Saddam '07: Steady Leadership in Times of Change


Jonathan Chait made a shameless, Matt Welch-ian play for attention with this column, and it's succeeding. His thesis: Why we should give up in Iraq and re-install Saddam already.

Restoring the expectation of order in Iraq will take some kind of large-scale psychological shock. The Iraqi elections were expected to offer that shock, but they didn't. The return of Saddam Hussein–a man every Iraqi knows, and whom many of them fear–would do the trick.

The disadvantages of reinstalling Hussein are obvious, but consider some of the upside. He would not allow the country to be dominated by Iran, which is the United States' major regional enemy, a sponsor of terrorism, and an instigator of warfare between Lebanon and Israel. Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can't. And he'd probably be amenable because his alternative is death by hanging.

I humbly submit that this is the most TNR article ever. It makes a counterintuitive argument that had debuted as neoconservative satire two years ago. And it treats the dominant moral and political issue of our time like a game of Civilization IV. Really, what we need in Iraq is a "psychological shock"? That worked for Adrian Veidt, but a shock that would re-enslave a majority of Iraqs is a bit off a shock that would terrify all of them. Putting Saddam in charge to mollify angry Sunnis makes as much sense as installing George Wallace as mayor of Boston to stop those Southies from stabbing black folks already.

Having said all that, it's possible—even likely—that Chait is baiting people like me and making a point about the coming overthrow of Maliki. If so, great. It's past time to acknowledge that the idiots who are still hawkish on Iraq have a habit of cheering the arrival of new strongmen (Allawi, al-Jafari, Maliki) and then grumbling for a new, improved strongman when the leader doesn't live up to his hype. The natural conclusion of this thinking is, indeed, that we need to install a new dictator in Iraq, and that conclusion negates, oh, just about 99 percent of what the hawk brigade has argued about the country's role in the future Middle East. That's actually 100 percent of what TNR has argued, which makes Chait's column seem a bit less like wit and a bit more like smug avoidance of responsibility.

NEXT: Chavistas on the March

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  1. Considering Saddam’s bluster, I think it’s just as likely he’d continue being an asshole, on the theory that yes we could overthrow him, but we’d inevitably get drawn into a stinking quagmire which we don’t have the stomach for, so we wouldn’t, and if we did we’d just wind up reinstating him.

  2. Actually, isn’t it more Swiftian?

  3. I humbly submit that this is the most TNR article ever.

    Retarded? Brilliant? Is there a word missing or is TNR also an adjective?

  4. Just get the Saddam lookalike from Big Lebowski to make some appearances…

  5. I’ve been saying this from the start, it’s obvious these people need to be ruled by a heavy-handed dictator to prevent them from blowing each other up every other day. Plus now there’s the potential of the country being supported by Iran? Fuuuck that. Viva Saddam!

  6. Didn’t we already back Saddam against Iran once? How’d that work out, again?

  7. A dictator, eh? I got it: Let Bush serve out his remaining two years as President of Iraq. Sure he wouldn’t be duly elected, but that’s never stopped him.

  8. What if we replaced Saddam with an animatron? We could probably cobble a convincing one together from the Honda robot that walks up stairs, some spare parts from Disney’s Hall of Presidents, and a face sculpted by Madame Tussaud’s. Then we could install a liberal democracy by remote control.

  9. Anyone else amused that Chait just stole Bill Maher’s idea and recycled it? I know Maher had been half-jokingly aping this dumb idea on Real Time for the last year or so.

    Never did I think it would get any real traction with any ‘serious’ columnist.

  10. Hey, compared to Veidt this is positively civil and humanitarian.

    …anyway, it’s parody, right? Ironic, at least? He can’t be serious. Right?

  11. This is a great article on reinstalling Saddam:

  12. Once we get the Ayatollah of Bagdad, we’re going to be looking back on the Saddam Hussien era with nostalgia.

  13. I think I made a prediction about this, Saddam being released to clean up Iraq, a la Dolemite.

  14. Actually, Jeff P, how about one of Saddam’s many “doubles” he was supposed to have?

    Maybe we could make an offer to Saddam: Live, and rule again, but undergo physical or chemical castration.

    If we did put Saddam back in power, at least his sadistic sons wouldn’t be preying on the public.

  15. If TNR is serious, they can officially stop mentioning waterboarding and Abu Garhaib, unless it is to complain that we aren’t doing enough torture and murdering of innocents in there.

  16. Weigel is my new favorite for his Watchmen reference.

    And this: “Hussein was extremely difficult to deal with before the war, in large part because he apparently believed that he could defeat any U.S. invasion if it came to that. Now he knows he can’t” is really horrible logic… If we’d be putting him back in power, WOULDN’T he have defeated a US invasion, at least in a sense?

  17. Now if we could just liberate Latveria from the clutches of Von Doom.

  18. Didn’t we already back Saddam against Iran once? How’d that work out, again?

    Pretty well. Iraqis and Iranians were so busy killing each other that they didn’t bother trying to kill us.

  19. FFF wins. I never thought I’d see a Dolemite reference on H&R.

  20. Someday, people who supported this war will come up with a solution that doesn’t involve the phrase “We should install…”

    Until them, I will continue to vomit on their shoes when they proclaim themselves to be advocated of democracy.

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