Understanding Saddam

Explaining Saddam's motivations could be an asset for dealing with other tyrants.

Issue: Fall 2005

The recent reports of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Iraq Survey Group, and the Presidential WMD Commission regarding intelligence and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq offer many useful insights into Iraq's weapons programs and the challenges that the intelligence community faced in assessing them. But the reports offer no conclusive answer to a key question: How did Saddam Hussein plan to fight the war and avert defeat at the hands of the world's sole superpower without WMD? This is a troubling omission. After all, Saddam believed WMD to be the key to averting defeat during the Iran-Iraq War and to deterring the United States from "going on to Baghdad" after liberating Kuwait in 1991. If there was a time that Saddam needed WMD to fend off a threat to the very survival of his regime, it was in March 2003. This question must be answered if future WMD intelligence failures--in Iran, North Korea or elsewhere--are to be avoided.

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