Foreign Policy

The Upside of Saddam's (and Stalin's) Tyranny

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Over at the Guardian's "Comment Is Free" sub-site, David Cox ferrets out reasons to mourn the passing of tyranny and the removal of Saddam Hussein:

Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible. In the Soviet Union, life took on a character of its own, in which the human spirit managed to flourish in spite of the political constraints. The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us. Today, many former Soviet citizens feel no more free under the yoke of global capitalism than they did before, and some would like to see the return of Stalinism. The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty….

Saddam offered his people a harsh deal. Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority.

Is there any saw more tired, dubious, and morally grotesque than the old "repression makes the best art" chestnut? As if, what, Cry, the Beloved Country, in any wage balances against apartheid? Or Night takes the edge off the Holocaust? I ask this as someone who studied literature for years: Exactly what book is worth a single person's life?

I'm guessing Cox is not going to get a lot of Christmas cards from Kurds and Shia this year (the picture up top is of some of the Kurds gassed by Saddam because they "chose to challenge his authority"). Cox's defensible point--that the invasion of Iraq has not led to a paradise either in Iraq or elsewhere--gets lost in his inane analysis. "Comment Is Free." Sure, and you get what you pay for.

More here.

Hat tip: Michael Moynihan of Timbro (not the death metal Moynihan).

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  1. What book is worth a single life? The Bible, of course. More millions perished in the name of the Bible than in tne name of Mein Kampf.

  2. I wonder what sort of wonderous works of literature Mr. Cox would create living under a despotic regime?

    Obviously this wholly ridiculous crap that he’s expectorating all over the public is a result of his living in a society with free and easy access to word processing software and the ability to say damn near anything you want.

  3. “Comment Is Free.” Sure, and you get what you pay for.

    Seriously. I defy someone to find an article in that execrable section that would make it off the op-ed editor’s desk, let alone one that makes any memorable points, in a sane and readable style. Mainly it’s just a soapbox for people with wacked-out political views, delusions of literary competence and a chip on their shoulder for having their viewpoints “suppressed” by the MSM. You get what you pay for, indeed.

  4. Don’t forget the Qur’an, the book of Mormon and any other religious text ever written.

  5. Man, it used to take at least five or ten posts for Akira to show up and start in with RELIGION IS EVIL THE BIBLE KILLS, now it’s the very first reply. You kids today and your improved response time, must be all the meth.

  6. thats black metal, not death metal! get it right!

  7. Don’t forget the Qur’an,

    Koran.

  8. Some Eastern European cultural critics have complained about the loss of a universal narrative in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, etc. Its a price worth paying I’d say.

  9. Thats about the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard. As one who grew up in the Soviet Union and I notice this quite a bit in my fellow imigres that unless they are hudled down by new found religious beleifs, those comming out of the USSR more often turn out to be the most fervent of liberatarians (small “l”). Maybe its because we’ve been and we’ve seen so we come to appreciate freedom just a tadd more. But hey if David Cox (hmm is that a russian name?) says so, it must be true.

  10. What an inhuman idiot. The fact that some humans can tolerate what should be intolerable doesn’t mitigate the horror one bit. It just makes those particular humans who survived heroes. The fact that such people are quite rare is why we make a big deal about them.

    Mr. Cox’s (no relation at all) waste of pixels is also counterproductive to what I presume is his purpose in writing it. No one is going to be persuaded to oppose the Iraq war on the basis of this dreck; they’ll just equate decent opponents with this loser. Anyone want a bet as to how few minutes it’ll take until his piece gets a long review at Free Republic or RedState, pointing out that all opponents of the Iraq war are moral monsters?

  11. Actually, just running through some of my favorite art and literature in my head, I’d say that freer societies seem to produce the best works.

    For the classicists, compare and contrast Athens and Sparta. Write a 50-page paper and post it here no later than 5:00 p.m., EST. For each minute late, I’ll deduct one letter grade–no exceptions.

  12. “Some Eastern European cultural critics have complained about the loss of a universal narrative in the wake of the collapse of the USSR, etc.”

    Commiesimp bullshit.

  13. By the way most russian classics (im guessing thats the works he refers to) came from way before communism ran a mock. Pushkin, Tolsoty, Checkov etc came from nobility, well-educated or at the very least somewhat better off families.

  14. Good point Pro L. We could have lots of fun thinking of societies to compare and contrast. For extra credit, I want two pages comparing literature of late 16th C. Spain to that of Elizabethan England.

  15. val,

    A Romanian I knew had that viewpoint, and she was an artist. If she were from here, she’d probably have been a radical leftist, given the leanings of the artistic community. As a Romanian, she’s a rabid libertarian. Wonder why? 🙂

  16. mediageek,

    Actually, I think the main complaint is that the universal narrative that was directed in large part at the numerous negative aspects of the various communist states no longer holds together.

    Pro Libertate,

    Well, the early dominance of the Miletus (before it was absorbed by the Persians) in philosophy (phusikos) illustrates your point. Three of the original “seven sages” came from Miletus after all. Miletus was known at the time for its prosperity and political sagacity.

  17. While bloody tyranny should not be endorsed by anyone, a calm, dispassionate examination of human psychology will reveal that most folks would be happier under some sort of nationalist, totalitarian, or perhaps theocratic regime.

  18. The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty

    This is more a tribute to the effectiveness of the Chinese totalitarian state than it is evidence that people are not only better off being repressed by their betters, they actually prefer it.

  19. It does appear to be true that daily life under Saddam in Iraq was better in general than it is now. Tyranny may be preferable to anarchy.

  20. …many former Soviet citizens feel no more free under the yoke of global capitalism than they did before

    First, a point of logic: the only people we can ask to compare the two systems of rule are the folks who survived the earlier one. This tends to skew the results, since those killed would lean towards a negative appraisal of the earlier system.

    Secondly, the “yoke” the Russians are under is the failure of the legal system. Oh, and that Putin dude.

  21. Pro Liberate,

    Thales, Anaximander and Anaximanes respectively.

  22. He lost me at “the yoke of global capitalism.”
    Yeah, freedom is a yoke. Inspired.

  23. …Anaximenes…

  24. I’m sure that that at least one poor sap in Ukraine, while gnawing on his dead son’s femur, managed to reflect, “Wow, life is taking on a character of its own, in which the human spirit manages to flourish in spite of the political constraints!”

  25. The people of China seem in no rush to jettison a regime that holds out the prospect of prosperity at the expense only of liberty

    Yes, and Winston was in no rush to tell the truth with that rat cage attached to his face.

  26. Pro Libertate,

    And of course almost all of the Presocratics came from the islands off modern day Turkey, which flowering economically at the time (that is prior to the Persian defeat of the Lydians).

  27. Nick Gillespie masterfully destroys another straw man. Nobody argues that a single book, or even a whole library of books, “takes the edge off” the Holocaust or any other genocidal crimes. What David Cox is getting at–as all but the most obtuse can grasp–is a fascinating paradox. In Poland under communism, the shortage of quality consumer goods was balanced by a lively underground opposition to the regime that found expression in an engaged literature that everybody took very seriously. Under capitalism, Poland’s stores are full, and literature is as dully commercial and unengaging as the articles in Cosmopolitan. Almost all Poles opposed the communist regime, and that opposition gave their lives a meaning that the mere acquisition of consumer goods can never offer. It’s just a paradox, Nick, not a mortal threat to your unshakebale faith in the free market. Just relax and read a tract or something.

  28. Karen,

    Explain in thesis format why the Carthaginians were the good guys and the Romans were not. Please be sure to cite your sources!

    I remember writing a paper in an English history class (I minored in history to offset my incredibly dull finance major) comparing the reigns of Elizabeth I and Charles I. It was really interesting to see how far wrong the monarchy had gone in such a short time. The Stuarts just weren’t very good at it, I guess.

    Zeno,

    Absolutely. Miletus deserves more scholarly attention than it gets (could it be a prejudice against Asia Minor in favor of Greece?), because what happened there in a short time is absolutely amazing. The same can be said of some of the Hellenistic cities, which also get short shrift (Pergamum is a fascinating success story, for instance). Wealth and some degree of freedom seem to be the keys to true intellectual explosions.

  29. Bolek,

    I don’t think it’s a paradox. People want to live their lives the way they want to. If they’re oppressed, they’ll try to operate in the cracks of the oppression. I think that’s one reason a libertarian “revolution” is so difficult here. We’re free enough that people can do what they want without too much effort.

  30. Pro Libertate,

    My favorite thing about Carthage was their treatment of defeated generals. They’d just kill them. Anyway, you’re probably angling for their “commercial culture” attributes.

  31. Zeno,

    I am. We tend to think of ourselves as vaguely heirs to the Roman Republic–which is true enough–but the success of the United States has a definite analogue to the success of Carthage. Hope there’s no Rome out there to kick our ass, though. And that we don’t start sacrificing babies and stuff 🙁

  32. Bolek- A lack of consumer goods? I suspect the Poles were were concerned about the 2 am knock on the door than running out of toilet paper.

  33. It would be interesting to ask Solzhenitsyn if given the choice between living a happy prosperous life in a free Russia but not being a great writer or living the life he has, which he would choose. I am thinking he choose the former.

    This statement is disgusting and wrong on so many levels. First, it assumes that the only way someone like Solzhenitsyn would have been a great writer was because of the experience of living under Stalin. Who is to say he might not produced better novels had he been free to write in the first place. Second it totally discounts all of the talent lost through murder. How many Solzhenitsyn’s or Rimsky-Korsakovs died in the Gulag? We never know. I can think of at least one great writer Stalin murdered just sitting here, Isaac Babel. Moreover, we do know that Russia was perhaps the most culturally productive society in the world in the late 19th Century. It was a country that gave the world Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky. So much of that died thanks to communism.

    Yes, there was some great art produced in spite of or even because these horrible regimes. But so what. Russia was a fabulously creative and productive society before communism. So was European Jewish society before the holocaust. The world gets even more culture when it doesn’t murder millions of people. The fact that there is some culture produced as a result of the murder is neither interesting nor worthy of note.

  34. Pro L:

    Oooh, good one!! One of my favorite classes in college was History of the Late Roman Republic, and our final exam question was to write a counterfactual history, up to the date of the exam, in which there had been no conflict between Greece (the Macedonian-ruled version) and Carthage into which Rome could assert herself as the defender of Classical culture. How then does Rome develop in those circumstances? I answered that Rome becomes more Celtic and does not become enamored of Greek culture and language, which, because they don’t have any cachet with the Imperial elite, disappear even in the eastern empire. There is no common language over the East, so Christianity can’t expand outside of the Aramaic-speaking Jewish diaspora. Without the influence of Greek rationalism, it takes much longer for the west to develop science and technology. Consequently, I wouldn’t have been sitting in that chair on that date taking that test, because Colombus hadn’t sailed yet.

    I got one of two A’s in the class.

  35. Pro Libertate,

    Well, the Romans got to write the history. And then they had some powerdful advocates in medeival and renaissance Europe. The way I’ve been spiking romanticism about the Romans recently is by way of Trajan’s genocidal acts against the Dacians. What freaks me out is that Trajan’s column, one of the more celebrated artifacts from the Romans is basically a propaganda piece in favor of genocide. That the Dacians were a settled, non-aggressive people doesn’t help the Roman cause much; they just wanted the Dacian’s gold mines (and they got them following the requisite amount of bloody warfare).

  36. “There is no common language over the East, so Christianity can’t expand outside of the Aramaic-speaking Jewish diaspora.”

    Why would that be true? Greek was the common language in the near east long before the Romans showed up. It became the common language thanks to Alexander, not the Romans. Further, language barriers certainly didn’t stop Christianity from speading accross Western Europe.

  37. Many books are worth human lives. Even the crappiest of books is worth at least one random humna life. A great book, like DeLillo’s “White Noise” or Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” (the trilogy) is worth hundreds if not a few thousand human lives. Come on, a human life is just not that immeasurably valuable. See my website where I calculated the value in dead children of many of our most sacred rights and liberties.

  38. “Many books are worth human lives.”

    Even if that were true, why does it matter? You can get great books without murdering people. It is not as if we could wake up tommorow and say, “I am sick of clowns like Harold Printer, we need some real artists, lets get started killing people.”

  39. We’ve returned to the “who/what do you rescue from the burning building” hypothetical.

  40. Zeno,

    The reality is, the Romans could be nasty bastards. But that’s true of any ancient (and, of course, not-so-ancient) society. Athens did some bad things, too, and did a lot to bring about their own fall. And so on. Anyway, Trajan is one of those emperors who you view as “good” for Rome, but you can’t skip over the fact that what was good for Rome may not have been so good for the conquered.

    Karen,

    Or what if Carthage had prevailed? Or one or more of the Hellenistic kingdoms had survived? We may very well have not gotten the best possible result. I’m certainly a fan of Roman history, but a lot of bad came with the good. I tend to see the modern West as much more the heirs of classical Greece than of Rome, though, of course, I mean that more in the cultural sense than in the legal/political one.

    John/Karen,

    Early Christianity is fascinating. I’ve been reading some books on the era, and it’s really curious how many different viewpoints there were early on. Origen, the Gnostics, etc. all had quite interesting ideas. Any subtle change could’ve made mainstream Christianity much different than what it is today. Few people appreciate how Greek the religion is, either. In fact, it looks a whole lot more Greek than Jewish (John (of Gospel fame) was clearly influenced by Philo, for instance–logos, nous, etc. were core principles as were oblique and not so oblique references to the Platonic form of the good being equivalent in some way to the Christian god.

  41. I hate that hypo. The people who come up with it are twits who have never actually been faced with death. Easy to say, leave child save the Shakespere from the confort of your own home. Look the child in the eye and actually face the prospect of leaving someone to burn to death and, unless you are just a sociopath, the Shakespere bites the dust.

  42. Pro,

    Early Christianity is one of my hobbies. I totally understand how Greek it is. One of my favorite things about the Religion. My point was that the near east was very Greek long before the Romans came along.

  43. PL: Re your assignment:

    Athens and Sparta were both states with slave-based economies.

    Athens inherited the Ionian cultural tradition in its upper class, who were allowed considerable freedom of expression due to the form of Athenian democracy among its free citizens. The result was a cultural and scientific expansion which continues to influence Western thought to this day.

    Spartan democracy was limited to its warrior class and featured enforced egalitarianism. This resulted in military supremacy in the Greek world. Through idealization in Plato’s ‘Republic’ – note that Plato and Socrates, who he claimed to be quoting, were Athenians – the Spartan society became the model for every form of socialism and totalitarianissm developed in the Western world.

    [COPY AND PASTE IN 170 POINT TYPE IN ORDER TO GET 50 PAGES.]

    Do I get an “A”?

  44. I suspect the Poles were concerned about the 2 am knock on the door

    Did the secret police knock??

  45. How does one explain the worldwide popularity of Baywatch compared to, say, The Diary of Ann Franke?

  46. John,

    As I mentioned in passing above, the Hellenistic period is a grossly unappreciated one. Various aspects of Greek culture had a profound influence on places across the Mediterranean region and the Near East. Including the language. I think because the Hellenistic period was highlighted by scientific and mathematical advances it gets a little less respect than the more literary and philosophical culture of classical Greece. And for hardcore Christians, there’s a tendency not to consider the idea that Christ was influenced by anyone other than God. I don’t quite get that–to me, if you’re going to buy into Christianity, then it only makes sense if Christ was a human being (albeit one with divine connections)–but let’s not talk religion here yet again 🙂

    Aresen,

    Slaves and all the money that they stole from the Delian League helped quite a bit. I’m having an Asimovian moment and wondering whether a society with robot slaves might not lead to a modern cultural explosion. Not that we don’t have some aspects of that now–obviously we do (especially in technology and science). And no, enslaving beings that could pass the Turing Test is probably not a good thing.

  47. “And for hardcore Christians, there’s a tendency not to consider the idea that Christ was influenced by anyone other than God. I don’t quite get that–to me, if you’re going to buy into Christianity, then it only makes sense if Christ was a human being”

    Another way to look at it is that man was given rational faculties and is capable of getting at the truth on his own, perhaps not the ultimate truth or salvation, but certainly some of the truth and that the Greeks got it right in many ways even if they didn’t get it all right.

  48. John and Pro L, after 20 years of making a hobby of Classical history, I no longer support my 1983 paper, basically because Greek was just too useful to the eastern half of the empire. It would have survived, although not as an elite language and the Romans would not have adopted so much Greek culture. It was a good bullshit answer for that class, though. And it would have been really interesting had, say, Pontus, survived longer than it did. For one thing, there would have been no lingering ideal of a single political unit for Europe to fawn about for the succeeding 2,000 years.

    I read an excellent book a few years ago called “The Rise of Christianity,” by two authors, neither name I can remember, that pointed up the Greekness of the early Church as one reason for its success. They argued that most early converts would have been Hellenized Jews of the diaspora, who were open to the idea of the Messiah but far away from the Temple-oriented religion of the time. The best part was how the showed that the Christian obligations for charity and slightly more egalitarian social relations enormously increased their survival rates during Galen’s plague and the generally dismal living conditions of the 1st and 2nd centuries. Highly recommendend.

  49. Oh, and I much, much prefer Hellenistic art to the bland high Classical or the weird Archaic stuff. They had discovered movement by the Hellenistic period, and the statues look like real people frozen in mid-action. The older stuff is stiff and dull.

  50. Karen,

    There is a great book, the Rise of Western Chrisendom by Peter Brown. He points out that, contrary to the myth that Christianity was the religion of the poor and oppressed, it was actually the religion of the middle and commercial classes. It was successful in no small part because the Roman elite and Roman elite culture had become increasingly separated from the rest of society with Roman aristicrats speaking perfect Attic Greek to each other. Christianity became a way for the neveu rich to get an accessible piece of high culture.

  51. No, Bolek, what Cox is getting at is this titanic feat of reason….

    “Living under tyranny may not be ideal, but it is not impossible.”

    …. and one must be a particularly comfortable, well-fed, sort of imbecile to write such a thing, because for dozens and dozens of millions of people in only the last hundred years or so, living under tyranny did prove to be quite impossible. The fact that human life still exists on earth does not reduce the idiocy of the remark.

    There is no stupidity quite like the stupidity of the intellectual.

  52. My reading of Christ is that he was supposed to be an example to follow, not some superbeing that we can’t hope to emulate. Live a good life, seek the truth, love your brothers and sisters, etc. I think seeing only the divine in that and skipping the part where we should live that way is where the Church went astray. That, and not tossing out the Old Testament wrath-of-God stuff for Christ’s Greek/Jewish hybrid alternative.

    Karen,

    I’m reading Charles Freeman’s The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason. I’m only in the Greek history part right now, so I’m not sure how his analysis of where things went wrong is going to go, but it’s a good read so far.

    Oh, and preferring the lusty Hellenistic art makes you a libertine 🙂 Actually, I agree to some degree, though the idealized figures of the classical period have something going for them, too.

  53. Tyranny may be preferable to anarchy.

    Despotism and Anarchy aren’t that different. You can use military units to make your unhappy citizens content and your production is capped at 60%.

  54. “How does one explain the worldwide popularity of Baywatch compared to, say, The Diary of Ann Franke?”

    Umm. Did your parents ever talk to you about “the birds and the bees”?

  55. Did the secret police knock??

    No, they busted in with flash/bangs, bullet proof vests, and semi-automatic weapons. Good thing that shit doesn’t happen here.

  56. It does appear to be true that daily life under Saddam in Iraq was better in general than it is now.

    In Sunni Baghdad, sure. Life’s always better when your bunch has the whip hand.

    I suspect its much closer call for the Shia and the Kurds.

  57. Dead Kurds feel no pain.

  58. Yeah, RC, outside Baghdad and Anbar province I doubt there is nearly as much sentiment about life under the Tikrit mafia being better. The marsh Arabs to the south, in particular likely would differ quite vehemently. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the invasion was good idea, but the certainty with which people outside of Iraq presume to speak for all Iraqis, both for or against the toppling of the regime, has always struck me as fatuous.

  59. So since we have our boot heel on the neck of the Tikriti mafia areas of Iraq, where’s all the good art?

    Does it take a while to filter out through the closed borders?

  60. RTFA, people. Cox isn’t making anything like the argument Gillespie claims.

  61. No he is making a worse argument. Basically the Iraqis needed to loose their freedom and many of them their lives so the rest of us wouldn’t have to be bothered with the trouble of getting rid of Saddam. The money quote:

    “If Saddam were still in power, he would have stopped this happening. Iraq’s dissidents would have paid a price, but the rest of us would be a lot better off. As he goes to meet the hangman, the world has cause to rue his demise.”

    Thanks for pointing that out Joe. Cox is an even bigger dirtbag than Gillespie made him appear.

  62. God, I love Hit & Run! Where else will I get analysis of current events that goes back to the origins of Western Civ?

    Aresen, Karen, PL, John, Zeno and crew – Thanks for making my day!

  63. John,

    The ranks of early Christianity’s leadership were dominated by slaves who had freed themselves or slaves on their way up who were working on just that. These were generally a prosperous lot who (if free) generally continued to have a tight relationship with their ex-master, often as a business associate.

  64. Slaves make great philosophers. Ask Epictetus and the Stoics! Who, incidentally, are yet another influence on the early Christians.

  65. Saddam offered his people a harsh deal. Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority.[…]

    The literature generated in those conditions can still inspire us.

    The Pragmatism Fallacy.

    “Well, it worked, didn’t it??”

    Today, many former Soviet citizens feel no more free under the yoke of global capitalism than they did before […]

    There cannot be a more indecent example of intellectual dishonesty as joining together the word “capitalism” (the effect of people networking freely) with “yoke”.

  66. Man, it used to take at least five or ten posts for Akira to show up and start in with RELIGION IS EVIL THE BIBLE KILLS, now it’s the very first reply. You kids today and your improved response time, must be all the meth.

    Jeebus… And here I’ve been trying to be a good boy lately.

  67. “Don’t forget the Qur’an,”

    Koran.

    Actually, both are correct. His spelling (Qur’an) is more accepted among scholars, which means that he was *more* correct, but still.

  68. Qur’an and Koran are both entirely wrong. The Prophet didn’t use the Roman alphabet, infidel pig dogs.

  69. Pro Libertate,

    Well, the loss of North Africa to the Vandals was sort of just desserts for the Romans. Anyway, it appears that for a classical world invader, the Vandals were, well, rather benign.

  70. It took me awhile to find the book, but I have a good closing quote for this thread, from Prophets without Honor, but Frederic V. Grunfeld, pub. 1995, Kodansha International. The book is about Jewish artists in Austria and Germany between 1900 and 1933. I highly recommend it to all of you.

    “In the eternal contest between the head and the nightstick, the nightstick frequently wins.”

    Also, “Even the most brilliant brain can be stopped by a well-placed bullet.”

  71. So, was deposing Saddam a good thing or a bad thing? Was it a mistake for the “coalition of the willing” to (try to) liberate Iraq?

  72. Yes, the Vandals don’t deserve their reputation as, well, vandals. The truth is, many of the various Germanic tribes that tore the Empire apart were quite Romanized (esp. militarily) and, by classical terms, fairly civilized to boot.

    Karen, what bothers me about those quotes is that there are people who think that’s a good way of thinking. If force is all we’re about, we might as well extract part of our brains and go back to life by tooth and claw.

  73. Pro L, you’re right. That’s the kind of thing that makes me want to hide under the bed.

  74. wayne

    If the original Bush scenario had been valid – “Knock out the evil villain, everybody agrees to democracy and respect each other’s rights, the coalition goes home and everybody lives happily ever after” – then deposing Saddam would have been a good thing, despite the problems in international law.

    However, as most opponents at the time pointed out, there was (and is) little evidence that the various factions really respect each other’s rights and little prospect of a lasting democracy. The present Iraqi government will fall within a short period after the coalition withdraws – within one year is about what I expect, within 30 days wouldn’t surprise me and within 5 years at the absolute max. There is already a civil war in progress. It will probably end with the establishment of a new dictatorship – probably of the mullahs – and human rights will go into the trashcan once again.

    Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Iraqis will have died, more Americans will have died than on 9/11, hundreds of billions of dollars will have been wasted, anti-Americanism will have reached new highs, and the jihadists will have tens of thousands of new recruits.

    Doesn’t look like such a good idea.

  75. wayne,

    When judging the “goodness” of a decision to start a war, you have to look not only at the intent of those who began it, but also their likelihood of success. If you, personally, want to run into a burning building to try to save people, it doesn’t matter if you have a better chance of dying than of succeeding. In fact, doing so against the odds may well make your actions more noble, because they are that much more self-sacrificing.

    But if you’re going to order many thousands of people to rush into many thousands of burning buildings, you’d damn well better make sure you aren’t sending them on a fool’s errand.

    That Bush hoped, in his mind, that the Iraqis would have peace and freedom doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot, in the face of his complete unwillingness to concern himself with the likelihood of success.

  76. Reading Cox, I was reminded of something I read recently.

    At one low point during the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam asked his ministers for candid advice. With some temerity, the minister of health, Riyadh Ibrahim, suggested that Saddam temporarily step down and resume the presidency after peace was established. Saddam had him carted away immediately. The next day, pieces of the minister’s chopped-up body were delivered to his wife.

    (“Saddam’s Delusions”, Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray; Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006)

    So, sure, you were only at risk when you “chose to challenge his authority”. No big deal…except that you never knew quite what he was going to interpret as a challenge, even if he’d asked for candor. I wonder if Cox would submit to being chopped up by Tony Blair’s security forces for the sake of internal order? Sorry, joe, but yes, Cox is making exactly the argument Gillespie says he is (among others), and it’s just as odious as it seems.

  77. Aresen, it is naive to think that this thing might have played out as “Knock out the evil villain, everybody agrees to democracy and respect each other’s rights, the coalition goes home and everybody lives happily ever after”. I don’t think anybody expected such an outcome. Dissolving into chaos the way it has was also not expected though.

    The invasion and unseating of Saddam was not done to bring democracy to Iraq, although that might have been a sub-goal. The reason for going into Iraq was “weapons of mass destruction”. That turned out to be mistaken. Now that we are in Iraq though, do we have no obligation to hold things together long enough for the Iraqis to get their country stabilized?

    Aren’t many of you on this board being hasty in your pronouncements of failure? There has been an elected government in Iraq for less than 6 months, after all. It took more than a decade for the US to achieve a stable government after the war of independence from Britain, for example, and that was without outside agitators murdering hundreds of people daily.

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