An expert in international relations thinks the United States and Iraq both believe heavy U.S. air strikes would begin any conflict between the two countries - but they have diametrically different strategies for the next stages.
America's hope is for a quick victory, while Iraq's is to prolong the conflict into a bloody, drawn-out war on the ground, says Jim Toronto, assistant director of the David M. Kennedy for International Studies at Brigham Young University.Toronto, an expert in Middle Eastern studies, has lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, two of them near the Persian Gulf, where American troops are presently poised for a possible strike against Iraq. He also spent four years in Egypt, for a total of about eight years in the region.
At the Deseret News' request, Toronto helped outline two possible opposing military strategies of the belligerents.
A quick victory could be achieved as a result of overwhelming bombing as the conflict opens. Raids by American aircraft would take out supply lines and military equipment parks.
Presumably the strikes would be launched at night, because American fighters, bombers and helicopters are equipped with special night-vision devices that let pilots see the desert almost as bright as day. Iraq has no equivalent high-tech devices.
With satellite surveillance and other methods of checking Iraq's positions, American jets should be able to pinpoint troops, tanks and airfields.
During their eight-year war with Iran, the Iraqis never had to go up against a well-equipped, modern air force or navy. In this case, they would face the best in the world.
"They will never have experienced this kind of thing. So the best-case scenario is, with heavy bombing in the first two or three nights, of military and logistical targets, there would be demoralization of Iraqi troops," he said.
American military strategists, who also plan to use psychological warfare, hope that Iraq's troops would be so demoralized that it would be a relatively easy for ground forces to mop up after the air blitz.
Saddam Hussein has 500,000 soldiers dug in behind heavily fortified earthworks, mostly in Kuwait. Many of the 36 to 38 divisions are battle-hardened from eight years of fighting against Iran.
Allied bombers and fighters would probably have to fly low to hit dug-in targets with any accuracy. That means the waves of airplanes would take heavy losses.
Then, the Iraqis hope, their soldiers will hang tough, undaunted. After all, many of these same troops faced human waves of attacking Iranians without cracking, so they could be expected to stand up under the pounding from the air.
At this point, American troops "go in and are not able to roust them out on the ground," he said. The Iraqis bog down the allied forces in a war of attrition.
Meanwhile, Iraq has attacked Israel, which retaliates.
The Arab countries opposing Iraq drop out of the conflict, unwilling to fight on the same side as the "Zionist" enemy against a fellow Muslim country.
Finally, the Iraqis hope, this is the outcome: America bears the brunt of nearly all the fighting, Western interests are savaged by terrorists throughout the Middle East, causalities mount - and American public opinion turns decisively against the war.
Under that scenario - as in Vietnam - the United States will be forced to pull out in defeat, leaving the Middle East open to Saddam's victorious armies.