Friday, February 28, 2003


It's easy to say "no war in Iraq" and not think about the consequences. Saddam Hussein is Not a Nice Man. But what is the alternative?

Well, Georgie Bush and company very carefully avoid any mention of the idea that it might be possible to get rid of Saddam without a massive foreign invasion. Their calculus of power counts guns, bombs, exile "leaders" who tell them what they want to hear, and neighboring dictators who quietly remind them of old obligations and logistics problems.

What's missing? People. Iraqis. Georgie and company have as much or more contempt for Iraqis as they have for (non-rich, non-Fundie) Americans. Everything I've seen from the Administration treats the Iraqis as inert lumps, to be pushed, shoved, and squeezed into shape like Play-Doh. We'll take away their old leaders, give them some new leaders, pat them on the head, and go home -- whereupon the new leaders will get strung up from lampposts and every Islamic fundie nutcase in the world will come in and start setting up his own little version of the Taliban.

What's the alternative? Could, just possibly, the Iraqis themselves do something about Saddam? Some people think so. This is far and away the best article on how the Iraqis could take control of their own government that I've seen. Now, I have a few problems with their ideas, but it's a heckuva lot more attractive to help the Iraqi people set up something themselves than to come storming in with 200,000 troops, blow up everything in sight, kill a lot of people, and expect to accomplish anything permanent.


  • Arab rebellions don't work this way. Usually it's just one fatcat knocking off another fatcat.
  • Islam is not real big on the concept of revolutions. As I understand it, the only legitimate reason for getting rid of a king is that he's "not Muslim enough", which does not apply to Saddam.
  • There is nothing "democratic" in Arab society that could serve as a model of a government. Fortunately, neither the Shi'ites in the South or the Kurds in the North are Arabs. Shi'ia Islam also has the concept of a religious council that governs by majority rule. Might be helpful.
  • "Nonviolence" is not a noticable characteristic of anybody in the Middle East. A Martin Luther King-style nonviolent protest could completely paralyze the Israelis; nobody seriously thinks it could really happen. Worked in a Tom Clancy novel, which should rattle Clancy's reputation for "realism" a bit. Interestingly enough, the approach here doesn't depend on strict nonviolence.

So how about this? Keep the squeeze on Saddam. In particular, extend the "no fly" zones and completely redo the sanctions so the actually do something, let it be known that we'd be glad to deal with any non-Ba'athist successors to Saddam.

Then we wait.

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