My Photo

Core topic

« Innumeracy and insurgency | Main | The evolution of revolution »




Absolutely right. For some reason, the analogy to Cuba didn't leap up, but you're on target. I guess others might note that Cuba doesn't have a capability to invade its neighbors, but then again, neither did Saddam. You remember around 2000-2001, Undersecretary of State John Bolton accused Cuba of developing BW weapons and former President Carter stepped in to say "bullcrap?" Who knows, maybe there were some ambitious ideas about taking Cuba out. It sure would have been easier than Iraq, although who knows, long-term insurgency issues may have erupted there also.

I can tell you, DOD did seriously believe WMDs were in Iraq, just much less than what was there in 1991. We did worry about it in the Pentagon, made several contingency plans and bought a lot of extra CBRN defense stuff, and then... nothing. Kinda disappointing that he didn't use any CB weapons in a way, if you take my meaning. We haven't been tested on CB warfare since 1918, be interesting to see what works and what doesn't work, in a strictly impersonal and analytical manner.

In the end, you are right, Iraq was a poorly executed policy drill, wrong strategy focused on the wrong enemy. Too many other CB warfare countries with ties to terrorists for us to have wasted billions of dollars and thousands of lives.


I have a vague recollection that Bob McNamara said a few years after the crisis he’d learned from the Soviets that Castro had threatened to seize and launch the Soviet nukes, regardless of retaliation against Cuba. We got lucky and it didn’t happen.

If that’s true Castro was very briefly a terrible threat to the US homeland. Saddam never was that and after 1992 it’s now clear he was a broken reed.

But in 1992 the US was shocked to find Saddam’s WMD capability was much greater than intelligence suggested. There are stories he was also within a whisker of getting a Skud compatible Pakistani nuke before desert storm.

Recently Wolfowitz said when asked about the Iraqs WMD “what if we’d been wrong the other way” he’s an incredibly clever man who’s been a Pentagon insider since the 70s but I suspect that’s a sincere answer. The reality is statesmen operate on doubtful facts and are conditioned by past mistakes as much as policy.

While I’d view the Iraq war as a major strategic error; being more worried about unpredictable States that may have WMD than the unfamiliar Jihadi threat is perhaps understandable in the historical context.


I'm not sure I would agree that "the US was shocked" by Saddam's WMD program in 1992. Let's be specific, we were pretty much on target about his chem warfare capabilities, it was the BW program that we had no idea about. He may have been further along than what we had thought previous, but lacking any weaponized stocks and any experience in delivering the agent, it wasn't that big of a deal. Re: the nukes, never heard anything about a Paki nuke, but Saddam's modified Scuds were really not that good. Terror tools for Iran, maybe, but not very effective or accurate.

Re: Wolfowitz, don't confuse experience and cleverness for proficiency. His fixation on Saddam and Iraq's future put the US govt on a particular track for clashing with Islam. His use of Saddam's WMD program was a means to an end.


interesting article, really nice read. you mentioned a video of saddam 1979. your description of it made me curious, so i started searching for it. unfortunately i did not find it within the internet. do you know where i could get it?

The comments to this entry are closed.