WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- The early success of the U.S. invasion of Iraq shows that the right course of action has been taken, according to a panel of neoconservative analysts at a Washington think tank briefing Friday.
"It would be foolish to think this is going to go as smoothly to the end as it has until now," Richard Perle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and chairman of the Defense Policy Board, said during the institute's weekly policy briefing on the Iraq war.
"We have already had casualties, but by and large it is clear that the regime of Saddam Hussein is finished."
Perle, who is a key adviser to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, a leading neoconservative hawk and a proponent of the pre-emptive foreign policies adopted by the White House, said that the war is going well, with minimum resistance from the Iraqi military. He added that although his comments were a little incautious, the ease of military action so far does not surprise him, nor does he think it has surprised America's civilian and military leaders.
"We have been saying for some time that few are willing to fight for Saddam, and even fewer are willing to die for Saddam," he said. "There are more people demonstrating in San Francisco than there are people willing to die fighting for Iraq."
William Kristol, chairman of the Project for the New American Century and editor of the Weekly Standard, said he was impressed with the adaptability of the U.S military and the Bush administration. Although the Pentagon had planned to begin the war with a massive barrage of missiles and bombs on Baghdad and other key targets to "shock and awe" the Iraqi military into submission, the attack plan was quickly altered on Wednesday. Instead, Saddam was directly attacked in a targeted strike on a facility in Baghdad.
That attack was followed with a ground and air invasion targeting Iraqi troop concentrations and key sites such as oil fields.
Kristol said that although a large aerial barrage was the easiest military option to start with, the Bush administration showed great political acumen when it chose to step back after Wednesday's and Thursday's limited air strikes on Baghdad to see if Saddam's regime would fall under this less destructive approach. According to official sources, this effort also included direct talks with senior Iraqi officials and military commanders about their surrender.
However, early Friday afternoon (9 p.m. Iraq time), coalition forces did begin the "shock and awe" bombing of Baghdad.
"What impressed me most about the military operations (so far) is the ability of our armed forces to do an about-face on a dime and change strategy," said Michael A. Ledeen, a resident scholar at AEI and an expert on contemporary history and international affairs.
Ledeen also said that Thursday's announcement by the Palestine Liberation Front that one of its top officers, 1st Lt. Ahmed Walid Raguib al-Baz, was killed in the Wednesday night missile attack on Iraq proved that the war in Iraq is also successfully fighting international terrorism. The PLF is the radical group responsible for seizing control of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro in 1985 and killing an elderly, handicapped American named Leon Klinghoffer.
Ledeen said the death of Raguib al-Baz shows that the fight against tyrannical regimes that support terrorists and the war on terror are inseparable.
"In the process of fighting and bringing down regimes that sponsor terrorist organizations, we will -- just in the normal course of events -- get a lot of terrorists," he said. "The terrorist networks cannot survive without these people."