Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

DETERRENCE AND SADDAM HUSSEIN

Defense Cheney asked the Joint Chiefs to look into the utility

of nuclear strikes if the president changed his mind later.

Finally, Saddam Hussein may have assumed that his CB arsenal

would have made it costly for the coalition to march to

Baghdad, occupy Iraqi territory, and replace his regime. He

might have been tempted to use such weapons and risk further

coalition escalation to nuclear weapons as his situation became

more and more desperate. Even if he resisted the impulse to

use CB weapons as the invasion of Iraq began, it is likely that

if it became clear to him that his regime was about to fall, the

CB gloves would have come off, and the coalition might have

been struck with a last-minute chemical and biological revenge

strike. 56 Saddam Hussein probably realized that coalition leaders

would also understand the perils from Iraq’s CB weapons of

trying to achieve a total defeat of his regime. It is likely he is

correct that this possibility weighed heavily in the US and coalition

decision not to press for a total defeat of his forces and

regime in Iraq.

Lesson 3: Saddam felt he was willing to sustain deeper

casualties than the United States and this would give him

a political if not a military victory. States willing to suffer

more than their opponents may count on their adversary

halting the war effort when causalities reach a certain

painful threshold that tempers their war aims.

It appears that Saddam was willing to gamble that the United

States was so casualty averse that we would halt our military

operations after suffering the first 5,000 deaths from the clash

with Iraq. Of course, he was badly mistaken in how his forces

matched up with the coalition. Since his forces were able to kill

only about 200 US fighters in the battles that ensued, not 5,000,

his theory of deterrence of US and coalition escalation, estimated

at a threshold of 5,000 killed in action, was never tested.

It should be noted that President Bush and his field commander,

General Schwarzkopf, were preparing for possible

heavy coalition causalities. Note that the United States and the

coalition had transported 63 mobile field hospitals to the region

before launching Operation Desert Storm, as well as two

hospital ships and 18,000 hospital beds. 57

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