December 18, 2003
Discussion Board on this On Point
What are the "cascading effects" of Saddam?s capture?
The following quick history serves as a example of what strategists mean by
"cascading effects" from a successful operation ?effects that may have
When Alexander the Great?s Macedonians defeated the Persians at Gaugamela (331
BC), the "pursuit phase" began when the Persian line caved and panicked
imperial troops fled. The Persian units became a disorganized throng of
frightened men, easy targets for Macedonian cavalry. Persian casualties
skyrocketed into the tens of thousands. Historical sources estimate Macedonian
losses at fewer than 300 men.
Gaugemela was touch and go at times (the Persians vastly outnumbered the
Hellenes), but when the Persians shattered, the Macedonians? advantages
multiplied. The relentless Alexander chased Darius, the Persian emperor, over
400 miles, before Darius? own retinue turned on the potentate and killed him.
Alexander became the unquestioned ruler of Persia.
"Cascading effects" occurred on the battlefield, with the Macedonians
exploiting their tactical success to destroy the Persian army. The military
victory then "cascaded" into a large-scale political pay-off.
Check the map. Gaugamela is near Irbil, Iraq, which is north of Saddam
Hussein?s now world famous rat hole outside of Tikrit.
Scooping Saddam from his spider den isn?t history the size of Gaugamela, but it
ain?t bean bag, either. Saddam?s capture has the potential for producing
extraordinary change in the world?s most politically dysfunctional region, the
The short and long term significance of these "cascading effects" depend on many
things, including American diplomatic skill and the emerging effectiveness of
Iraq?s Governing Council, but here?s a list of interesting "could-bes":
Immediate security effects in Iraq: Saddam?s capture provided immediate
operational intelligence, with the names of financiers, bomb-makers, and
resistance leaders among his papers. His documents fingered another dozen
terror cells in Baghdad.
Damage to fascist morale: Though Baath and Al Qaeda terror attacks continue,
Saddam?s arrest saps the morale of even the most hard-core thugs. Chairman of
the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers said it well: "When you take
this leader ...and find him in a hole in the ground, that is a powerful signal
that you maybe on the wrong team and maybe should be thinking about some other
line of work."
Strategic intelligence: Pumping Saddam for details on his Weapons of Mass
Destruction programs will take time, but the long-term pay-off will be an
improved US and UN capability to counter the proliferation of nuclear and
chemical weapons. Likewise, the evidence that Saddam facilitated both secular
and religious terrorists is mounting, Our ability to counter terror networks
Intermediate domestic political effects: In US domestic politics, the arrest
makes anger-driven anti-war candidates like Howard Dean look even more fatuous
and fringe. Senator Joe Lieberman?s candidacy is revived. Of course, the big
winner is President George Bush. His strategy of reconfiguring the War on
Terror as a war of liberators versus tyrants gets a huge boost.
International political effects: Every Middle Eastern autocrat saw the haggard
Saddam pulled from the hole. The message: America means to see this war
through. To avoid Saddam?s fate means political liberalization. The Iranian
mullahs are on notice.
Long-term cultural effects: Good-riddance to the myth of the Middle Eastern
strong man. The photos of a weary Saddam smash more than just his reputation
and ability to inspire fear. Saddam compared himself to the Mesopotamian
conqueror Hammurabi. He compared himself to Saladin, the Kurdish Moslem knight
who beat the Crusaders. Long-abused populations throughout the Middle East have
been fed the poppycock that their miserable conditions will suddenly change if
they just support the tyrant. It?s a delusion that drives fanatics in
Palestine. Now the man who threatened the Mother of All Battles turns out to be
momma's little wimp. No martyr he ? Saddam surrendered without firing a shot.
Western peaceniks and other terrorist enablers will call this further
humiliation of Arabs. As usual they?re wrong. It?s a chance for cultural
liberation, to escape the dismal oppression of autocratic bullies.