Were I in Saddam’s shoes, I would do exactly what he is doing. I would try to avoid direct confrontation. I would let invading forces deep into the country and then nip at them here and there. I would count on several thousand well-trained men remaining loyal to me, to their death. I would count on anti-American sentiment keeping the majority of the population on my side, at least for a while. I would make clear to those of my countrymen who hate me that their open stand against me is being duly noted, and that even with an American soldier on every street corner I will have enough executioners to kill the traitors, or their families, or both. I would keep the war festering for as long as possible. I would count on “collateral damage” and civilian casualties and publicize them, using this as a tool to refill the ranks of anti-American fanatic fighters. My strategic goal would not be defeating invading forces in battle on an open field, but rather engaging them in endless guerilla clashes. I would count on this prolonged fighting to incite anti-American extremists all over the world. This would result in political pressure and in increased anti-American terrorist activities. If several American soldiers per week are killed, on a continuing basis, through terrorism and guerilla action, in 2004 the American public might say “drop Bush not bombs”.
It appears that before waging war, the military strategists advising President Bush were somehow not able to put themselves into Saddam’s shoes. Excited about liberating Iraq, they overlooked the cardinal rule of every endeavor: “If something can go wrong, it will”. Murphy is having his day, while the families of fallen American soldiers are not.
We may be assuaged by the soothing voices of the President’s men. However, as a matter of principle we should deliberate all imaginable worse case scenarios – all the more so because we have reasonable doubt that the people in whom we entrusted our security did not do so.
Weapons of mass destruction
Likely, Saddam still has tons of chemical and biological agents that can be easily used as weapons. Being Saddam, I would never give them up. The problem is, even after conquering Iraq, the American forces will be able to find these weapons of mass destruction as quickly and easily as they found Bin Laden. Within the last 18 months, at one point or another probably a good thousand people knew Bin Laden’s whereabouts, yet there were no takers for the $25mln award. Mr. Powell complained once that biological weapons are stored in containers continuously moved across Iraq. Why should this change after US soldiers take Baghdad and Basra? We may find some of these trucks, we may even find one or two warehouses with chemical weapons. However, there will be plenty left to use later in terrorist actions against America. Which is exactly the kind of thing this war was supposed to protect us from.
It is only a matter of time before Baghdad will fall. Saddam knows this and he has enough time to arrange for the Americans a Pyrrhic victory. We can recall Napoleon’s conquest of Moscow in 1812. The Russian forces, too weak to stop Napoleon from taking the city, managed to delay it so that the French did not enter Moscow until the beginning of winter. The Russians gutted the city beforehand and departed, leaving the proud French with an empty shell in the middle of the Russian winter. There might just be a nasty summer in Baghdad in the works for the proud Americans. Were I Saddam, before giving up Baghdad I would remove from the city all the personnel needed for the city to operate and sabotage all essential services. And I would threaten anyone who returns or works for the occupying administration with death. I would leave Baghdad filled with the elderly and children, so the whole world could see them dying. I would take the young women and keep them with my soldiers, and not only to brighten their day; new soldiers will be needed 20 years from now as well.
Saddam is dead
Let us say that, finally, something really works out for our guys. They find out when and where Saddam is having a family dinner, send over a missile that does not go astray, and as a consequence Saddam and his sons leave Iraq, and the world of the living, forever. Within 24 hours, the Iraqi army leaders get together with the exiled Iraqi politicians and create a temporary government that will promise everybody what they want. Democracy will be established, Kurds will have autonomy, Shiites will have representation in the government, Israel will get assurance of its security, Kuwaitis will get apologies for the occupation, and Iraq will commit to free itself from the weapons of mass destruction. In particular, the new government will turn over to the Americans five, maybe six trucks loaded with biological stuff, and show them to two warehouses filled with nasty chemicals (for which the Americans still have their receipts). And they will swear to Allah that this is all they have. Within the next 24 hours, all Arab countries recognize the new Iraqi government. As well as France, Russia, China and many others. On its third day in power, the new Iraqi government will call the chief of the coalition forces, and nicely but firmly will ask him and his soldiers to get out. Immediately. What’s next?
Damascus and others
Mr. Rumsfeld accused Syria of helping Iraq with essential military supplies. This lack of tact, typical of Mr. Rumsfeld, provokes an openly hostile response from Damascus — even if they cannot afford it now, somewhere down the road they will make the Americans pay for this humiliation.
Historically, Damascus has always competed with Baghdad for leadership among Arabs. Since it seems that Baghdad will soon be in the hands of infidels, this is a long-awaited opportunity for Damascus to become the political center of all Arabs and Muslims. Syria is unlikely to go into open war with the USA, but it will do whatever it can to make the job of the coalition forces harder.
In the second week of the war, American generals were complaining that armed men are sneaking in from Iran and joining the Iraqis. Between Morocco and Indonesia, there are millions of frustrated Muslims, poor and underfed, but well-nourished with anti-American propaganda. Many of them may come to Iraq, as they did to Afghanistan under the Soviet occupation. It would be even uglier if a large number of such fanatics crossed the Iraqi border and went to create a human shield in Baghdad. Also, the American generals complain that it is hard to move through a desert with no roads. The Arabs were moving around long before there were roads, so they may just surprise us in the desert, like the Vietnamese surprised us in the jungle.
Turning the world upside down
The goal is that after democracy and peace are established in Iraq, the whole region will become more like us, and more friendly to us. However, if peace and democracy do not come soon enough, the whole region can radicalize. Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia may turn openly against the coalition. A populist uprising may give Egypt over into the hands of Kaddafi, which has been his longtime dream. Fundamentalists may replace Gen. Musharraf in Pakistan. The Americans might end up waging war on the whole Muslim world. We will get moral support from Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and Beijing, though they will still sell arms to the other side. They are fed up with the arrogance of Americans, and may well believe that the world would be better off without one superpower being in charge. The French, the Germans, and the Chinese might win the war in Iraq, without firing a shot.
The option I am afraid to think of
If the situation in Iraq incites Islamic extremists in general, some of them may decide that this is also the right time to resolve the Palestinian issue, in the way that suits them best. The might of Israel may be not enough, especially if the Americans are already in hot water, and the Europeans might opt to wait until the dust settles. Some of the Israeli hawks may lose their nerve, and reach for the weapons of mass destruction they officially do not have. In response, the North Koreans will be more than willing to barter for oil the weapons they do have. I am afraid to think of what could come next. However, I should not worry because the people in whom we have entrusted our security have considered every possible scenario.
Or, have they?