Maureen Dowd: Dances With Wolfowitz, The New York Times, April 9, 2003

WASHINGTON: There is an unforgettable scene in "Lawrence of Arabia" when an agonized Lawrence resists as a British commander in Cairo presses him to return to the desert to lead the Arabs revolting against the Ottoman Turks.

Lawrence: "I killed two people. One was yesterday. He was just a boy, and I led him into quicksand. The other was . . . well . . . before Aqaba. I had to execute him with my pistol, and there was something about it that I didn't like."

General Allenby: "That's to be expected."

Lawrence: "No, something else."

General Allenby: "Well, then let it be a lesson."

Lawrence: "No . . . something else."

General Allenby: "What then?"

Lawrence: "I enjoyed it."

We were always going to win the war with Iraq. We were always going to get to some triumphant moment, like the great one on Fox at 1:30 a.m. Eastern time on Monday morning, when two G.I.'s from Georgia held up a University of Georgia bulldog flag in front of Saddam's presidential palace in Baghdad, and others mischievously headed upstairs to try out Saddam's gold fixtures in the master bathroom.

The big question about the war was, How much blood could Americans bear?

Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney were determined to lead America out of its post-Vietnam, post-Mogadishu queasiness with force and casualties, to change the culture to accept war as a more natural part of a superpower's role in the world.

Their strategy might be described as Black Hawk Up.

Mr. Cheney's war guru, Victor Davis Hanson, writes in his book "An Autumn of War" that war can be good, and that sometimes nations are better off using devastation than suasion. Mr. Hanson cites Sherman's march through Georgia, the 19th century's great instance of shock and awe, as a positive role model.

Polls and interviews show that in their goal of making Americans less rattled by battle, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney have succeeded: most Americans are showing a stoic attitude about the dead and the wounded so far.

(Perhaps the American tolerance for pain is owed to the fact that much of the pain is not shown on television, embeddedness notwithstanding.)

Wolfowitz of Arabia and the other administration hawks are thrilled with U.S. hawkishness. When Mr. Wolfowitz was on "Meet the Press" on Sunday his aides sat in the green room watching the monitor and high-fiving their boss's performance.

As American forces made their first armored thrusts into Baghdad, visions of a JDAM strike on Damascus danced in the hawks' heads.

The former C.I.A. director James Woolsey, a Wolfie pal and a prospective administrator in occupied Iraq, bluntly told U.C.L.A. students last week that to reshape the Middle East, the U.S. would have to spend years and maybe decades waging World War IV. (He counted the cold war as World War III.)

He identified America's enemies as the Islamist Shia who run Iran, the Iranian-supported Hezbollah, the fascist Baathists in Iraq and Syria, and the Islamist Sunnis who run Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups.

Mr. Wolfowitz, however, played the diplomat on Sunday, gliding past Tim Russert's probing on whether the neo-cons' dreams of other campaigns in Syria, Iran and North Korea would come true. Pressed, he said, "There's got to be change in Syria as well."

And the Times's David Sanger reported that when a Bush aide stepped into the Oval Office recently to tell the president that the hard-boiled Rummy had also been shaking a fist at Syria, Mr. Bush smiled and said one word: "Good."

The administration already sounds as triumphalist as Lawrence at his giddiest. Today's satirical Onion headline reads: "Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain for Invasion."

The success of this war should not leave us infatuated with war. Americans' tolerance for these casualties should not be mistaken for a willingness to absorb endless American sacrifice on endless battlefields.

Victory in Iraq will be a truly historic event, but it will be exceedingly weird and dangerous if this administration turns America into Sparta.

There remains the unfinished business of Osama bin Laden. But the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom should not mark the beginning of Operation Eternal War.