Baghdad Follies

As Iraq continues to disintegrate, it’s worth contemplating some of the potential benefits of the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime that have been squandered by its unutterably botched aftermath. To be fair, one of the main benefits of Saddam’s ouster – the elimination of an existential threat to the people of Iraqi Kurdistan – seems to be intact. However chaotic and violent Iraq becomes – and my money is on it getting much more so – no force has the capacity or will for mass slaughter of Kurds that Hussein had. I believe this will hold true even if coalition forces withdraw completely, and the Kurds’ security is now no longer contingent on international will to maintain no-fly zones and sanctions.

As a result of the invasion we now also know for certain that Saddam Hussein conducted an immensely successful decade-long policy of intentional ambiguity and deception as regards the development of weapons of mass destruction. Hussein’s desperate desire to create the illusion that he had WMD led to his avoiding full and unwavering compliance with United Nations resolutions and inspections at all costs. And there’s the rub. The elimination of this psychotic, genocidal dictator who had for so long flaunted the (ever-wavering) will of the international community should have sent the message that even bluffing about the bomb and masquerading as a menace would get you charlied the fuck into historical oblivion. This certainly seems to have been a key factor in Qadaffi’s decision to come clean and give up on nuclear weapons, despite much rather illogical insistence to the contrary. But the debacle of post-invasion Iraq has made a joke of that policy – further regime change by American or Western hands is now about as credible as a John Mark Karr mea culpa. The Dinner Jacket is snickering away and Kim Jong Il is no doubt guffawing over his new-found geopolitical strength whilst being pleasured by a team of lobotomized sex slaves.

One could dismiss the “competence” argument as a cop-out, and more than one has. Oddly enough though, it seems that those who regularly engage in such dismissals want to have their yellow cake and eat it too: they both criticize liberal supporters of the war for buying into what they consider a foolish doctrine and then blaming poor execution for its failure, while still proclaiming Bush a raging incompetent. (One would think you can’t have it both ways.) But in any case, thanks to Bush et al we’ll never know if better management could have helped create a stable, democratic Iraq. One could of course argue that trying to build a decent, functioning democracy in an authoritarian Muslim or Arab society was a venture doomed from the start, though this argument strikes me as rather too broadly pessimistic and one better left to Brent Scrowcroft than taken up by self-avowed liberal internationalists.

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2 Comments on “Baghdad Follies”

  1. Evan Says:

    Your post begs the question: With the (cheap, easy, almost beside the point) benefit of hindsight, was the invasion of Iraq worth it? I mean you paint a bleak picture of where America stands in the world right now. Kim Jong Il and Dinner Jacket are laughing at us, and the American appetite for intervention is nilch. Meanwhile, Darfur burns and Iran knows damn well our saber-rattling is not very credible. They feel ascendent.

    And the Libyan deal is more complex than you allow. This was in the works well before Iraq. Sure pulling Saddam from a spider hole looking like KSM may have given negotaitions a firm nudge, it is not so cause and effect.

    To be sure, the liberation of the long-suffering Kurds of Iraq is a triumph. And for some (I’m looking at you, Hitch) this may be enough. But looking at a broader picture, there is a serious discussion to be had not whether the war was just or whether Saddam should have been overthrown but whether, knowing the incompetent manner in which this massively risky, delicate undertaking would be executed, was it worth it. There is no easy answer to this. And I do not pose it because I myself have an answer (I do not). It is just a “snowflake” – apologies to Rummy.

  2. « small-d Says:

    […] As my partner recently pointed out, the situation in Darfur has reached a crescendo of horror. The worst case scenarios that were for too long blithely dismissed as, well, worst case scenarios are in fact coming to fruition. The Abuja peace accord, brokered with American assurances and American pressure, has crumbled. It is yet another example of how America’s role in the world is so compromised at the present moment. The very idea of American resolve seems farcical in the present context. The Dinner Jacket sees this as clearly as I do (or at least as clearly as a delusional man can gauge any situation. And I am increasingly of the mind the Dinner Jacket is delusional like a fox. That or he is the crazy pawn on the backroom Mullah’s chessboard). […]


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