Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


of aggression which he is planning—once five thousand of his

troops die, he will not be able to continue this war.’ ” 27

As a result of this conclusion, Saddam Hussein issued orders

to his generals to direct their forces so as to “inflict ‘maximum

casualties’ on US soldiers when the fighting started.” 28 He

believed that US leaders would face mounting domestic pressure

to halt their war efforts as the killing continued and the

numbers of US dead increased.

Former secretary of state Baker recalls that “in retrospect,

the war may seem to have been a clinical and relatively straightforward

affair. At the time, however, we were confronted with

very sobering casualty figures, estimated by the Pentagon to be

in the thousands; the specter of possible chemical and biological

attacks; and a war expected to last for months not days.” 29

Baker summarized that “moreover, Saddam may have misread

history. He apparently was fixated by our experience in

Vietnam and, like Hafez al-Assad, thought the our pullout from

Lebanon after the Beirut barracks bombing in October 1983

showed Americans were ‘short of breath.’ Unlike Assad, however,

Saddam was willing to test that proposition in a highprofile,

high-risk way.” 30

As one analyst put it, Saddam Hussein was “a great believer

in the eventual victory of the side willing to suffer the most.” 31

To win the war politically, if not militarily, Saddam was willing

to lose thousands more of Iraqi dead to inflict the requisite

number of American dead to achieve his ends.

General Schwarzkopf was worried that Iraqi chemical weapons

might cause major coalition casualties. In his memoir he


You can take the most beat-up army in the world, and if they choose to

stand and fight, we are going to take casualties: if they choose to dump

chemicals on you, they might even win. . . . My nightmare was that our

units would reach the barriers in the first hours of the attack, be unable

to get through, and then be hit with a chemical barrage. The possibilities

of mass casualties from chemical weapons were the main reason we had

sixty-three hospitals, two hospital ships, and eighteen thousand beds in

the war zone. 32 Schwarzkopf was also worried that Saddam Hussein

was prepared to use chemical weapons on the coalition army if it tried

to go around the Iraqi flanks. 33

Indeed, Saddam Hussein was perhaps both right and wrong

in his deterrence estimates in late 1990. He was mistaken


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines