The 'Rocky' strategy?

February 15, 1991

Judging from Iraq's dramatic announcement today that it is prepared to withdraw from Kuwait and end the Persian Gulf war, we can't help but wonder if Saddam Hussein might be drawing his military strategy not from the military manuals but rather from the 1976 American film classic "Rocky."

Consider events over the past 48 hours: On Tuesday a large number of people, including women and children, were killed when an American pilot dropped a precision bomb into a building in Baghdad.

Let us accept, without dispute, the American version of what happened: It was a legitimate bombing attack on a sophisticated command and control station in time of war, and there was no indication whatsoever that any civilians were inside.

Let us also accept, without dispute, that Saddam Hussein, a fiendish man with no more regard for the lives of his countrymen than so many scorpions, deliberately placed those innocents in that shelter, knowing that sooner or later it would be blown up.

Accept all of these things, and the fact remains that an American pilot dropped the bomb which killed a large number of Arab women and children. That's the anguishing scene which went out to the world -- especially the Arab world.

The fact also remains that at the outset of this war, our military planners must have told George Bush that something like this episode was certain to happen in the course of the war and will certainly happen again if continues.

And the fact is, further, Saddam Hussein knew it, too.

So the question becomes, is Saddam Hussein's strategy to replicate the story of the immensely popular film "Rocky"? In that saga, a flabby neighborhood ne'er-do-well gym fly somehow finagled a boxing match with the heavyweight champion of the world and, after taking the most merciless pounding ever inflicted on a boxer in history, was still on his feet when the final bell sounded.

Rocky lost by a decision; everyone knew he would. In the process an erstwhile soft-porn moviemaker named Sylvester Stallone became an American icon.

Is there any reason to believe that Saddam Hussein can't take everything we can throw at him, still be standing when the final bell sounds -- and become an Arab hero? Can it be that his announcement today that he is prepared to withdraw from Kuwait -- even though President Bush believes it to be a "cruel hoax" -- is the first step in that direction?

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