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There is still a good chance we can avoid war with Iraq. Saddam Hussein has never won a war, and his military forces surely foresee their own destruction. Numerous assassination attempts by them (some involving the Republican Guard) have failed. They are likely trying again, even now. Therein lies our best hope.

What if they fail again? Then invasion by the U.S. is inevitable.

Prior to our war in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld emphasized that the imminent war would be different from what nearly everyone expected. I don’t think he knew exactly what was going to happen, but he did know that the conventional wisdom was irrelevant. He was planning to engage in “unconventional warfare,” a paradigm developed by the Special Operations Command that involves both new doctrine and new technology. Rumsfeld was right. No newspaper pundit foresaw that the Taliban would be overthrown within months using ground troops who were predominantly Muslim.

The Iraq war too will be different from what nearly everyone expects. There will be yet new doctrine and new weapons. It will not be another Desert Storm. I can’t predict the detailed course of events; I doubt that even Secretary Rumsfeld could do that. War is no more predictable than is a game of chess. Even if we know the rules and the strengths of the players, there are two sides. Early choices made by the opponent can drastically affect the course of moves as well as the outcome.

Instead, I’ll describe one plausible scenario (out of many possible) that illustrates the technologies and doctrine that I think will prove important.

My scenario begins when the U.N. inspectors become frustrated and leave Iraq. That’s the war trigger. I don’t envy the inspectors; Saddam Hussein may try to take them hostage and keep them at targeted military facilities. Their job is even more dangerous than that of the U.S. president (9.3 percent of whom have been assassinated while in office).

The initial part of the war will seem familiar: massive bombing of military and communication facilities, with the same precise bombs used in Afghanistan. All Iraqi military and public broadcast stations will soon be shut down. New ones will appear, transmitted from airplanes and new ground stations, with native Iraqi announcers. They will update the progress of the war, with an emphasis on accuracy, so that people will eagerly listen and learn to trust the announcers. They will describe Saddam’s known horrors, the U.N.’s unanimous resolution, the backing of the Arab League (if the U.S. gets it for the war too), and surrender instructions. What is said will ring true, because the military will broadcast only the truth. Truth is more effective than propaganda. That (as well as the use of native announcers) is the doctrine of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

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