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BIG STRIKES, MAJOR CONSEQUENCES

The shift to a gunship-and-howitzer kind of fight in Iraq is good for American forces militarily. The U.S. has the bigger guns. And, unlike house-to-house, small-arms combat, G.I.s are kept somewhat out of harm's way. That's why yesterday's casualty figures seem particularly lopsided -- only a single American soldier dead, compared to dozens and dozens of insurgents.But politically, this shift could be bad news. The coalition assault earlier this month in Falluja has become a rallying cry for those Iraqis disenchanted with the American occupation. This new round of strikes has the potential to be much, much more bloody.Traditionally, the terrorist mentality has been the provoke the most draconian response from the government possible. That forces the local public to take sides -- often against those who rule. (It's one of many reasons why Palestinian militants have thrived under the Sharon government in Israel.)American forces can wipe out the Sunni insurgents in Falluja. They can decimate the Sadrists in Najaf. But an all-out strike could, in the end, lose the entire country.

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