In the last Gulf war in 1991, allied forces were dealing mainly with a conscript army with no great interest in fighting for a foreign country, Kuwait. When faced with British and American tanks and armoured columns, the Iraqis had a clear alternative to putting up a fight — they could give themselves up and eventually they would be repatriated to Iraq.
This time the Iraqi troops are more motivated. They are defending their own land, homes and families, and the Iraqi state-controlled media has been playing the nationalism card, calling on soldiers to fight the foreign invaders and defend Iraq not Saddam Hussein. American troops found to their cost in Vietnam how powerful patriotism can be.
But the Baathists are the main source of opposition to coalition forces if only because they have no real alternative. They are not like Kosovan Serbs in 1999 who, however reluctantly, could leave the province of Kosovo for another, safe life elsewhere in Serbia on Great Uncle Milan’s farmholding. The Baathists have nowhere to go and, even worse, they know they face a brutal end if they ever fall into the hands of those Iraqi civilians — the majority of the country — who have suffered so much at their hands. Unlike Iraqi soldiers who can safely give themselves up, surrender is not an option for the Baathists.