Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Saturday, June 14, 2003
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Was Saddam Nuts?

From The real reason we went to war:

...those who deny that Saddam possessed WMDs are forced to address a peculiar question: If he didn't have them, why didn't he simply prove to the U.N. he didn't have them, thus potentially averting an invasion?

That got me thinking...why *did* Saddam act the way he did? Seems pretty stupid or psycho. Well, I don't think we can apply our own psychological and cultural "reasoning" here, so we'll never really understand I think. Anyway, I look to history for examples of "crazy behavior" in other dictators (noting that historical analogy is a crude instrument).

Let's invoke Godwin's Law right away and examine Hitler. He considered himself a military (and political) genius, so had a worldview that led to overconfidence. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in '41, it was over the objections of Hitler's general staff, who didn't want to fight a 2 front war. Today we see this as a big reason for the fall of the Reich, but Hitler was convinced that Slavs were inferior to Germans, and he was much smarter and gutsier than his military leaders. He did something patently silly because of how he saw the world.

Stalin himself also fell into traps laid by his filters. He believed Hitler wouldn't attack so soon (2 years) after signing their non-aggression pact and didn't think Germany would open a second front. Despite intelligence to the contrary, Stalin refused to believe Hitler was going to invade.

Looking at more recent examples, the DPRK might seem at first blush to be acting in a crazy manner wrt nukes. North Koreans are starving, yet Kim appears to be hell-bent on aqcuiring nuclear weapons (if he hasn't already). Paranoid or not, Kim sees the US in an aggressive posture (not unreasonable given our preventive war doctrine, "successful" prosecution of GWII, and outwardly offensive military moves in his region), and has calculated his best avenue for his (and I s'pose his nation's) survival. Korea's only leverage has historically been found in similar games of brinkmanship, since they pretty much lack any real power and have since the early days of the pen's history. I note that according to their official news agency, NK's stance is strangely consistent, given their worldview:

The DPRK has no intention to have a nuclear deterrent force without any reason, quite contrary to Washington's noisy propaganda.
The DPRK is willing to clear up the U.S. concern as regards the nuclear issue if it drops its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and addresses its concern.
But if the U.S. keeps threatening the DPRK with nukes instead of abandoning its hostile policy toward Pyongyang, the DPRK will have no option but to build up a nuclear deterrent force.
The DPRK's intention to build up a nuclear deterrent force is not aimed to threaten and blackmail others but reduce conventional weapons under a long-term plan and channel manpower resources and funds into economic construction and the betterment of people's living.Propaganda, of course, but perhaps sheds a little light on their thought processes. So back to why Saddam would be crazy enough to thwart the UN inspections process? Dunno, but here are some guesses as to what could underlie his actions:

* I've read in multiple sources that Saddam fancies himself a uniter of the Arab world, a latter day Nasser and/or Nebuchadnezzar. Giving into the Western world, symbolized by the UN, would shatter that image. Maintaining a cult of personality is like walking on a tightrope.

* His overinflated sense of genius (a carry over from GWI) combined with a belief in his own propaganda (I won the first war, and have been winning for 12 years), could have led him to believe he would continue to be "victorious".

* His gamesmanship has allowed him to survive and strengthen his power over Iraq, so why abandon a useful strategy, even if he doesn't have WMD? Keeping the world off-balance, driving a wedge between "Old Europe" and the US, etc, might have looked like a winning approach as it seemed maybe the US wouldn't be able to invade without global support. Not an unreasonable expectation.

* Reportedly Saddam's seen Black Hawk Down a million times, and it's quite possible he believed he could smack us hard like in Mogadishu and get us to retreat should we invade. The early days of the war, when the Fedayeen appeared to be very dangerous, might bear that out.

* There have been many articles discussing how such a strongman actually becomes quite isolated from reality, as his advisors are afraid to give him the real picture. So maybe his advisors told him what he wanted to hear: we have no WMD and are complying, but the Americans and UN are jerks, or maybe we *have* WMD and can't give up our trump card, so we're prevaricating, or something else from which he drew some mistaken conclusions.

Of course if this game truly was rigged from the start, I wonder how Saddam could've proved he had no WMD. As Ari stated back in December: "If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world." There was a great Daily Show news bit before the war that summed it up:

Stephen Colbert: "All Iraq has to do is get rid of its conventional weapons, disclose the location of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons and destroy them . . . by Monday. If Iraq has weapons of mass destruction it would have to use weapons of mass destruction to destroy them . . . by Monday. But if it does that, it would be an admission that it has weapons of mass destruction, which would be grounds for war."

Jon Stewart: "So if it gets rid of its existing weapons, that would mean peace?"

Colbert: "Yes, Jon, although the U.S. plans to introduce a U.N. resolution mandating that Saddam Hussein also has to sink a 40-foot putt. He gets one chance."


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