Skip to comments.Can Saddam be surprised?
Posted on 02/12/2003 8:48:22 PM PST by NormsRevenge
Can Saddam Hussein be surprised? The answer is yes, if the Americans have good, precise intelligence, and of course, a good operational plan - and even then, it depends on the type of surprise. Without good intelligence, the surprise will be dependent on accident and luck. There are simple or tactical surprises with temporary or partial effects, but they can also turn into a series of actions that will obstruct Saddam's moves and have a significant influence on the war. That sort of surprise, for example, could be a rapid occupation of western Iraq, to prevent an Iraqi action against Israel, or taking over the oil fields in an opening move to prevent Saddam from setting them on fire.
A tactical surprise could also be in the timing of the start of the war. The natural tendency is to determine that day by the size of the forces the Americans have in the area. Therefore many people count the number of aircraft carriers or divisions that have reached Iraq's borders. So, if the war opens before the number of forces has reached the size most believe necessary for the campaign, there could be a tactical surprise. The lack of forces could be made up in stages, by quickly sending the rest of the troops into the area after the fighting has begun. Therefore, it's wise to be cautious about determinations predicting the start of the war according to the number of troops in the area.
A surprise in the opening phase of the war does not automatically guarantee a quick, decisive victory, as we learned in the Yom Kippur War. As that war stretched on, we were able to turn the tables, despite the painful surprise at the beginning. On the other hand, Israel managed to dictate the results of the entire campaign in 1967, with a surprise opening move by the air force. In both cases, the rivals were far smaller than the U.S. It has power and means that Iraq does not have, and it can surprise with those means, in addition to the strategic depth it can gain during the campaign.
A key question is whether the U.S. can achieve a strategic surprise. That depends on the goals of the war. For example, a move that would drastically shorten the war would be if the U.S. and Britain manage immediately, at the first stage, to eliminate Saddam Hussein and the ruling elite of Iraq. The Americans are also talking about a surprise Iraqi coup against Saddam, but judging from Iraqi failures in the past in that area, it's doubtful it's worth pinning much hope on such a surprise.
Achieving strategic surprise requires what was mentioned in the opening paragraph - good, precise intelligence, meaning information that would lead to finding Saddam in the opening stages. Richard Perle, one of the leading strategists in the administration, speaks of a war lasting 30 days. That is a long time in the Middle East, especially if there are many civilian casualties, which could send shock waves throughout various countries in the region. The U.S. cannot afford to reach the stage in Iraq that it reached in Afghanistan, where it still does not know what happened to Osama bin Laden. Is he alive or dead? Is he continuing to give orders and religious instruction? Will we even know if Saddam is wounded in the war?
Iraq has neither jungles nor mountains like Afghanistan, but there's no doubt Saddam has deep bunkers hidden in various locations. The professional military literature in the U.S. has dealt a lot with the question of the type of heavy bombs capable of penetrating such bunkers. There is even talk about using small nuclear bombs deep underground. Such an American action is possible only if Saddam orders the use of weapons of mass destruction against American forces or one of his neighbors, including Israel - and it would be an American strategic surprise, not only for Iraq, but for the entire world.