Friday, March 28, 2003

I'm thinking about how this whole thing is going to play out... what exactly is Hussein's exit strategy?

A lot of commentators/experts have opined that Hussein's strategy is to drag out the fighting in the hopes that world pressure will force President Bush to accept a cease fire that leaves Hussein in power. Obviously, the success of this plan requires Bush to bow to the pressure and agree to such a deal. Since Bush fancies himself somewhat of the anti-Clinton, and sees Bush I as having made a big mistake in agreeing to do just that at the end of Gulf I, I think it's unlikely that he would ever agree to leave Hussein in charge - no matter what the French or Kofi Annan have to say.

Other writers have advanced the theory that Hussein is intending to go out in a blaze of glory, to be honored by generations upon generations of Arabs. While possible, I wouldn't characterize Hussein as suicidal.

But what if Hussein's plan actually is a combination of both theories? He's looking to to drag out the fighting, killing as many Americans as possible during the fighting, thus burnishing his reputation in the Arab world. And, then, at the eleventh hour, he then offers to leave Iraq. As much as Bush might like to kill/capture Hussein, especially after what was reported to have been done to the American POWs, Bush's stated objective is regime change. It might be hard for him to resist the pressure. After all, his father failed to resist the pressure, agreeing to end Gulf I after his stated goal (liberation of Kuwait) was achieved.

I believe President Bush must resist the pressure. Hussein must not be allowed an exit that would leave him in a position to proclaim himself the victor. We must remember how he did just that following Gulf I - through control of the Iraqi media, and a sympathetic Arab press elsewhere, he portrayed himself as having beaten the US.

My reasoning for advocating this is simple: failing to get Hussein, dead or alive, will in the long run lead to more American deaths. For the Arabs would look at this decision as yet another act of weakness on the part of the US, much as they viewed the premature end of Gulf I as weakness. They view our reluctance to incur casualties as weakness. They view our concern for Iraqi citizens, to the extent that they acknowledge our concern, as weakness. And, as we have seen in the past, it is very dangerous when the Arab/Islamic radical views the US as being weak. Therefore, President Bush must accept nothing less than Hussein's surrender or death. Preferably, the first followed immediately by the second.