So what will Saddam finally do if (when, really) the US invades?

Saddam Hussein’s strategy up until now has clearly been to stall for time, hoping US resolve will collapse (the UN resolve collapsed long ago). But if Bush and the US government will not be delayed; if they announce a deadline of Midnight on a certain day and have the tanks lined up on the border at T minus 1 hour and counting, what will Saddam finally do? Will he finally agree to real disarmament? Will he say he’ll really disarm, but that he needs just a little more time? Will he try to work out a last-second agreement to be allowed comfortable exile? Or will he fight?

If he chooses to fight, what can he be hoping to achieve? That if the US unilaterally invades Iraq that somehow the entire world will turn on the US? (And do what exactly- pass some resolutions?) That massive use of chemical and biological weapons can inflict unacceptable losses on US forces? That he can force the US to fight a urban war that will cause genocidal Iraqi civilian casualties, and that this will somehow deter the US? That Saddam and company can hide out while guerilla and terrorist forces make the US occupation as untenable as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon? That retalitory attacks on US soil by terrorists or Iraqi agents will actually force public opinion in the US against the war?

Even a meglomaniac like Saddam has to know that he can’t win a conventional war. But does he really think that he might somehow survive?

Apparently. If not, he’d be disarming at an unprecedented rate and be willing to let go of his power. But he’s not. His reluctancy to comply with international resolutions is of a mysterious nature. What would he do in case of a foreign invasion? He’d probably like to become a martyr, and kill as many invaders as possible. This likely means he’d unleash all his remaining reserves of chemical weapons, as well as heavily fortify his positions for an historical last stand.

My take is that Saddam knows that he cannot survive an American invasion. The tactics of guerilla warfare, WMDs, urban quagmires, massive civilian casualties, and destroying the oil wells won’t help Saddam survive personally. But they aren’t designed to actually win the war, they are intended by Saddam to prevent the war. He is attempting to convince the US that the war would be too costly. If we think the war is too costly, we won’t invade. Saddam wins. But if we invade anyway, even if all the threats materialize, Saddam loses, no matter how many Americans or Iraqis are killed.

It’s sort of a game of chicken, just like the ending of a bad movie where the bad guy is holding the girl hostage with a knife while the cop holds him at gunpoint. If the bad guy cuts the girl’s throat the cop will shoot him, bad guy loses. The bad guy can’t threaten the cop, he’s only got a knife. The cop can kill the bad guy at any time, he just has to be willing to pay the price of maybe having the girl get killed. So they sit there for a while, the cop demanding “Surrender!”, while the bad guy is demanding “Throw down your gun!” Who surrenders to who is a tricky situation.

Well, I posted an OP recently putting forth my theory. It didn’t receive much agreement here on the SDMB. Since then, however, I heard a number of experts repeat exactly the same theory.

For example, Dr. Hussein Shahristani, the former head of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, in an interview:

Why is that so unimaginable? We haven’t fired a shot, we have demonstrations in the streets, and less than half the country supports action without the UN.

Granted, I don’t think Saddam would win, but it certainly isn’t a stretch to see how he thinks he could.

No I think it is a stretch to imagine that Saddam thinks he can win.

I think he’s caught in a dilemma, if he genuinely hasn’t got WMD then the US will invade because they think he’s lying. On the other hand, if he does have WMD then he can’t suddenly admit it because then the US would accuse him of being a liar and invade anyway.

So the US will invade anyway, whatever he does.

But slightly off-topic, I’m interested in the general question of why terrorist leaders and dictators do the things the do.

For example, why did Sept 11 ever happen? Bin Laden must have known that it would lead to a full scale war and the removal of the Taliban from power. Not to mention the death of many of his compadres and a life of fear for him the rest of his life as he has the full force of all the governments in the world hunting for him.

Why did he do it? He could have got away with low-level terrorism for years (embassy bombings, assassinations etc) before anyone really did anything about him. He could have kept his training camps going in Afghanistan and developed better weapons under the protection of a friendly government.

Why did he commit an act which he must have known would bring about the end of the Taliban regime and the death/capture of many al Qaida members?

And then, the pretext before the Afghanistan war was that the US demanded that the Taliban hand over Bin Laden and close down the training camps. I know that this would have been a tough decision for the Taliban to make since the Taliban and al Q are so close and Omar is related to OBL (by marriage).

But what was the alternative? Complete and utter obliteration of your government and many of it’s followers. Why didn’t Omar just hand over OBL?

Bad as that is, it’s better than having your government destroyed. The first priority of any regime is to stay in power. If you’re not in power then you can’t do anything.

Even if they’d sacrificed Bin Laden for the greater cause, they could have always tried to gain his release at a future date by using standard terrorist tactics (you hijack a plane and then threaten to shoot the hostages unless certain comrades are released from jail).

If Bin Laden is supposed to be so keen on his cause and if he believes he is just a servant of Allah then he should have been the one to suggest this plan:

“It’s alright guys, I’ll give myself up. This will keep the Taliban in power and our training camps intact. It is very sad but it’s the will of Allah. And maybe you guys can try to get me released in a coupla years.”

Just seems like the greater good would have been to give up OBL and keep the Taliban intact, so why didn’t they just give up OBL?

Dictators puzzle me.

He has a plan of escape and I won’t be surprised if he doesn’t get away. If he shaves his mustache and learns to act humble it will be hard to find him.

I suppose, given that OBL seems to have escaped, Saddam doesn’t think it too far fetched that he’d be able to escape in the same way.

I agree though, I don’t know what he’s thinking. If he simply up and destroyed all his weapons, threw open the country to inspectors, I doubt the U.S. would be able to invade, and no one else would attack him either, given our prescence in the area. I’m not sure he really understands that though: maybe he thinks we’ll come in and crush him on any cheap pretext as long as his trump cards are gone. Maybe we would. But my only real guess is this that perhaps he feels his grip on power wouldn’t last internally if he appeared to back down: that would be displaying a weakness uncharacteristic of his propagandized persona, and might lead to a coup. He rules because he is feared, and so he can’t give that up. Even announcing, or even quietly preparing for, exile might mean a death sentance from other power-hungry people. So he’s screwed either way. If Dan Rather’s take is to be believed, Saddam’s one belief is in survival. Everyday he survives, he wins, and that’s what he’s singlemindedly focusing on day in day out, even if he knows it can’t last forever.

Saddam’s Plan (according to MSNBC / Newsweek)

That is just part of it.

I think after the Americans invade, Americans will see more damage and loss of life on their own soil.

At the end of the day another war with Iraq will give the terrorists a better reason to go after the USA.

The Bush regime are playing the RISK board game with people who do drive by shootings. Both sides will take massive losses and no one wins.

There’s also this:

So, apparently, Saddam is sure that the reason he wasn’t taken out in Gulf War I was his backup plan for revenge. And, apparently, he was expecting to be nuked. That certainly sheds a little light on his motives: if he’s convinced that he scared the U.S. off once, he might think that he can do it again if it comes down to it.

If he were smart, he’d simply set up some sort of international plan of terrorist events to be his trump card. If he threatens it, and then we move to take him out, and he actually manages to release a disease or other deadly agent in the U.S. that causes mass death, he knows that Bush would be screwed: he’ll be portraryed as having pushed us headlong into disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if Saddam has something like that up his sleeve.

I agree with Apos, except that the terrorist events will be directed at his own people. He will claim the US did it, but he doesn’t have the infrastructure in the US to carry out terrorist attacks in the US. He does in Iraq.


This turned on a light bulb inside my head.

It’s an essay by Lee Harris called “Al Qaeda’s Fantasy Ideology”, in which he dissects exactly the conundrum you’re wrestling with: how could bin Laden attack the WTC, when (in hindsight) the consequences seem so clear? It’s as applicable to Saddam Hussein, I think.

His thesis is that there are two poles on the spectrum of ideological belief: at one pole, belief is subservient to the pragmatics of attaining that belief, so one’s ideology doesn’t confuse one’s plans for obtaining it; at the other, the belief is superior, so much so that their reality seems (to us) distorted, and their actions are ideologically sound but often counter-productive. In other words, bin Laden struck the WTC because what was important was striking the WTC–that they fell down was Allah’s blessing on an action that confirmed his worldview, that the U.S. is evil. In contrast, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was an eminently rational course of action in furtherance of a strategic vision that was flawed but plausible.

I’ve read elsewhere (in Mark Bowden’s appraisal of him) that Saddam Hussein is thug with ambitions to be a “great man of history”, one of those national leaders who is remembered for some ephemeral quality of ‘greatness’. Thus, standing up to or confounding the U.S. is an act worthy in its own right, insofar as it contributes to his delusions of grandeur. That it has made Iraq and himself a target of the U.S. and may ultimately lead to his downfall isn’t important.

So the question really is: how far towards that “fantasy ideology” pole is Saddam? If he’s all the way over there, then he’ll stand on the roof of one of his presidential palaces firing a pistol in the air while the 101st Airborne roams the streets of Tikrit unchallenged. But the fact that he’s incrementally disarming himself at exactly the pace to keep the U.N. security council from unifying itself in response to his violations of its resolutions, indicates to me that he’s somewhere in the middle. He’s a survivor, and if the U.S. invades, it wouldn’t surprise me too much if Saddam escaped with a lot of money.