Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 27, 2003

Nikolas Gvosdev of the National Interest argues, on NRO, that Saddam wants us to go to war with him now.

I agree with most of what Gvosdev says: (1) inspections are bad PR for Saddam and (2) Saddam's natural instinct and the culture of Arab despotism is driving him in the direction of preferring war. I also think that preference is being accelerated as it becomes obvious that the alternative strategy of delay is a dead end.

But I disagree on Gvosdev's critical unstated assumptions: (1) what Saddam wants may still be what we want. If our national interest supports war, why care what Saddam wants? (2) Saddam's regime is built on fear, not respect; he lost the respect of his people when he lost the Gulf War, possibly earlier due to the Iran-Iraq war. The inspectors don't threaten Saddam's ability to inspire fear; the key thing that the inspectors did the other day to underline that was turn over a defector to Saddam's "authorities." Thus, prolonged
inspections will not overturn the regime. (3) We can't afford to wait. The risk of terrorism is such that we can no longer afford to prolong it. As Peggy Noonan notes, George W. Bush is losing sleep over this possibility, and rightly so (although unlike Noonan I suspect that what keeps him up at night is precisely the fact that he can't prove the connection between Saddam and international terrorism that he and many of the rest of us feel in our guts). (4) We must act now or never. The diplomatic cost (and cost economic uncertainty cost) of keeping our attention and diplomacy focused on Iraq to the exclusion of other hot spots is prohibitive if it continues much longer, and the American public will lose the sense of urgency needed to fight (it's starting already). If we back down now, we can't rev the war machine back up.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:42 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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