Scenario planning is used in the business world to think about
alternatives. Here are four scenarios on how a war with Iraq this year
could be avoided.
One scenario is that Saddam Hussein could be assassinated by an Iraqi.
This is the US's preferred scenario. It would be a clear route to regime
change and would be done by a local (and not an American stooge). It would
also fit in with a system of changing political leaders in that part of
the world. Saddam Hussein has killed off many of his potential competitors
- but he can never be sure that he has killed them all.
A second scenario is that Saddam Hussein could be encouraged by an
intermediary government, such as France, to go into exile. A number of
political leaders have fled their countries. For example, Idi Amin of
Uganda went to Saudi Arabia and disappeared from the public view. In early
1979, the Shah of Iran fled from Khomeini's takeover and went into Egypt,
and then New York and Mexico. In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos fled
Manila with US encouragement after he lost the election to Mrs Aquino, and
he went to live in Hawaii. In 1997, Marshal Mobutu, who had been president
since 1965, fled the Democratic Republic of Congo. Throughout the
Spanish-speaking world in Latin America, there has been a tradition of
political leaders receiving sanctuary in other countries (as Christopher
Skase found to his benefit, the Anglo-Saxon law of extradition is not as
important as the Spanish principle of extending hospitality to people on
This scenario would also have some appeal for the US. President Bush is
in a corner: having whipped up an expectation of war by claiming that Iraq
has weapons of mass destruction, he hopes that such weapons are found by
the UN inspection team. If they are not found, then he will be accused of
whipping up a war fever unnecessarily and adding to economic instability.
The German President, who was recently re-elected partly on the basis of a
promise to keep his country out of the war against Iraq, would be
particularly gratified by the lack of evidence. Meanwhile, the British and
Australian Prime Ministers have gone out on a limb supporting President
Bush and they would be embarrassed. The retirement option would get Saddam
Hussein off the front pages. It is not a happy ending because he will be
escaping justice. But life is not perfect.
The United States in its public comments has not ruled out acceptance
of this option. Ironically, the more pressure that the US and its allies
exert on Iraq - to demonstrate their determination to get rid of Saddam
Hussein - so the more incentive they create for him to exercise this
A third scenario is that the UN inspection team could extend its work
well into this year. President Bush is planning for a war to begin some
time in March. This seems evident from the way in which the US forces are
being built up in the region. It also fits the weather patterns. The war
has to be fought at this time of year. Military personnel would have to
wear chemical and biological warfare suits and these are best worn in
cooler temperatures - certainly not in an Iraqi summer. Additionally, in
April there are winds whipping up the desert sand, which would get into
the hydraulic systems of tanks and aircraft, and reduce visibility for
Weapons inspectors' reports to the UN Security Council do not
necessarily accord with this timetable for war. The inspection team could
take months to finish its work. However, if the President were to miss his
self-imposed deadline, he could blame the UN for this problem. This would
get him out of the corner noted above.
A final scenario - and a nightmare one - is that Saddam Hussein has in
fact been telling the truth. The weapons of mass destruction have in fact
all been destroyed. This would give him a clean bill of health as far as
the UN is concerned. The sanctions would end and Iraq, with the Middle
East's second-largest oil reserves, could return to the full export of
oil. The country can be rebuilt. Then, perhaps, after a few years of
economic growth and international respectability, he could secretly start
rebuilding reserves of weapons of mass destruction.
It is not the role of scenario planning to pick winners: to select
options that we prefer. So it is left to the reader to evaluate the above
possibilities. The goal of the technique is not so much to get the future
right as to avoid getting it wrong. It helps us to think outside the
square, and encourages us to develop contingency plans for possibilities
that we had not previously considered. Applied in this case, it shows
that, despite what appears to be consensus opinion, war in Iraq is still
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