Countering the Enemy’s Expectations

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.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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5 Responses to Countering the Enemy’s Expectations

  1. Richardson says:

    North Korea’s regime would have continued pursuing nuclear weapons no matter what Bush did.

    Nuclear weapons have been a goal of the regime since at least the early 1950s (after the threat of use during the war), and perhaps since they were used in Japan. While they froze plutonium production under the Agreed Framework of 1994, they initiated a uranium enrichment program during the mid-to-late 90s, also prohibited by that agreement.

    They continued their nuclear programs during Clinton’s bluffing and during Bush’s invasions; U.S. action or inaction had little influence on the goal, only the pace. Attack on North Korea is unlikely in either case as the regime holds Seoul hostage with conventional artillery.

  2. dj says:

    Did anyone read an article last week by some ex-Iraqi intel guy who said Saddam wanted to appear to have WMDs in order to deter Iran from attacking.

  3. Curzon says:

    I did not — but the WaPo article above basically confirms that fear by Saddam.

    “Even when Hussein realized that U.S. military action was imminent, he sought to continue to project a strong image because of his worries about a potential Iranian invasion, Piro said. “For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that . . . would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq,” Piro is quoted by CBS as saying.”

  4. Bristlecone says:

    If our enemies spend their money on bunkers instead of offensive weapons, isn’t that a gain for us? The Maginot Line worries me a lot less than several divisions of Panzers and Stukas.

    However, if there is one thing our enemies have learned, it’s that the US won’t be waging any offensive wars for much time to come. Even the most bellicose of Republicans only wants to keep what we have, while the Democrats (and the Ron Paul Republicans) want out of Iraq ASAP. Iran is probably as safe as Mexico.

  5. Lirelou says:

    Amen to Richardson’s comment. The Fat Boy was going for the bomb no matter what, if only for the credentials it gives him with his own military, the single most important institution keeping him in power. As for the Maginot Line, it may have worked if it had ever been finished (which is wasn’t). Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative comes to mind as a modern day “Maginot Line”.