This story in the Washington Post shows how the belief of many, including myself, in early 2003 that the US and the international community needed the threat of force to pressure Saddam Hussein into compliance with the UN WMD sanctions was for nought.
Before the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein misjudged the U.S. military strategy and thought the United States would launch only several days of airstrikes and not a full-scale ground invasion, according to a television interview with the FBI agent who interrogated the former Iraqi leader for seven months.
Hussein “thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 . . . a four-day aerial attack… He survived that one and he was willing to accept that type of attack.”
Hussein’s expectations, brought on by the Bill Clinton administration’s meager bombing campaign in 1998, that Washington was bluffing in 2003 and wouldn’t dare risk casualties in a full-out invasion was surely something that the Bush administration wanted to thwart with its unprovoked invasion. By showing Hussein that the US would invade and destroy his regime, the thugs of the world got that message that when America threatens, they had better listen.
Yet the irony is that the next administration will face the opposite dilemma: the expectations of many rogue regimes is now to expect a US invasion and fortify their position the moment the US threatens action. This is what prompted the Burmese regime to relocate its capital in 2005 to bunker down in the mountains, or the Iranian and North Korean regime’s paranoia about holding nuclear weapons, or other quirky acts of rogue regimes around the world. Ultimately, we will always be fighting the expectations of the enemy, no matter what those expectations are.