If You Were Saddam,
What Would You Do?

By Terrell E. Arnold

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 in answering.
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 <>



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