http://www.nypost.com/cgi-bin/printfriendly.pl December 15, 2003 -- IN peacemaking operations, you need to have adequate forces to do the job. But no matter how many troops you send, you can't win if you lose the intelligence war. Yesterday morning, the world awoke to hard evidence that we're winning on the silent front in Iraq. They saw a disheveled, captive Saddam undergoing a dental exam. It was an irrefutable image of success. But the revealing story is how we're succeeding. Back in April, as our troops stood in triumph amid the wreckage of Saddam's regime, our intelligence files on everything from mid-level Ba'athist officials to the condition of oil refineries were inadequate. An over-reliance on high-tech intelligence collection systems, coupled with a long neglect of deep analysis and human intelligence - the spies and agent handlers - had left us with abundant satellite maps of the terrain, but with only the vaguest maps to the labyrinth of Iraqi society. In the best American tradition, our intel personnel on the ground rolled up their sleeves and began to fix the problem. Laboriously, they built detailed files on our enemies and dubious friends. On Saturday night, their work paid off in the courtyard of a farmhouse near Tikrit, when our soldiers found a very special holiday present under the palm trees. The commander of our forces in Iraq stated that "great analytical work led to [Saddam's] capture." Tip-offs likely helped, too. But whatever the details of nabbing the Grinch of Baghdad may be, our intelligence operations remain a success story. Behind the headline attacks on our soldiers and Iraqi civilians, we've been killing 50 to 70 hardcore terrorists and renegades each week, while arresting hundreds. We've busted more and more key Ba'athist officials. Now Saddam's going to have to celebrate New Year's Eve without a single bottle of Dom Perignon. How have we done it? The old-fashioned way. By data-mining the enemies of our enemies. By listening to all sides and testing their claims against each other. By exploiting captured files. By appealing to both selfish and selfless interests. By exploiting family and tribal connections. And by laying down hard cash. Our greatest advantage has been the one the media ignore: Few Iraqis wanted the Ba'athists back. As they began to feel more confident of American resolve, they offered ever more tips about hide-outs and arms caches, sometimes for money, sometimes because they believed in freedom - or just because they didn't want combat in their neighborhoods. In not a few cases, the undiminished arrogance and brutality of the thugs who remained at large made them their own worst enemies. As we wait for the details behind Saddam's capture, want to know why we got Uday and Qusay? The reward was tempting. But the deciding factor for their unhappy host was more visceral: Saddam's boys smacked around his wife. At that point, our money and the promise of relocation abroad became irresistible. Uday and Qusay signed their own death warrants with a temper tantrum. Reports out of Iraq last week also suggested that our troops arrested a number of the terrorists involved in the recent ambush of Spanish intelligence operatives. You rarely just get lucky in such a case. It's usually about the locals having more confidence in you than fear of your enemies, about whispered tips and exploited rivalries. The volume of information Iraqis volunteer to us is a fundamental metric of success. It was already soaring before we grabbed Saddam. Now it's bound to turn into a deluge. Our intel hands, so often criticized, deserve an enormous pat on the back for this one. Even if a tipster turned the tide. Meanwhile, there have been many other encouraging details the media ignored. In that devastating attack on the Italian police, the terrorists had to expend more resources than previously. Heightened security didn't stop the attack, but it raised the price. The bomb-laden vehicle didn't carry a single suicide bomber. There were four terrorists inside, one to drive and three to shoot their way through the guards and barricades. May not sound like much, but that means one suicide attack instead of four. Even in the Middle East, there isn't an unlimited supply of young men willing to blow themselves up. The cost of terrorism continues to rise for our enemies. When suicide bombers tried to penetrate U.S. Army compounds over the past few weeks, alert guards stopped them short every time. Out on the Iraqi roads, we've been ambushing our ambushers. Now we've captured Saddam. Yet, it won't be long before we hear the tired old cries of "intelligence failure!" over some brief setback. No one should mistake our enemies' desperation and imagine it signals strength. We've gained the upper hand. And we're not going to relinquish it. Terrorists and renegades will still achieve some successes, which the media will magnify. But thanks to the determination of our president, the quality of our troops and the dedication of our intelligence professionals, our accomplishments to date have been remarkable. Just ask Saddam.