary advantage in being able to reach out a long ways and touch someone very precisely and in such a way that they can't touch you back. And this is an advantage that nobody has had in the entire history of warfare. And to the extent that we stay with that kind of an operation and we don't get in there close to our opponents, we'll do very well and there obviously will be a lot of similarities to the first Gulf War.

PHILLIPS: What about air power in Iraq? What's the Iraqi military aircraft like and training like? Can they -- can you even compare their abilities to the U.S.?

WARDEN: No. The Iraqi training and capability is simply abysmal, which is obviously quite good from our standpoint. The very interesting thing about this war, among others, is that there is little or no doubt about the outcome of the campaign. And the only question is does it take a few days or does it take a month, a month and a half for the primary military operations. And are the casualties zero, or are they something that is higher -- but still, they're going to be significantly lower than they would have been historically. The Iraqis are simply not in a position to offer substantial military opposition to anything we want to do.

PHILLIPS: All right, in the first war, supply operations were pretty easy, what about this time around?

WARDEN: This is much more complicated, especially if we make a -- we have two options for how we want to conduct the war. The one option is one where we are trying to change the regime, and we really don't want the responsibility for occupying and ruling Iraq. Second option is one in which you want to rule Iraq, occupy it, change it over a very long period of time.

If you take the second option, then you have got to put a lot of ground troops into Baghdad. And the -- the distances are -- are pretty -- pretty interesting. I mean, from Kuwait to Baghdad, several hundred miles. From up in the north, Mosel (ph), the Turkish border down to Baghdad, several hundred miles. This is a challenging logistical problem for anybody. And it's certainly one we can deal with, but it is a much more challenging thing than what we had during the Gulf War when operations were so much closer to our own lines.

PHILLIPS: Now, the regular army in Iraq definitely won't be fighting for Saddam. So is that a big asset for the U.S.?

WARDEN: I believe that the Iraqi military, and that probably actually includes the majority of the Republican Guard, is the very best asset that we have in Iraq. And if we have done things well, there is no reason in the world why that that regular army and probably substantial elements of the Republican Guard don't in fact take the matters into their own hands and be the ones that actually overthrow Saddam Hussein and take care of the really nasty internal security forces that are the ones that are keeping him in power.

So I would -- I would hope and anticipate that there will really be relatively little U.S. operations against Iraqi military forces.

PHILLIPS: Colonel, I have to ask you about the Iraqi declaration before we wrap up. What do you think? Is anything going to surface from this? And could this mean no war is around the corner?

WARDEN: I believe that there is a fair probability that it may, in fact, mean that there is no war. And the reason for this is fairly straightforward. Saddam Hussein, I think, became aware here probably within the last several months, given the -- what -- what our president was doing and some other things that we were deadly serious about this. So he was faced with the option of almost certainly dying, no probability whatsoever of surviving a war and certainly surviving in power, or saying, all right, I'm going to play absolutely straight with the U.N. thing, I am going to get rid of whatever I have. And then I will hope that I will be able to stay in power and have an opportunity to renew the programs or whatever a few years downstream.

So, if the guy has got any sense at all, that's the line that he is on. And if he is in fact doing that, then he probably has removed at least the instant causus belli. In other words, it's going to be pretty tough to go to war if in fact he has played this as straight as it would make sense for him to play it from his standpoint.

PHILLIPS: Colonel John Warden, you made a lot of things make sense for us. Thank you, sir, for your time.


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