by Austin Bay
October 8, 2002
The American president delivers a blistering speech promising an
all-out assault on Iraq -- and economic aid in the aftermath. The American
opposition leader, at times a doubting dove but always a calculating
politician, announces from the well of the Senate that the president will
have a definitive national mandate for war.
Suggestive reports circulate. The Pentagon is massing armor in
Kuwait and training troops in Jordan. Odd little wire stories mention U.S.
and Turkish special operations forces at "abandoned airfields" in northern
Iraq. TV squawk shows host retired colonels who draw arrows on the screen
representing "multiple axises of advance." Upscale Iraqi refugees, now
called defectors, accede to interviews with left-wing British journalists.
Beyond the world of speculation and hot rhetoric, hot lead
delivers its own explicit message. U.S.-led airstrikes not only blast radar
sites, but the town of Tikrit, hometurf of Saddam's ruling elite, sees its
electric power and water systems destroyed, its government offices smashed
by precision munitions and local "palaces" reduced to dust.
Aggressive diplomacy, saber-rattling information, selective but
harsh military action? Yes, and joined for a purpose.
Consider it a script for inducing a Baghdad coup. Except this
isn't Hollywood, where deception is paper mache and Barbra Streisand quoting
faux Shakespeare. In this script, deception relies on demonstrated,
unquestionable intent and proven, violent capability.
To students of strategy, all warfare is psychological
operations. Whether the means are bullets or bluster, war is an attack on an
opponent's will to resist. The targets of this psy-ops campaign are Saddam's
henchmen and fellow gangsters, the regime's human support structure that has
the means and opportunity to remove Saddam.
Psy ops gives this inner circle the third element necessary for
a coup, an immediate motive. Think of it as their personal "exit strategy."
Imminent U.S. action translates into loss of Swiss bank accounts as well as
loss of life.
Unless, of course, you do Uncle Sam a favor, and aiding a
"ballot by Beretta" earns plotters post-Saddam consideration.
A successful coup has always been Washington's aim. Internal
Iraqi action means the war does not escalate. U.S. troops are not at risk.
Iraqi infrastructure remains intact. Iraqi civilians (Saddam's chief
victims) are liberated with less bloodshed.
Saddam's a master at thwarting coups. CIA-sponsored covert
action has a miserable record. However, open source indicators suggest the
odds of a successful internal revolt or covert action may be improving.
- Republican Guard morale has declined.
- Members of Saddam's own tribal clan have been contacting
Iraqi dissidents, with a view to saving their own necks.
- Allied aircraft are dropping leaflets promising the
destruction of anyone resisting allied attacks. The leaflets end with, "You
could be next." B-52 attacks on regime enforcement units like the Republican
Guard and Special Republican Guard would amplify that message.
- U.S. intent is clear. That's vital. Coup plotters must be
certain Western leaders are resolved to decisive military action. Few doubt
President Bush has the gumption -- and that perception is critical. Leftist
appeaseniks are doing their bit. Convinced Bush is a gung-ho warmongering
Texas Republican cowboy, their peace march megaphones reinforce the notion
"he's gonna pull the trigger." God bless occasionally useful idiots.
With the exception of the attacks on Tikrit and Saddam's
palaces, the diplomatic and military moves in this column's first paragraphs
are occurring. When Tikrit is bombed, watch out. The real cue for a coup,
however, will be a concerted military ground move.
Would a coup solve all problems? Of course not. Post-Saddam Iraq
under any circumstances will be fractured and fractious. However, Saddam
won't be replaced by another Saddam. The new crew in Baghdad must rely on
the United States for aid and support. That comes at the price of destroying
weapons of mass destruction, the raison d'etre for war.
Is a coup d'etat at this late date a Bush administration pipe
dream? Arguably, the United States is attempting to take psy-ops to a new
level, but with Iraqi morale already rotten, orchestrating diplomatic,
information and military power to induce an anti-Saddam coup has a real
chance of succeeding.