Thursday, February 27, 2003


Like a lightning flash, the upcoming war with Iraq reveals the political terrain, with all its pitfalls. Since so much of the war's rationale remains classified, well-meaning people are free to interpolate what they will from the available evidence. To me, the revelations seem to be as follows:
  • just how monomaniacal G.W. Bush is in his determination to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and just how determined Saddam is to resist the U.N. and the U.S.;
  • just how determined the French and Germans seem to be to use the fruits of their decades-long European economic integration project in order to counter American hegemony;
  • yet another example of the the U.N.'s failure to act as an effective international policeman;
  • the extent to which people don't trust Bush and company;
  • the utter failure of people to come to grips with the dangers of dictators like Saddam; and, above all;
  • the amazing level of international hypocrisy.

The biggest danger of Sept. 11th is that it serves as a potent example, a standard, by which terrorism should be judged. Al Qaeda, or other groups, are thus inspired to match or surpass Sept. 11th. Thus, it seems logical to me that we might have to make an example of a miscreant or two in the Middle East, just to preserve the peace. Saddam is a convenient target, even if he isn't responsible for Sept. 11th. Taking Saddam down would permit the removal of American troops from Saudi Arabia, where they have been a provocation to radical Muslims, and their placement in Iraq, where they can defang the Baath party. Invading Iraq will tend to isolate Iran, perhaps cutting sponsorship of Israeli terror by Lebanon-based Hezbollah, and maybe calm Middle East violence. And then perhaps we can turn our attention to the viper's nest of Saudi Arabian politics, where Osama's real sponsors are found.

On the other hand, there are lots of dangers, the biggest being that Saddam might have nuclear weapons after all. Remember, Iraq has been working on nuclear weapons since the early 1960's: I would not be surprised if they actually had them. Many American troops may die in the war.

To me, George Bush seems to be a remarkably uneducated person, but he does have the ability to focus, to the point of obsession, on getting his way. In some circles, that's an adolescent characteristic, but in politics, it's a virtue. Bush's monomania was on display in his determination to get tax cuts, using any argument, even contradicting himself, just to get his way. That monomania is evident with the Iraq issue too. It will be interesting to see whether Bush's monomania, or Saddam's evident mental illness, wins the day.

Not surprisingly, few people trust either Bush or Saddam. They have little credibility. The evidence that Colin Powell presented to the Security Council was not persuasive: the real stuff was too hot to put on display. Saddam's grandiose ban on weapons of mass destruction was laughable. But in a sense, it mattered little, since the French and Germans do not want to go to war, and they would not be open to proper evidence anyway. The current leaders of both countries are political veterans of 1968, and not inclined to go off on wars, particularly if they might be subject to risk (which they are anyway, because of their lax immigration policies, but nevermind). Chirac and Schroeder are eager to hijack European economic integration for their desire to check the Americans.

And, of course, we have the inept U.N., the folks who lost Srbenica and sponsored the refugee camps in Zaire where Hutu butchers rested after slaughtering millions of Tutsis, at least until the Tutsis got wise and kicked them out. The U.N., who continue to run dysfunctional Palestinian refugee camps years after they should have been shut down, and otherwise act as the patsies of international politics, trying to set ground rules in this dangerous game.

It's interesting to consider the things we don't talk much about these days. The role of Bush in shielding the bin Laden family in the U.S. immediately after Sept. 11th. The sponsorship of terror in America by very rich Saudis, including the family of Prince Bandar, the Ambassador to the U.S. And what about our previous sponsorship of Hussein, and our failure to condemn his rampages against the Shia and the Kurds in the 1980's, when they were being committed? What do we think about Pakistan's Muslim Bomb? Where are we on Kashmir? Why are we so stingy with Karzai's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, and why are we cutting back non-proliferation efforts in the old USSR? Why do we need a Dept. of Homeland Security anyway - why didn't we just improve security under previous, or slightly improved, arrangements? Why do we persist on going through the U.N., when that organization is hopelessly corrupt, as was revealed long ago by incidents like the "Zionism is Racism" resolution? What are our promises to the Turks? Why do we continue to talk about the territorial integrity of Iraq - why can't a Kurdish state be carved out of Iraq's flank? Why don't we pay more attention to Al Qaeda? Osama is probably free in Saudi Arabia right now. How are we going to get effective international cooperation in the fight against terror when our own integrity is so suspect? Why doesn't Bush counterattack more effectively regarding our decision not to approve the Kyoto accord - an honest discussion of CO2 issues would benefit everyone - unless his enemies are correct, and it was an ideological matter all along?

We live in interesting times - times that are getting curiouser and curiouser by the day.....