- The most persistent theme in the failing war message
of the Bush team is that Saddam Hussein is not cooperating with the effort
to disarm him. This theme is played virtually every time Saddam reacts
or doesnât react to threats of war, accusations of failure to comply
with inspections, charges of failure to get rid of weapons we do not know
he has, attacks by the US/British in their No Fly Zones, or new rounds
of US arm-twisting in the UN to gain support for war. Saddam navigates
through all of this as if he were crossing one of the numerous minefields
of Afghanistan, but it is worth examining realistically just what you would
do in his situation. There are several dimensions you should consider
- Who Is Threatening Whom?
- Throughout a barrage of threats directed against him
over the entire period since 9-11, Saddam has never threatened the United
States. Bush has said he will conduct a pre-emptive strike, carry out a
regime change, in effect eliminate Saddam while virtually destroying his
country. Saddam has resisted the temptation, which to any other leader
so threatened would have succumbed to making counter threats or at least
to indulge in genuinely angry bluster. When you think about it, that reaction
pattern is unreal if he has all of the weapons the United States accuses
him of having, but the reaction is entirely prudent if he is not equipped
to respond. It would also be plausible, of course, if he were positioning
devices tactically around the country or elsewhere to entrap and seriously
damage an invading army. While the inspectors have not found anything of
that nature, that explanation seems unlikely, but donât count on
it. What would you do?
- What About The No-Fly Zones?
- The United States, Britain, and France declared No-Fly
Zones, first in Southern Iraq, in 1992, and later in Northern Iraq. These
zones cover more than half of the country. Since their declaration, Saddam
has faced continuing low-level warfare. As the name implies, whenever
Saddamâs forces fly anything or carry out any activity of military
significance in those zones, the British and/or the Americans (the French
withdrew in 1998) may well shoot at it or shoot it down. Increasingly
over the years, and especially since the Bush announcement of a pre-emptive
strike, US and British forces in the region have used patrols of the zones
to detect any defensive capability such as radar, communications, anti-aircraft
weapons or missiles, and they have strafed, bombed or destroyed such capabilities.
In early February 2003, they attacked targets outside the zones, unquestionably
an act of war. In an actual war, these attacks would be pre-battle softening
up of the enemy. In the present situation there is little retaliation,
even though Saddam does resist. He could fight back vigorously, but he
knows that in this undeclared but actual war on his country, really fighting
back would bring down brimstone. What would you do?
- What About The Inspection Process?
- Since 9-11, Saddam has been under increasing pressure
from the United States and Britain, and from the UN under resolution 1441,
to declare any weapons or capabilities to produce weapons of mass destruction.
His 12,000-page declaration to the UN was deliberately long and potentially
embarrassing to countries supplying leading technology and materials to
Iraq, including the United States. Since then, he has done a calculated
and artful job of retreating slowly in front of inspection findings and
criticisms. His necessary calculations are not simple. He cannot afford
to lose the support of the Islamic countries, nor European and Asian governments
who are opposed to war, but on the other hand he appears to be facing an
enemy that is determined to attack him no matter what he does. Each weapon
that he declares and has destroyed leaves him less able to defend his country
in a war that may happen anyway. Threats of US attacks designed, as US
officials assert, to create ãshock and awe,ä might cause him
prudently to hide whatever he can. What would you do?
- Who Favors War?
- From the beginning the idea of a war to disarm Saddam
Hussein has been greeted by misgivings in much of the world. Those misgivings
led to the UN debate that yielded Resolution 1441 and the resumption of
weapons inspections. They also forced the issue with the United States
on going it alone, at least deferring a US decision. Saddamâs carefully
strung out and fence-riding cooperation not only has bought time; with
the increasing recalcitrance of the United States it has brought polarization
of opinion and a hardening of resistance to war. While Bush and his leading
team members have been brash and unbending, Saddam has played it cool,
as shown in his recent hour-long TV interview. The trend of world opinion
is not favorable to Saddam, but it is strongly opposed to war. Agreeing
to destroy missiles that are only dubiously non-compliant with UN resolutions
(without charges or guidance they go 15 miles too far), Saddam is again
stretching out the process. By so doing, he is provoking US leaders to
ever more strident extremes that increasingly isolate the United States.
In the broad sense, Saddam is not winning, but he may well avoid losing.
What would you do?
- How Can You Beat A Superpower?
- In war the asymmetry of forces is always an issue of
concern. In strict military terms, Saddam has little that can seriously
challenge the power of the United States and Britain. But as Clausewitz
pointed out long ago, ãwar is policy pursued by other means.ä
Among those other means, the sharpest weapon available, informed world
opinion, does not even belong to Saddam Hussein. But he is relying on
that weapon to put the asymmetry of forces on his side and to see him and
his country through a potential nightmare. That bad dream is the war of
mass destruction that is threatened by the United States, perversely to
divest him of weapons of mass destruction. It appears now that he will
lose only if the United States decides to ignore world opinion and go it
alone. What would you do?
- The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer
of the US Department of State. He will welcome comment at <mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org