Wednesday, February 12, 2003

What Would I Do …

… if I were in Saddam Hussein’s shoes? Now, I do not see any path out of this mess that does not involve an American invasion of Iraq. Georgie Bush wants a war, and he’s jolly well gonna get one. How could Saddam survive?

Well, there are some things I certainly would not do:

  • Take the money and run. Abdicate and move to a nice villa in Majorca or some such. You could have a lot of fun with the billions of dollars that Saddam has stashed away. However, he’d have to get one of those little machines that gives out numbers, like they use in delis, to keep the assassins under control. Saddam has a lot of people who don’t like him one little bit. More importantly, political power is the most addictive drug known, and it would be completely out of character to just toss it away.
  • Give up. Stop hassling the inspectors, show them where the poison gas is, and hope for the best. Way out of character, and probably useless anyway. Georgie Bush has as much as said that he wants Saddam’s head on a plate. Meekly kneeling down to the executioner would accomplish nothing except to make Georgie look like a hero.
  • Defend the Homeland. Send out the Republican Guard to fight for every square inch of Iraqi territory. This is, I think, exactly what Georgie is expecting Saddam to do. He does, the RG gets squashed like bugs, and the Americans roll into Baghdad unopposed. Game over.
  • Preemptive Strike. Start launching Scud missiles at the American troop buildups. This would do some damage, but would just give Georgie a lot of incentive and public support. Most of the peace movement would probably go away right then.

So what’s left ? Plenty. First some assumptions:

  • Americans have a very limited attention span. If the war can be drawn out until summer, Georgie’s public support will evaporate. The Americans will claim a victory, go home, bluster a lot, and start preparations for the 2004 elections.
  • Americans are averse to casualties. Whatever is done has to involve lots of dead American soldiers. note: I think that most other nationalities seriously underestimate Americans here, especially national leaders of the dictatorial disposition. However, Saddam almost certainly does think that way.
  • Americans are totally grossed out by civilian casualties. Put them in a situation where achieving a military objective may involve killing civilians and the objective probably won’t get accomplished. However, this reluctance does not extend to civilian infrastructure like power and water, even though its destruction is still a “war crime”. However, beware – any actual “war crimes” trials will be conducted by the Americans. Remember in WWII, the bombings of Coventry and Rotterdam were “war crimes”, but the bombings of Dresden and Tokyo weren’t. German subs sinking British merchant ships was a “war crime”; American subs sinking Japanese merchant ships wasn’t.
  • Americans see wars (especially safe little wars like an invasion of Iraq) as testing grounds for their little technological knicknaks. In Afghanistan and Desert Storm, they were quite effective. In Kosovo, a lot less so. Most of them are designed like video games; the more you make yourself look like a video game, the more effective they’ll be. The corollary is obvious – do your darndest to avoid looking like a video game.
  • In the open, the American army is unbeatable. In addition, anything that is an obvious military target (especially tanks), in the open, will be swatted by American airstrikes. This means that any shipment of troops, material, etc, has to be in position and under cover before the shin-kicking starts.
  • The Iraqi regular army is useless. They are poorly equipped, poorly trained, and have no particular loyalty to Saddam. The Republican Guards are the only forces we really have to play with.
  • Iraq has no capability in high technology. Anything more complicated than an artillery shell is going to have to be bought on the world market and converted to military use. Even then, it’s not a real High Percentage Shot. Essentially all Americans grew up in a society saturated with radios, TVs, cars, computers, satellites, video games, etc, etc, etc. Most Iraqis did not. Makes a big difference in attitude.

OK. So what do we do?

First, get rid of anything and everything that even looks like it might have something to do with nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. In the coming fracas, they’ll be more of a liability than an asset, and their presence is Georgie’s entire rationale for starting this war in the first place. If it turns out that Iraq really did destroy all of its <echo_chamber>Weapons of Mass Destruction</echo_chamber>, Georgie would be in a huge amount of hot water. It could easily cost him the next election.

Second, move the Republican Guard into prepared positions inside cities, especially Baghdad and Basra. Get tanks and artillery under cover, where they can’t be spotted from the air but can be gotten into street fights quickly. An Iraqi tank is no match for an American tank, but it’s death on infantry, and the Americans don’t have enough tanks to have them everywhere.

Communications. Saddam should have long since put in a policy of “cellphones for everybody”. If the Americans bomb cellphone towers (they will) you can scream about “destruction of civilian infrastructure” and suchlike. However, the more you have, the harder it will be to get them all. And the cellphones will work just fine for communications with the troops. A bonus is that CDMA and GSM cellphones are encrypted. Won’t stop the Army COMINT guys for long (the encryption is deliberately crippled), but it should slow them down. An hour is a long time in house-to-house fighting, and there’s no a priori way to tell a harmless civilian call from a military command-and-control call without cracking it.

In addition, there are indications that you can use cellphone emissions to find “stealth” aircraft (see here or here for brief descriptions of How to Do It.) While this wouldn’t be very useful for Iraq as “air defense” (they simply don’t have much to shoot with), it would be an excellent early warning system.

Another thing that should have been done in the last ten years is to dig an extensive network of underground tunnels. These can be used to move troops around, but their main purpose is as command-and-control centers. When the war starts, nobody important should be “under” anything in particular. The Americans are very cagey about the exact capabilities of their “bunker busters”; best not to find out the hard way. However, the Americans can’t bomb everything. Make sure that there are no maps, and that anybody who knows where everything is is inside the tunnels.

The invasion will start with a 1-2 week intensive air attack. As soon as this starts, you can fire off the Scuds at the American staging areas. This is about the last chance we’ll have to shoot them off. Shoot a couple at Israel to show that you’re a Good Muslim, but remember who (and where!) the real enemy is. Don’t be too quick – the Americans assume they have the right to bomb anything they don’t like the looks of, and have been doing so since Desert Storm ended. If you jump the gun on an “ordinary” attack, you’ll be giving up the “moral high ground” by attacking first. Make sure this is the real thing. If you have antiship missiles, shoot them off too. They’d be more useful later, but your defenses will be “seriously degraded” by then. Use ‘em or lose ‘em.

Another thing to do now is to hand out small arms to all & sundry. Perhaps some civilians will take potshots at the Americans. It’ll certainly make things interesting for any occupation government. A lot of people will use them to settle old scores; this is cool. More civilian casualties to blame on the Americans.

As soon as the invasion starts, turn on the GPS jammers. Supposedly, Iraq got a whole bunch of these from (IIRC) Ukraine. Yeah, each jammer won’t last long, but it could really mess things up for troops in a city. “Where are you?” “The GPS says …uhh …” From what I’ve heard, they’re dirt cheap. There’s also the Serbian Microwave Oven Trick that might be worth a try. Note: I’ve seen “debunkings” of both these stories. However, the radio signals that GPS works on are mindbogglingly weak and should be easy to jam. As to “home on jam”, that’s why you have a lot of them. As to the Serbs using microwave ovens to decoy anti-radar missiles, if it doesn’t work, I know how to make a radar that’s immune to anti-radar missiles …

Again, when the invasion starts, send out the regular army. They’ll surrender in droves, and might actually slow the Americans down a bit. Send out RPVs (I’ve seen pictures of Iraqi RPVs, but I can’t find the link) with commercial video cameras strapped to them for intelligence. It’ll also make the Americans seriously nervous, as they’ll be expecting poison gas or anthrax or some such (if they see them at all). Don’t try to remote control them – the Americans will take them away from you. Just use a simple out-and-back timer.

When the Americans reach Baghdad is the time to start fighting. Street fighting is the Ultimate American Nightmare – see Blackhawk Down for details. Here’s a CNN article. Remember, the object is to delay and cause casualties. “Victory” means that the Americans get tired of getting shot and go home.

Will Saddam Do It?

Probably not. He’s never shown the glimmer of anything approaching tactical or strategic military talent. His talents tend toward more toward local politics and brutality to the helpless. The only reason Iraq survived the war with Iran was that the Iranians were even worse – they were the Muslim equivalent of the Plains Indian Ghost Dancers, believing that their religious faith would shield them from bullets. Didn’t work.

Probably, he’ll hide in a bunker under one of his “palaces” and get buried by a “bunker buster”. Note that experience in WWII with ”earthquake bombs” shows that near-misses are more effective than direct hits. The only defense is to be somewhere else when it hits.

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