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A Better World without Saddam

#3 on the list of the world’s dictators - what about #1 and 2?

by Barnabas
September 29, 2004

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For the second time in a row, Kim Jong-il, 63, is the "world's worst dictator." His regime has been judged most repressive of its own people, "more completely than any other in the world." Freedom House has ranked North Korea as the "worst" in 31 straight years. Some dictators are indeed more durable than others.
— Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 21, 2004

"The world is a lot better off without Saddam Hussein," gets my vote as the silliest, most disingenuous line in the presidential campaign; yet when it is uttered, usually in what used to be called Pulpit Tones, everybody clamors to agree with it. Nobody wants to appear to be on Saddam’s side. The line is allowed to stand as a justification for the incompetence, bad judgment, and waste entailed in our effort to get rid of Saddam. 

We may at least ask the obvious follow-up question, "Just how much better off?"

We can’t yet tell, since the war that toppled Saddam is ongoing. Berra’s famous line applies to warfare as to baseball: "It ain’t over till it’s over." I doubt that the rate of violent death in Iraq has decreased much since the days of Saddam. So many ungrateful Iraqis would rather kill foreign troops than be liberated by them, answering the President’s invitation to "Bring ‘em on." This in turn requires the foreign troops to keep killing them. That will teach them to be grateful!

Let’s suppose that Iraq will be better off without Saddam, the sooner the better, a free, democratic Iraq without an AK-47 in sight.

Then what? Saddam was not the top honcho in the dictating game; he was number 3. A new number three has already taken his spot. As in any game, a second-stringer has moved up. If getting rid of dictators were our goal all along, as the American administration seemed to remember several months into the war, why didn’t we go after numbers 1 and 2, taking them out in the order of their awfulness? Now we’ve spent all these lives, all this time and money, and all have to show for it, as a certainty, is a third-rate dictator behind bars. Numbers 1 and 2 are still out there, victimizing their own people and intimidating their neighbors, while the new 3 through 10 are waiting in the wings.

How much better off are we? I’m reminded of the surgeon who, upon opening the patient up, discovered that there was nothing wrong with her after all. Since he had gone that far, he took out her appendix. She is now better off in the sense that she will never get appendicitis.

We resemble that patient. We are better off without Hussein, as she is better off without her appendix. It’s an exaggeration, however, to declare that we are a lot better off.

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S.E. Shepherd from Chicago, IL writes:
September 29, 2004
There has been a subtle change in American foreign policy - we have gone from defending democracy to spreading democracy. Initially I thought it had begun with the current administration, but I realize this goes back to Reagan and beyond.

We can argue the validity of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, but at least we were defending active governments from being overthrown. In the 70's and 80’s the American government moved into aiding subversive groups into toppling governments it found anti- American (Chile, Philippines, Nicaragua), but it wasn't until Grenada that a U.S. President actively sent in American troops to force a change in another country's government. This was followed by Bush in the late 80's, when he forcibly removed Panamanian President Manuel Noriega. Both of these changes were diversion tactics for military failures elsewhere. In 1983, a suicide bomber attacked a U.S. Marine compound in Lebanon, killing 283 marines. Reagan's resolve? Free Grenada from Communist rebels. Bush Sr., suffering from a wimp image, decided to remove Noriega in 1989 (after putting Noriega in power in the 70's, as the head of the CIA).

Bush Jr., realizing the difficult task of actually capturing Osama bin Laden, went after another straw dictator in Hussein, only it seems the people of Iraq had more teeth than he expected.

The reason we don't take out dictators #1 and 2 is because that would involve more death and destruction than any American president is willing to sacrifice (he might not get re-elected). Dictators like Hussein (and lesser) seem like sure bets for American Presidents to flex their military muscles and make people believe they are making the world a better place.

Are we better off with Hussein removed? If enough people believe it so, it must be true.

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