He threw it all away
If Saddam Hussein had complied fully with Resolution 1441 and allowed real inspections and been completely forthcoming about his WMDs programs in 2002-2003 instead of continuing to conceal WMDs or certainly striving mightily to appear to be concealing them, his country would not have been invaded and he would still be alive and he would still be the dapper dictator of Iraq. He threw it all away out of sheer egotism, or so it seems. Yet the egotism explanation makes no sense. If his concern was not to lose face by revealing his weapons to the UN and the U.S., he did allow the inspectors into his country, so he lost face anyway, right? What more “face” would he have lost by turning over to the inspectors all his actual information on his WMDs? He would have kept his country and his life, and we would not have been forced to invade and we would not now be mired in the horrible dilemma created by our invasion.
People say that Hussein was not crazy. But his behavior of appearing to conceal WMDs (which apparently he did not even have), which forced America to invade his country and destroy his regime, was crazy. I wonder if he ever realized this.
Or perhaps it comes down to this: his ego and perhaps his power were so invested in the world’s mistaken belief that he had WMDs that he would rather let his regime and his life be destroyed than admit not having the WMDs—which, of course, the world found out anyway once his regime was destroyed. So his behavior was, at best, spectacularly irrational.
By the way, the title of this blog entry is a paraphrase of Bob Dylan’s beautiful song from Nashville Skyline, “I Threw It All Away.” Below are the first two verses. The second verse in particular, with its line about “rivers that ran through every day,” is amazingly appropriate to Saddam Hussein, who was the absolute dictator of the Land of the Two Rivers, the two most famous rivers in the world, until he threw it all away.
I once held her in my arms.
Jed W. writes:
Please do not uncritically buy into the concept that Sadaam had no WMD with comments like your aside on the subject in your latest post. You wrote in reference to WMD “which he apparently did not have.” There is a mountain of evidence that he did have WMD including his scientific infrastructure, the testimony of his Air Force second in command (General Saada), satellite evidence of convoys during the run up to war going to Syria, the discovery of actual chemical weapons (see Rep Weldon and Sen Santorum) etc. The evidence goes on and on. This is a very important point. It mystifies me why the Bush administration just caved on this and accepted the analysis of its enemies who successfully proved a negative. All of the Jihadists have WMD programs (large and small). And yes, secular Saddam was in effect a jihadist. (Read Caroline Glick’s incredible piece on that subject in the current Jerusalem Post for a great primer. She lays out the relationship of various factions in the Islamic (jihadist) world and how and why, though they have differences, they coalesce around fighting the West, especially the U.S. And Israel. It is also a good explanation of the severity of the Iranian threat to the world.)LA replies:
I have previously made the same point as Jed. But at a certain point, when event he adminsitration fails to defend its own position for which there is some evidence, it becomes difficult to maintain it. And a joyless smile is not evidence of anything.Randall Parker writes:
Here’s a theory to explain his behavior: He wanted to hide his lack of WMDs from Iran. He gambled the U.S. wouldn’t invade over this issue.Thucydides writes:
Your speculation that Saddam may not have been mentally sound in that his actions do not seem to have been rational. Now I am not among those who look for very much rationality from human beings, but here is an alternative explanation:Mark P. writes:
You wrote:James S. writes:
Saddam was bluffing. And we couldn’t tell. He must not have thought we would actually take him out. I think I read this idea in a James Fallows Atlantic article.D.T. Devareaux writes:
Saddam’s behavior was irrational only if he was certain the U.S. would invade. Given his successful defiance of the UN and U.S. for the past 12 years prior to OIF [?], what guaranty could he have that we wouldn’t, at the last minute, call it all off? His power, his egotism (in the absence of any real force, i.e. WMDs, etc.) was artificially constructed—largely by us. We allowed resolution after toothless resolution to go by unheeded. It was our absolute lack of resolve in performing anything but the most superficial penalties upon him that permitted him, the reincarnated Nebuchadnezzar, to thumb his nose at and defy, time and again, the world’s most powerful country. This is not to absolve him of his crimes, of course, but how could he not believe the hype? Had we previously done what was necessary, had we treated Saddam like the common thug that he was and not given way to diplomacy and resolutions we never intended to enforce, it may not have been necessary to invade Iraq in 2003 and we could have avoided this mess entirely. Instead, it appears that we fell for our own joke—and boy isn’t our face red?LA replies:
Mr. Parker, Thucydides, Mark, James, and Mr. Devareaux all make reasonable and interesting points. But I still don’t see how any rational human could have doubted by early 2003, notwithstanding all the previous shilly-shallying by the U.S., that Bush had determined to invade Iraq and that the only way Hussein could stop him from doing so would have been to be completely forthcoming on WMDs. I mean, our armed forces were there, in Kuwait, in a posture ready for invasion. What did Hussein think we were going to do with those vast forces? Leave them sitting there forever? Pack up and go home?Michael Jose writes:
In your claim of Saddam as irrational, you are also overlooking another possibility. In order for Saddam’s refusal to cooperate to be irrational, he would not only have to be certain that the U.S. would invade if he did not cooperate, he would have to be reasonably certain that cooperation would prevent an invasion.LA replies:
Look, we were operating within Resolution 1441. That wasn’t a joke. We were serious about it, even if the French weren’t and were setting us up for a back stab. We were not setting anyone up. For better or worse, we had decided to go the UN route (which I opposed our doing at the time). Therefore if Saddam had truly complied with 1441, the entire legal basis of the invasion, defined by us ourselves over many months of hard diplomatic effort, would have been taken away. If Saddam had said, “Ok, here is EVERYTHING I’ve got,” it is impossible to imagine that Bush would have proceeded with the invasion.Tom S. writes:
It’s not for me to say whether Saddam acted “irrationally” or not. There are still too many “unknown unknowns” with regard to the whole WMD question, and, as you and many of your correspondents have pointed out,”rationality” seems to means something rather different in the Middle East than it does in the West. But certainly, Saddam did not intend to end up on a gallows surronded by his Shia enemies, so I think that it is safe to say that he certainly miscalculated on an epic scale, even if he thought he was being “rational”. It turns out that he did not understand the United States any more than we understood Iraq. This mutual incomprehension is something we need to keep in mind when the topic of separationism come up. The less we have to do with people who employ Saddam-style “rationality” the better. It also points out the need to prevent such people obtaining WMD. They understand us, if anything, less than we understand them, and if Iran managed to convince itself that Israel or the U.S. was too “decadent” to respond to a nuclear attack, it wouldn’t really matter that they turned out to be wrong—millions would still die. Oddly enough, the irrationality or miscalculation of Saddam actually helps to justify the original invasion—a guy this stupid or unreasonable was too dangerous to even possibly have WMD. However, such Arab-style” “rationality” is also the reason that attempting to set a democracy in Iraq is coming (and will come) to naught.LA replies:
Thank you. Happy New Year to you and to all VFR readers.LA continues:
Let me repeat that I hated our Iraq involvement from the start and saw terrible things coming from it but could never see any alternative to invasion given what we knew or thought we knew: an outlaw Muslim regime developing biological and nuclear weapons, and an international Muslim terrorist group with thousands of agents around the world including the West who could reasonably be expected to acquire those weapons. I hate everything about the invasion of Iraq and what it’s brought. But unlike many others, I do not let my hate of that situation blind me to the factors that in my view made the invasion necessary.Jim A. writes:
The war and removing Saddam and the Sunnis from power was a strategic disaster. In the brutal world of Mideast politics he was able to maintain a relatively stable balance of power while Bush’s war stupidly gave power to the Shiites and Iran. It is a contradiction to support Saddam’s removal from power and also be opposed the war, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Anyone opposed to the war must also accept that Saddam should still in power. He was executed quickly because the Shiites are seeing the US is learning it’s mistake and will ultimately have to support the Sunnis. If not dead, Saddam might have been returned to power as the only one capable of stabilizing Iraq and the region.LA replies:
“It is a contradiction to support Sadaam’s removal from power and also be opposed the war, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 30, 2006 07:54 AM | Send