Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


his regime and its security forces to remain in power. He might

also have reasoned that a forced retreat from Kuwait, coupled

with the disastrous war he had just concluded with Iran, would

so weaken him at home that rivals might take encouragement

from his weakened position and reputation to overthrow his regime

and execute him. He might have calculated that it was better

to fight and rally the Iraqi people against a foreign foe than to

capitulate and face their censure.

Saddam Hussein appeared to believe that even if Iraq failed

to deter a coalition attack on his forces and country, he nevertheless

calculated that he could deter the United States–led

coalition from horizontal escalation of the conflict into Iraq. 25

He believed that he could mount a stout enough defense so

that the coalition could not overrun his forces and occupy

Iraq. He felt that the US leadership would stop short of attempting

a total victory once US forces absorbed very high

casualty rates. He might also have retained hopes that he

could hang on to some of the Kuwait oil fields if the fighting

led to a stalemate.

Saddam Hussein also thought the United States was less

formidable than many others believed. Six months before his

invasion of Kuwait, Saddam addressed the fourth summit of

the Arab Cooperation Council in Jordan and stated that

Brothers, the weakness of a big body lies in its bulkiness. All strong

men have their Achilles heel. Therefore . . . we saw that the United

States departed Lebanon immediately when some Marines were killed.

. . . The whole US Administration would have been called into question

had the forces that conquered Panama continued to be engaged by the

Panamanian Armed Forces. The United States has been defeated in

some combat arenas for all the forces it possesses, and it has displayed

signs of fatigue, frustration, and hesitation when committing aggression

on other people’s rights and acting from motives of arrogance and

hegemony. 26

As one analyst has written, “Saddam was hoping for a political

not [a] military victory in the Gulf War. He believed that he

would triumph if, in the course of the ground war, Iraq inflicted

substantial casualties on the Americans. On one occasion he

even mentioned a casualty figure that [he] believed would break

America’s will to fight: ‘We are sure that if President Bush

pushes things toward war and wages war against us—his war


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