Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


However, no one who understood Saddam Hussein’s volatile

nature, his extreme ambition, and his lifelong tendency toward

violence should have been surprised. Just the fact that a strong

military under his command resided next door to a poorly defended

neighbor in Kuwait that was oil rich should have suggested

vigilance in any crisis brewing between the two. One has

the image of a lion contemplating a lamb with the latter about

to become dinner, or in Kuwait’s case, an oil prize that represented

8 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, sitting next

to Saudi Arabia, another relatively defenseless state that owned

another 25 percent of the world oil reserves. Coupled with Iraq’s

estimated 11 percent, Saddam Hussein would control much of

the Middle East oil supply. However, the United States and the

rest of the world were caught by surprise and were unprepared

to take the deterrence steps that might have persuaded Saddam

to stop short of an invasion of Kuwait.

Saddam Hussein’s first name translated into Arabic means

“one who confronts.” He had lived up to that throughout his

entire violent lifetime. The “butcher of Baghdad” had a career

that was filled with blood and violence. He was thought to have

killed his first victim when only a teenage boy. He was a hit

man for the Ba’athist Party and tried to assassinate the leader

of Iraq. Later, when his cousin ruled Iraq, he served as the head

of a lethal and brutal security service that killed opponents

without remorse. He ruled with fear and his models were Stalin

and Hitler whose biographies he had read with admiration. In

1978 he forced his cousin from power and took over as leader

of Iraq. The bloodbath in Iraq escalated, as he exterminated

tens of thousands of domestic adversaries. In one of his first

acts as Iraq’s supreme leader, he called a meeting of hundreds

of top Ba’ath Party leaders, singled out many of them for socalled

acts of disloyalty, arrested and read them their death sentences

on the spot, and forced the remainder of his party leaders

to serve in firing squads that shot their doomed colleagues the

next day.

Not satisfied with violence against possible domestic opponents,

Saddam Hussein almost immediately went to war with

his neighbors. In 1980, less than two years after the coup that

brought him to power, he ordered his army to attack Iran. The

result was an eight-year war that bled both states and featured


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