Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


On the other hand, while Saddam Hussein thought the US

leaders were averse to suffering casualties; nevertheless, he still

underestimated President Bush’s regard for human life—Iraqi

lives as well as those of Americans and the rest of the coalition.

Indeed, unlike Bush, it may never have occurred to Saddam

Hussein to limit his military actions to prevent enemy combatant

deaths as well as those of his own forces.

Lesson 4: If the rival leadership does not understand

when it faces extreme military disadvantages, deterrence

of the weaker by the stronger side is more likely

to fail. Situational awareness and rationality must be

joined together in the rival leadership for the deterrent

effect to work.

If the Cold War deterrence requirement of having a situationally

aware and rational opponent was not met fully in the Gulf

War, Saddam Hussein may have been logical in his thinking

but ignorant of important facts. He was not situationally aware

of the magnitude of military forces arrayed against him, nor

was he cognizant of much of the movement on the battlefield

due to faulty intelligence. For example, he did not have satellites

for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance of the

coalition forces, and much of the Iraqi air force had fled by the

time the coalition ground forces attacked. Saddam never detected

the left hook flanking attack that General Schwarzkopf

put into motion at the beginning of the land battle.

Lesson 5: Dictators who kill the messenger seldom get

good intelligence and are far less effective in countering

adverse possibilities.

Saddam Hussein had a decision style that produced yes men

only, robbing him of much important information on which to

base his decisions. To disagree with him was literally to risk

your life, if you were in his circle. His extreme brutality gave

him unrivaled power. It also gave him information that conformed

only to what his advisers thought he wanted to hear.

Saddam did not welcome negative news or views and thus became

the prisoner of his own perceptions of reality. He rarely

had those views challenged or supported by facts or interpreta-


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