Unrealistic expectations

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The Bush administration has pleaded for patience in recent days, arguing it has said all along the war with Iraq will take longer than many anticipated.

But the repeated cries of "we told you so" are a little disingenuous. After all, it was the administration that established unrealistic expectations. At the outset, Vice President Dick Cheney and the Pentagon painted a rosy picture of what would happen -- Iraqi forces would offer little resistance and the Iraqi people would welcome American troops. The war would be over in a matter of weeks, not months, Cheney said.

The reality is that Saddam Hussein's forces have put up a stiff fight. In particular the Fedayeen, non-uniformed Iraqi forces that have taken up arms on behalf of Hussein, have wreaked havoc on coalition forces.

The initial bombing campaign, the effort to "shock and awe" Hussein into submission, apparently caused neither. It seems Hussein still has control of his military and has broader support within his country than predicted.

Still, it is important to remember much has gone right. In fact, but for the unrealistic expectations at the outset, the war could be viewed as an overwhelming success to this point.

Coalition forces marched through southern Iraq quickly, establishing a key supply line, suffering relatively few casualties and taking more than 4,000 Iraqi prisoners. Despite Turkey's lack of cooperation, American forces were able to paratroop into northern Iraq and seize an air base crucial to the fight in that region. The fear of massive oil well fires has gone unrealized. The Iraqis have not used chemical or biological weapons. Missiles bound for Kuwait have been intercepted or fallen harmlessly in the desert. Israel has not been attacked.

True, Cheney's prediction of "weeks, not months" to topple Hussein is in jeopardy. The administration's new timeline, reiterated by Bush last week, is "as long as it takes."

But while some may be disappointed the war has not already ended, the president's commitment to victory in whatever time frame necessary continues to enjoy broad support. That is as at it should be. At this point, there is no other course of action.

Other thoughts about the war:

n While we may not share the views of those who protest the war, we defend vigorously their right to do so. Those who seek to silence them would be wise to remember freedom of speech is one of the core values American soldiers fight to preserve.

n The decision to embed some 500 members of the media with American troops was a smart move by the Department of Defense. While media coverage can seem overwhelming, the American public is always better served by having too much information than not enough. The Pentagon should be applauded for giving the public an open and honest look at this war while still protecting our troops.

n Given the unknown costs of the war, the Senate was right to slash Bush's proposed $726 billion tax cut to $350 billion over 10 years. Estimates are that we are facing a $400 billion deficit for 2003 if the war ends in a month. Against that backdrop, taking a more conservative approach to a dramatic tax cut seems prudent.

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