Friday, June 15, 2007


Iraq Invasion: Delusional Thinking Based on Ignorance

I read, and recoiled from, this article, in 2001, as a future war supporter. Funny how informed people believed different things than the people running the country, and than I did.

THE MAIN working hypothesis, taken almost as an act of faith and embraced by many Western policymakers and pundits since the end of the Gulf War, is that the West's "Iraq problem"--and most of Iraq's problems, too--would be easily solved once President Saddam Hussein disappeared from the scene. Some observers have therefore couched the "Iraq problem" as one of biology--meaning not the threat of Iraqi biological weapons, but rather Saddam's mortality.

Not all delusional thinking is based on ignorance, but this example is. The contention that Saddam's removal through death or incapacitation would solve most of the difficulties at hand is flawed on at least two counts, one having to do with the past, the other with the future.

First, it ignores the far-reaching changes that Saddam and the Ba'athi regime have wrought in Iraqi society and political culture. The havoc wreaked upon Iraq's socioeconomic system will take years to heal. The total castration of the political system will not be easy to repair either, even in the very unlikely event that a liberal-democratic regime were to come to power in Baghdad. Finally, the mending of the fragmented Iraqi polity now divided between a rump state controlled by the Ba'ath and two fractious Kurdish administrations in the north, will not be a simple matter.

Even more importantly, the "biology" approach ignores Saddam's own plans and preparations for Iraq's future. Saddam is determined to ensure that his legacies and the system he has built are perpetuated after his departure from this life. In this regard, several questions are pertinent: Is Saddam Hussein walking in the footsteps of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Asad, as well as other leaders in this region, in preparing a "hereditary presidency"? If so, what would such a regime be like? In specific institutional terms, what would be the fate of the three pillars on which the regime has been based for the last 33 years: the Ba'ath Party, the security services and the army?

"Saddam After Iraq: Couldn't Be Worse?" Ofra Bengio, The National Interest, Winter 2001.


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