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May 21, 2006 11:25 pm

Saddam's Delusions--and the Delusions of "Realism"

For the past three years, we've heard that Saddam Hussein could be"deterred" because he was a rational calculator whose actions could in effect be predicted by decision theory.

This essay, "Saddam's Delusions," in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs is a concise demolition of that view, based on the 230-page report of the Pentagon's US Joint Forces Command's (USJFC) Iraq Perspectives Project. In conjunction with the final report of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group (ISG)--and standard histories such as Kenneth Pollack's The Threatening Storm--we now have in hand a full rebuttal to the"Saddam as rational actor" thesis. There was, frankly, enough evidence to rebut it before the ISG or JSJFC set foot in Iraq, but never mind.

Incidentally, I recently blogged about an important article on Iraqi WMD by James Lacey, the USJFC-IPP report's second author.

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Nick Cullather - 6/13/2006

The Foreign Affairs essay shows that Saddam was

1) overoptimistic about his military's capabilities and the weakenesses of the enemy,
2) deluded about the situation on the ground, especially the existence of WMD in Iraq, and
3) unwilling to listen to dissenting views, even from cabinet ministers

These delusions, according to the Wall Street Journal, gave Saddam's bunker an "Alice in Wonderland" quality. U.S. News says the report reveals how "dysfunctional and twisted the regime's internal working had become."

Is it possible that Saddam was being advised by Karl Rove?

N. Cullather