November 27, 2006


Bring back Saddam Hussein: Restoring the dictator to power may give Iraqis the jolt of authority they need. Have a better solution? (Jonathan Chait, November 26, 2006, LA Times)

THE DEBATE about Iraq has moved past the question of whether it was a mistake (everybody knows it was) to the more depressing question of whether it is possible to avert total disaster. Every self-respecting foreign policy analyst has his own plan for Iraq. The trouble is that these tracts are inevitably unconvincing, except when they argue why all the other plans would fail. It's all terribly grim.

So allow me to propose the unthinkable: Maybe, just maybe, our best option is to restore Saddam Hussein to power. [...]

Here is the basic dilemma: The government is run by Shiites, and the security agencies have been overrun by militias and death squads. The government is strong enough to terrorize the Sunnis into rebellion but not strong enough to crush this rebellion.

Meanwhile, we have admirably directed our efforts into training a professional and nonsectarian Iraqi police force and encouraging reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites. But we haven't succeeded. We may be strong enough to stop large-scale warfare or genocide, but we're not strong enough to stop pervasive chaos.

Hussein, however, has a proven record in that department. It may well be possible to reconstitute the Iraqi army and state bureaucracy we disbanded, and if so, that may be the only force capable of imposing order in Iraq.

Recently Brother Francoeur forwarded an article in which folks were brandishing the absurd factoid that Iraq has lasted longer than American participation in WWII did. The case would be a bit stronger if opponents considered, as they ought, the Iraq War to have begun in 1990-91, but even this requires us to twist the ugly truth about WWII.

Let us though start a bit earlier, with WWI, since it is our failure there that is still playing itself out in the Middle East. It would seem eminently fair to say that a successful conclusion to WWI would, from an American perspective, have tracked with Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points. Consider just one--far the most important--of them: "A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined." The fact is that in a considerable portion of the post-colonial world we still haven't given proper weight to the interests of the population concerned. Indeed, the liberalization we are currently forcing on the Middle East is simply a realization of this aim, though it comes ninety years late. George W. Bush is just writing the final chapters of WWI.

As regards WWII, it would seem fair to consider our war aims to have been ably laid out by FDR and Churchill in the Atlantic Charter of 1941. It includes language not dissimilar to Wilson's: "they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them." Leave us not take quite so universalist a view as we did over WWI and consider just Poland. The Poles got to choose a government in 1990, some 49 years after the Allied leaders met and set as their goal its liberation.

By contrast to these obviously failed wars--WWI was inarguably a mistake while WWII was noble enough in principle but in practice utterly misconceived--the people of Iraq already get to choose their own government and have for a couple years now. The war aims that President Bush laid out for Iraq (and like nations) in the 2002 National Security statement have been effected there: "the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world"--though, admittedly, imperfectly. Development and stable freedom are works in progress -- untidy ones at that -- but Kurdistan and Shi'astan are already well on their way. The question now is what sort of state will emerge in Baghdadistan. If the people get to choose freely it is likely to be a Shi'a dominated democracy--even after carving out a Shi'a state in the South of the original Iraq. If the Ba'athists, al Qaedists, and Realists were to prevail it would be some kind of totalitarian Sunni rgime whose main purpose would be the subjugation or extermination of the Shi'a. This is the solution (Final?) that Mr. Chait is pimping for here.

It seems pretty unlikely that we, Mookie al Sadr and the Shi'a in the South, or Iran would tolerate such a result, but there are always going to be folk who prefer "security" at any cost to freedom. Indeed, it was the illusion of security/stability that led us to betray our own war aims in WWI and WWII and that leave us still completing the unfinished work of those prior wars today. If Mr. Chait's intention is merely to be shocking, there's a far more sensible suggestion he might make that would still shock many. It builds off of his own notion that we are strong enough to stop full-scale warfare/genocide. The question is why are we stopping it? Since it is the Sunni who are causing the instability he so fears, why not allow the Shi'a to repress or expel them? Just as Indian freedom led to an exodus of Muslims to Pakistan and Hindus to India, so too might an exodus of Sunni from Iraq be a logical outcome of decolonization/liberation. At any rate, reimposing Saddam would appear to be the least effective idea for the long term, however much schaudenfreude it might stir up in those who dislike W and the war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 27, 2006 2:12 PM

The Sunni are intent on forcing us to take sides. With all the Sunniphiles involved ... Baker, Scowcroft, Kissinger, The State Department, the CIA, the CFR, the MSM, possibly even GHWB ... they assume we will take their side.

Crunch time for W.

Posted by: ghostcat at November 27, 2006 7:33 PM

Back in early 2004, some said that it wouldn't be long before the Left was pining for the return of Saddam Hussein. It seemed like a ridiculous notion then, but now. My, my, my.

So Chait wants to re-open Abu Ghraib, under Saddam, via the USA.

I suspect OJ is right about the (final) solution. Nobody on the Left has the slightest idea how to think about the mullahs in Iran, Mookie, Nasrallah, and Ahmadinejad. But those Sunni, they can be corrupted, appeased, bribed, propped up, slicked up, and generally dealt with.

For Chait, the original personification of Bush hatred (see the Hugh Hewitt interview of maybe 18 months ago), I guess it isn't much of a stretch to propose anything, no matter how deranged or evil, as long as he can get a dig on George Bush. But, now we will start hearing the same nonsense from John Murtha, Charlie Rangel, John Kerry, and Joe Biden.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 27, 2006 10:18 PM


Gee, I thought there was no way Chait was ever going to sink beneath the standard set by his Bush-hatred piece of a few years back, but this article just runs laps around every other ridiculous thing he's ever published.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 28, 2006 12:20 AM

Saddam is likely to swing before the '08 election. If they want him to run Iraq, they're going to have to go through the Witch of Endor.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 28, 2006 10:48 AM