Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

DETERRENCE AND SADDAM HUSSEIN

ventures, he was out of credit and deeply in debt. This led him

to attack Kuwait to recoup his fortunes and prepare for what he

feared was the inevitable Iranian resumption of the war. The

Bush administration in 1990 did not have its focus on the Iraq-

Kuwait dispute, nor did it appreciate Saddam Hussein’s dilemma

and his modus operandi enough to anticipate his attack and occupation

of Kuwait. Bush and his advisers were surprised and

unprepared for the event, although the threat could have been

anticipated with better intelligence and forethought.

Lesson 11: Understand what motivates the adversary leadership

in terms of retention of its personal power and survival

to predict your chances of success or failure in attempting

to deter further acts of war or escalation. Put

yourselves in the adversary’s shoes. See the world from his

perspective when planning to counter them.

Saddam Hussein may have felt that a retreat from Kuwait

would have weakened him in the eyes of the Iraqi military and

people and made him more vulnerable to being overthrown.

Already he was in a weakened position. He had just concluded

a disastrous eight-year war with Iran that cost hundreds of

thousands of lives and billions of dollars. He may have reasoned

that this, coupled with the forced humiliating retreat

from Kuwait, might have given strong encouragement to his

domestic and international rivals to try to remove him from

power. Better, he might have thought, to take on a foreign force

and rally the Iraqi people once more behind his rule against an

external enemy than to slink back to Iraq in defeat without putting

up a fight. That posture could get him deposed and killed.

Saddam likely reasoned that it was better to fight in Kuwait,

try to get a compromise peace, keep some of the fruits of his

invasion, and stay in power and stay alive. Thus, Saddam appears

to have concluded that what was best for him personally

was to put his people and his military through yet another war,

however painful. He was willing to lose thousands more Iraqis

to preserve his own regime and his own life. Thus, Saddam was

not to be compelled to leave Kuwait without a fight.

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