NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Opinion On Iraq: Deterrence Is Not An Option

September 26, 2002

Can Saddam Hussein be deterred from using weapons of mass destruction? Or, does he think he can deter the U.S. from military action against him by possessing such weapons, including nuclear ones?

Unfortunately, says former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Kenneth M. Pollack, Hussein "is often unintentionally suicidal -- that is, he miscalculates his odds of success and frequently ignores the likelihood of catastrophic failure."

Hussein is deeply ignorant of the outside world, is surrounded by sycophants and has unrealistic ideas.

  • In 1974, for example, he attacked the Kurds even though Iran had been arming and supporting them (with American and Israeli support) -- and after the shah of Iran sent troops into Iraqi Kurdistan, signed the humiliating Algiers accord, which gave Iran everything it wanted, including contested territory.
  • In 1980 he attacked Iran under the misguided assumption that the new Islamic Republic was so unpopular that it would collapse -- instead, he embroiled Iraq in a war that nearly destroyed his own regime.
  • In 1991, rather than withdrawing from Kuwait and heading off a war, he convinced himself that the American-led coalition would not attack and that if it did, his army would emerge victorious.

In August 1990 he ordered a crash program to build one nuclear weapon, which failed only because the Iraqis could not enrich enough uranium in time. If he acquires nuclear weapons, warns Pollack, he would threaten their use to deter the United States from interfering in his efforts to conquer or blackmail neighboring countries.

Source: Kenneth M. Pollack, "Why Iraq Can't Be Deterred," New York Times, September 26, 2002.


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