|A Worried Man|
Game theory is a dangerous tool the hands of fools, having suggested the optimum
strategy in the Cold War was a pre-emptive strike against the
Russians. Nonetheless, it gives interesting insights into the more temperate
relationship brewing between the US and Iraq. How will these sides play out the
upcoming Gulf War?
Saddam Hussein knows better than to take on the US forces in the desert. Having
made that mistake before, and seeing his line of death turn into a path of
least resistance leading to his mother of all defeats, he will choose a
different strategy this time. He'll meet the US (or more correctly try to avoid
the US) in the cities. The US will have to besiege the cities.
For this strategy to work the troops have to be closely integrated with the
population. US precision bombing has improved over the past 11 years, but it's
still not good enough to take out the tank parked in the double garage. And
taking out the billeted soldier in the spare room has about as much chance as a
rejected asylum seeker voluntarily removing themselves from yours.
Of course this distributed force model creates discipline problems for Saddam,
but he doesn't have much choice. The choice he has to make is how many
cities? At this point the war game resembles chess more than a
conventional war. Saddam has to make the call to protect some number of his
cities, which unfortunately for him can't support each other.
Because of the fragile nature of the military power pyramid, he will lose
control of any military unit he is physically isolated from, and since the
end-game is to protect the king (himself) he will choose first and foremost to
protect Baghdad. If the rest of Iraq is under US control, they can set up their
fledgling puppet government in another city and get on with the job. Baghdad
will eventually crumble by itself, or be taken out with the much touted US
This is really just and extension of the US' containment strategy. They would
rather contain Saddam in a 10 foot cell, but containing him in a city of 4
million may be good enough until they work out how to cut him out without
taking too much good flesh with him.
In the meantime George W Bush, not know for being the sharpest knife in the
draw himself, is trying to fashion his powerful club into a finely tuned
scalpel, and every armchair general from Melbourne to Baghdad is wondering if
he is up to the task. He is unlikely to get a five-star rating.