There has been some discussion on the Libertarian Alliance Forum about “if they know where the weapons are, then why don’t they just tell the inspectors where to go?” I will attempt to tackle this question from a tacticians’ point of view.
Iraq is big: about the size of France and a hell of a lot emptier. There are miles of underground facilities. We can’t possibly be one hundred percent certain we’ve found everything. No matter how long the inspectors take there is uncertainty for the Searchers. However there is also uncertainty for Saddam. He can’t know what our spies have found out, if anything.
So we have a mathematical “game” with two players that might be likened to “battleship”, but is far more complex. It’s also deadly serious. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of lives at stake.
One player has assets on his hidden board and the other player is trying to find them. The second player knows where some of the assets are but can’t even be sure what percentage they know of; the other side knows all of its’ assets but can’t be sure how many of them the other side knows. This gives us a matrix of four possibilities:
- Searcher knows of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher knows of it.
- Searcher does not know of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher knows of it.
- Searcher knows of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher does not know of it.
- Searcher does not know of the asset : Owner believes the Searcher does not know of it.
What is the best strategy for each player?
The owner will be as helpful as possible on all the sites they believe the Searcher knows of. They can clean them out in advance and pretend great surprise at the inspection. The pretense also assists them in their game playing over the other three categories. They know their assumptions about some sites are “false positives” but they can’t know the percentage or which ones are in categories 2 and 3. So their best strategy is to toss some proportion of the uncertain sites in with the first group. They can hope to gain information if they can learn how many of the sacrificed assets were “known”. It might be zero, it might be all. Either way, they gain information for the next round.
The Searcher wishes to give them as little information as possible. They know that categories 2 and 4 exist and the only lever they have is category 3. If the Owner doesn’t know what the Searcher doesn’t know, they may give up more assets they believe are compromised. Some of those assets will be in category 2 and others in 3. The Searcher proves the existence of category 4 this way.
Lets look at the actual situation with Iraq. The UN inspectors have a list of known sites; Saddam will have had them cleaned up in advance. However Saddam must have evidence that some other sites may be compromised. He can’t be sure. His best bet is to force the CIA to show its’ hand. That reduces his uncertainty and gives him a better idea of which assets are safe. He can admit to whatever the CIA finds, claim oversight, apologize and claim “that’s it, there ain’t no more.”
At this point the CIA will have used its’ information up but gained no knowledge in return. They can prove nothing at all and have lost. Saddam can keep his remaining hidden weapons, safe in the knowledge they are firmly in the “we know they don’t know” category. That is the game Saddam would like to see played. He wins and eventually… we lose a city.
A better game plan for the CIA is to give out nothing, or give out only information that might elicit a response which returns useful data. The inspectors will find nothing at the “we know you know” sites; Saddam may try to guess which sites the CIA know so as to preclude getting caught, but he cannot know if he has been successful until the endgame.
Endgame comes at the end of January. The inspectors will lay out what they have found. They may have gotten some “new” sites. The CIA can then estimate how honest Saddam has been. If the inspectors are given info on “everything we know”, then either Saddam has told the truth… or he has outplayed the CIA. In this game plan the odds are in the CIA’s favour.
The existence at endgame of “they didn’t know we know” assets pretty much proves there are also “they know we don’t know ” assets. QED as they say at the end of mathematical proofs. We win and Saddam receives an all expenses paid vacation in Valhalla.