It is all over bar the looting. Even without the traditional white flag of surrender, there can be no doubts about the fact that Baghdad has fallen to the Allied forces and that Mr Saddam Hussein and his oppressive regime is now history. The military campaign carried out with almost clinical precision demonstrated two things. One relates to the art of warfare. The strategy of Shock and Awe proved that with the aid of technology, it is possible to carry out an extensive military operation without too many encounters and too many civilian casualties. The other is that a tyrannical regime like the one of Mr Hussein cannot have any kind of popular support base and is therefore incapable of mobilizing a popular uprising against an invading army. The Allied forces may not have been greeted as liberators and there were pockets of resistance in Basra, but the scenes of jubilation at the end of Mr Husseinís rule underlined the unpopularity of his regime. This unpopularity has, of course, helped the cause of the Allied troops. They did not meet any organized resistance, and the celebrated Republican Guard of Mr Hussein proved to be less than a paper tiger. Precision bombing carried out relentlessly had broken the back of any potential resistance in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.
The fall of a tyrant is invariably followed by a certain amount of disorder of which looting is a part. Long suppressed popular energies seek an outlet. The first job of the American and the British forces will be the restoration of law and order in the Iraqi capital and in other urban centres. This may not be all that difficult since the population of Iraq has already experienced the military might of the forces that removed Mr Hussein. Beyond the immediate aftermath of the military campaign lies the more difficult task of setting up a new political dispensation in Iraq. The post-war scenario remains fluid. The United States of America, which masterminded the action against Iraq, has also to win back the diplomatic initiative. It has proved to the world, including to its own allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that it is the supreme power par excellence. The cliché about the world being unipolar has acquired substance and may be even a grim reality. But international relations cannot be run solely on the basis of unmatched military superiority. By declaring itself to be the globeís self-appointed sheriff, the US has brought upon itself new responsibilities. There will be greater demands on the US to be consistent, and a relapse into isolationism may prove to be difficult.