Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Who has gone mad???

The London Times today published an opinion column by author John Le Carré titled, The United States of America has gone mad.

Le Carré says that the post-9/11 period of American history is the worst era of American madness he can remember... worse than McCarthy, the Bay of Pigs, and Vietnam.

Why? Because of the wars on terrorism and (prospectively) on Iraq by the "Bush junta". However, Le Carré writes that bin Laden was only the unintended catalyst for an otherwise intended war:
    The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.
In other words, "years" before 9/11, the Bush junta was planning a war to direct the public's attention away from the stealing of the election, etc. The ridiculous nature of this column is exemplified here: the literal meaning of Le Carré's words is that a "wag the dog" scenario was in the planning stages before Bush even took office! Remember, 9/11 occurred less than nine months after Bush was inaugurated, and less than a year after Election Day; yet our writer claims that the war was "years" in the making! Huh?

Le Carré also makes the clichéd arguments about Bush's oil connections driving the war, revenge for the planned assassination attempt on Bush 41 being the determining factor, etc. etc. He finally gets around to addressing the central issue, as far as the Administration is concerned: Saddam and his drive for weapons of mass destruction. Le Carré responds thus:
    Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes’ notice.
Le Carré is a successful author, but his argument here doesn't reflect that (or maybe it does: his genre is fiction). Essentially, his case is this: Saddam doesn't have WMDs, and if he gets them, he wouldn't dare use them, because Israel and the US would nuke him.

Readers of this blog will know that I am not at all impressed with this line of argumentation, nor are a number of scholars who know more about Saddam and his behaviorial patterns that John Le Carré does. If we don't stop Saddam, he will get WMDs. Nobody on either side of the war argument seriously doubts this. At that point (when Saddam gets his nukes), Le Carré and those who agree with him believe that the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (that's right: MAD) will set in: just as the US and the USSR never got into a shooting war because each side threatened the other with nuclear annihilation, analogously so will Saddam not do anything stupid with his WMDs, because we and Israel will make him pay!!! Aside from the serious moral problems associated with the MAD doctrine, other factors render this line of thought moot in Saddam's case. My favorite one is this: no one is really concerned that Saddam would precipitate a war (with anyone) by using WMDs. But he could use his WMD arsenal to prevent the US or anyone else from stopping his forays into other countries, for whatever reason suits his fancy. To give a specific example: what if Saddam -- having acquired a few small nukes -- decides he wants Kuwait back, and invades. But this time, he prevents us from acting by threatening to reign his nuclear devices down on the Saudi oil fields, thus removing nearly a quarter of the world's oil production from the market and plunging the global economy into a severe recession, if not a depression. Is this scenario really that unlikely, given Saddam's prior behavior? I don't think so, and I would want to risk it.

But such a scenario apparently never occured to Mr. Le Carré. He seems to believe that Saddam would act exactly as he would in this situation, a belief all too common, and all too erroneous, as history demonstrates (nobody thought that Saddam would really invade Kuwait, either).

Too bad: a good author makes a blustery attempt to explain and refute President Bush's stance viz. Iraq, and he fails miserably.

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