There are certain weird aspects to the Iraq situation. For some weeks, the Administration has been announcing its plans to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Various details of strategy and tactics, including movements of troops and other military assets, are in the news nearly every day. Iraqi officials, meanwhile, give interviews to the Washington Post in which they detail their defensive strategy. They will not defend the desert, as in Desert Storm: “Take the desert. What’s in the desert?” they ask. Instead, they will try to lure American troops into Baghdad, where air power will be neutralized and building-by-building fighting will claim American lives. Ordinarily, nations contemplating war do not give interviews so that their battle plans will appear in newspapers. What is happening here, of course, is that we are announcing our plans for the benefit of the Iraqi audience. We want Iraqi officials and soldiers to know that Saddam Hussein is finished and they should not sacrifice their lives to defend his regime, nor should they obey his orders if he tries to unleash biological and chemical weapons. Our constant leaking of war aims and strategies is intended for an audience in Iraq. Saddam Hussein, meanwhile, is doing exactly the same thing. When his officials describe their urban warfare strategy to the Washington Post, they are playing to an American audience. They are trying to furnish ammunition to antiwar Democrats in hopes that they will be able to frustrate the Administration’s desire to overthrow Saddam’s government. Whether either side’s actual tactics in the war, should it come, will resemble the ones they leak to newspapers, remains to be seen.
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