Bush vs. Saddam

An interesting article from SMH :

Alternatives to the Bush plan, anyone?

By Jennifer Hewett
September 26 2002

There are no good options when it comes to Iraq. But can we at least avoid the sanctimonious pretence that doing nothing is so morally superior? All the anti-US, anti-war sentiment tends to neglect one crucial point. It would be better for everyone - but most particularly the people of Iraq - if there were the “regime change” the Bush Administration is demanding.

The real arguments are whether to try to achieve that - in particular, whether even a short war is worth the risk to Iraqi civilian lives and the world’s fragile grip on a stability of sorts. Despite the recent enthusiasm for the complicated politics of the United Nations and Security Council, it is evident that the UN has failed to counter reinvigorated Iraqi weapons programs over the past several years. Whether readmitted weapons inspectors can be any more effective now is still dubious.

But it should be acknowledged that the only reason the UN is even making an attempt at this is precisely because of US belligerence and the threat to take military action alone if the Security Council does not. Otherwise, everyone would just conveniently ignore the whole thing. Again.

When the Clinton administration faced a similar impasse, it bellowed loudly and repeatedly, threatened huge military retaliation and - in the end - backed right off. Its apocalyptic warnings were reduced to supporting a continuation of the increasingly porous oil embargo and a brief bombing assault, followed up by regular but limited raids against military targets in the no-fly zones.

The power reality was that Saddam Hussein had called the Americans’ bluff and everyone knew it. This was much easier to gloss over in the pre-September 11 era when the main US military preoccupation was ensuring that not a single soldier’s life was lost.

The Bush Administration now has a completely different view of the world, of course, and is formalising it in its new doctrine of pre-emptive action. That’s a strategy that terrifies many other countries - and many Americans - a feeling not eased by the new Bush manifesto unveiled last weekend which basically argued that the old concepts of deterrence no longer work.

Instead, this doctrine maintains that the sort of states which sponsor terrorism are more dangerous than their Cold War predecessors and are more likely to use weapons of mass destruction to try to destroy the US. That may be true but it is unprovable until it is too late.

Also unprovable so far - despite the best efforts of the US Administration and the dossier of the Blair Government - is any direct link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The head of Saddam Hussein can be no convenient replacement for that of Osama bin Laden.

That leaves the argument that Saddam is still an “imminent” threat to US security courtesy of his weapons of mass destruction and his consistently hostile behaviour.

Now it is also consistent to insist that any tyrant - no matter how bad - is a problem for that country alone unless he is just such a threat to others. It’s one reason why the Labor Party is insisting that there must be greater evidence to justify any military action. But in the end, these “facts” always come down to interpretations and judgements about credibility and intent.

It’s also true that all such tests are selective. Pick your despot. The regime in North Korea, for example, is obviously a potential danger to the world, particularly given its obvious interest in building its weapons of mass destruction. Yet in the decades since the Korean War, the US has pursued diplomacy as its only option even if Bush now describes the country as part of the “axis of evil”.

Double standards have always been the standard fare of international behaviour. Already, the new war on terrorism - as opposed to the old war on communism - means the US is again more willing to overlook any little problems with democratic values among its potential allies, for example. It is also even less likely to punish Israel for its self-declared “war on terror” despite the collateral damage the Israeli actions are causing the US.

But it is no longer willing to overlook a particularly vicious and unpredictable regime in Iraq. That means war remains more likely than not - and quite possibly without the backing of the Security Council. It’s easy to criticise the likely results and the dangers involved. Finding an acceptable alternative - that will work - is much harder.

If, if, I really believed, and more importantly thought anyone in the region believed, we gave a crap about democracy, rather than oil, I’d be far more inclined to support efforts to remove tyrants with weapons of mass destruction. However, as it stands, I have to think if deterrence was good enough for Stalin and Mao it’s good enough for that punk Saddam. He’s got no ties to Al Qaeda that anyone’s seen fit to put forth, other than general statements with no corroboration, and they’d probably be as likely to use any WMDs on him as us. After all, they’ve made their home in northern Iraq - Kurdish territory. Some say they’re allied with the Iranians and others claim they’re in with certain Kurdish factions. Nobody, outside Rummy, seems to think Hussein’s got anything to do with it.

If Saddam actually got a nuke and threatened to use it - he’d be history. Period. Surely he knows that as well as we do.

If we go in we’ll be managing an occupation and installing a Vichy government of collaborators, because we sure don’t want a hostile democracy after all that hard work. We’ll also have to tap down the Kurdish semi-autonomous state that’s grown up under the protection of our no-fly zones. Turkey hates that development and we need them more than the Kurds. (And I suspect, Kurds-in-exile aside, that the Kurds know that as well as we do). And the Shi’ites? We can’t let them have too much of a voice. The Shi’ite population in Saudi Arabia happens to live where the oil is (near the Iranian and Iraqi borders) which makes the Saudi’s as nervous about the Shi’ites as the Turks are about The Kurds. Not to mention Iran might attempt to make political inroads there with their fellow Shi’ites as they did with their allies in western Afghanistan (still a trouble spot for the U.S.).

And we’re going to be ringmaster for all of this? Without international assistance?

I dunno - this is the ‘if everything goes right’ scenario. What if we toss in WMD scuds lobbed at Israel and a massive response (because, frankly, Sharon wins if he can trigger a theatre wide conflict with the U.S. as allies)? What about radical revolts in bordering Islamic countries as The Arab Street ™ reacts to an imperialist aggressor? What about India, Russia or China deciding that this ‘first strike’ policy is good for them too?

I think waiting, until we have some kind of global concensus is a much better idea than just pulling out the stops because this administration, and the oil lobby, think they can get away with it.

Anybody remember a guy named Osama? First things first.

That wasn’t written by Jennifer Love Hewitt, was it?

Ha! That’s what I thought! What, she thought nobody’d notice if she dropped the middle name?

Just what we need…Another actress-turned-political-columnist.

Sadly my eyes glazed over and missed the whole article. I could only imagine a jello cat fight between Jennifer love Hewitt and ann coulter.

Because if that cat fight was televised I know who would win.

Me.

Chet

Since the oil that we import from the Middle East (and certainly from Iraq in particular… ;) is a tiny percentage of our oil imports, I’m not so sure that oil is our government’s drivcing goal. We import far greater quantities of oil from Canada, Mexico, South America, and Africa. I hear a lot of people use that “America just cares about the oil” argument, but I’ve never seen them provide any facts to back it up.

While Gulf exports make up a small, but respectible, percentage of our domestic imports they’re a huge part of oil imports in Europe and Asia. We need a stable global market because we’re so tied into the global economy. Even a little hike through OPEC can have a disproportionate effect domestically since so many different industries are reliant on oil at so many different stages of the production and distribution chains.

It’s not all altruism though. The oil reserves there are of strategic military importance, for one thing. For another, American petrochemical concerns make up the dominant percentage of the businesses involved in the region.

I agree that no good connection between Saddam and al Qaeda has been found, but here’s some political calculus for you:

  1. Saddam supports terrorism in general. No doubt about that. He pays big healthy checks to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

  2. Al Qaeda has been experimenting with WMD. Proof found in Afghanistan and tapes of gasses animals shown on Al Jazeera.

  3. WMD take much more money and equipment to manufacture than al Qaeda can maintain in their Afghan bunkers (many now obliterated) and German sleeper cell hotel rooms.

  4. It’s certainly not a secret that Iraq has WMD. Al Qaeda – and any number of other terrorist groups – obviously know that Iraq could be a source of those weapons.

Some people may want to say that there’s no ideological compatibility between the secular Hussein and extreme Islamic al Qaeda. But that’s clearly untrue; the common denominator is hatred of America and hatred of Israel.

The point? If there’s not already an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, there feasily could be in the future.

Good article, by the way, Sean. Very thoughtful and discerning. Thanks for sharing it.

…and he’ll quite happily commit suicide by nuking us through a proxy, because he’s insane. Which is what this all comes down to.

Here’s a fun news analysis from today’s Post. For Bush Facts Are Malleable.

Hey that wasn’t “really” writtin bye Jennifer love hewitt was it?

I tell ya, Bush scares the hell out of me. He seems so intent on convincing the people to support a war that he hasn’t bothered with simple things like “the truth”.

You don’t manage to keep power for 23 years (?) in an area as volatile as the Middle East if you’re insane in the way you seem to suggest.

I have to agree with Anders on this one.

I don’t think Saddam is as insane as people seem to want him to be. His one major flaw is lack of ability to see the world from an outside view. He invaded Iran because he assumed it would be easy. Oops. He invaded Kuwait because he didn’t think anyone would care. Oops. He gassed his own people because he didn’t think the world would get involved in an internal Iraqi issue (and, really, the world never cared before when he did it, so it makes sense that he assumed they wouldn’t care in 1992).

I doubt that he has the same flaw when it comes to nuclear weapons. He wants to stay in power until he dies from natural causes. He knows how far he can push the outside world before his rule is threatened, and I really don’t see him thinking that killing several thousand foreigners in a nuclear armed country is something he can do without getting slagged.

He doesn’t seem to be one of these Muslims that believes he’s going to heaven to be serviced by virgins if he dies in the name of Allah. If he thought that, he would have told the U.S. to screw off a long time ago. He would have gassed Israel during the Persian Gulf war instead of firing simple explosive warheads.

No, he wants to stay in power. He wants to keep his money and his power and live large on earth for as long as he can. He’s not as dumb and nuts as the press and our government would have us believe.

He’s not insane, but it’s not a stretch to think of a guy in his 60’s being capable of going out (in his mind) in a blaze of glory as he smites the evil US.

The Atlantic had an article about Saddam by Mark “Blackhawk Down” Bowden that suggested Saddam believes he is Saladin reincarnated. That’s why, against all logic, he didn’t pull out of Kuwait when America threatened. Think about how stupid that was of him. He really believed he could fight us off and unite the Arab world under his banner? Really? That’s not exactly completely sane, is it?

Yawn

Depends what you consider insane. Delusions of granduer is a common mental illness and he seems to suffer from it indeed. But really, lets look at this from a logical perspective instead of a “can’t he see what is going on? Clearly he’s insane!” view:

For decades, the Arab world has had 2 common enemies; Israel and the U.S. Does it really seem that inconceivable that Saddam figured that if the U.S. attacked him that the rest of the Arab world would leap to his aid? And after he realized that the Arabic nations weren’t going to bail him out, he proceeded to attempt to draw Israel into the war. His thought being that if the U.S. wasn’t enough, maybe having Israel attacking an Arabic nation would draw everyone else into the conflict. From Saddam’s angle, the U.S. is Hitler, Israel is Japan, Iraq is France, and the rest of the Arab world is Europe during WWII.

He also had all the reason in the world to think he could hold off a U.S. assault. Look at Vietnam and Korea, 2 nations that successfully fended off U.S. attacks with inferior technology. Now compare those 2 countries to Iraq, which at the time was the 3rd most powerful army in the world. Is it such a stretch to think that he could fight the U.S. into a stalemate, if not defeat them completely?

Add to this the fact that he is surrounded by Yes-men and poor intelligence and it stops looking like insanity and starts looking like just a lack of knowledge of the big picture.