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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Exquisite appeasement

The arguments are intensifying at the highest levels about whether the U.S. and its closest allies could or indeed should, oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Let me get straight to the point – I am not 100 percent convinced, if it were ever possible, that moving against Saddam is top priority in the war against terror as opposed to say, moving against Saudi Arabia (where most of the September 11th hijackers came from), Iran (a major sponsor of terror), or for that matter some other nation/body which is potentially posing a lethal threat to our civilisation. However, as I will argue below, I think crushing Saddam is a vital necessity, though one fraught with risks.

Of course, as has occasionally been noted on this blog, some of those who would oppose military action against Iraq are idiots who dislike any such action, usually out of a desire to see America’s face ground into the dust. Their arguments can be dismissed as self-evidently malevolent in intent. The Robert Fisks, John Pilgers and most of the Left fall into this camp, albeit with honorable exceptions.

There is another camp of war sceptic, represented by such intelligent and good souls like Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings who doubt the efficacy of military action and who also fear it may trigger off even worse crises, as well as swell the bureaucratic monster of the State and further erode remaining civil liberties. I have a good deal of sympathy with that view, given that war has almost always been attended by serious loss of liberty, often never to be reversed.

And there are those who argue that all we need to do is to contain Saddam and his ilk rather than pre-emptively crush his regime. Into this category falls former top British defence civil servant Sir Michael Quinlan, writing a critique of such action in today’s Financial Times.

His is one of the most closely argued cases against invading Iraq I have read so far. But reading the article through finally convinced me that we do need to take out Saddam’s regime. And he does this, ironically enough, with the opening paragraph of his article:

“Saddam Hussein is a malign tyrant with a history of aggression against his neighbours. He almost certainly has chemical and biological weapons and would like to get nuclear ones, in breach of United Nations Security Council edict. We can place no trust in his denials or his current manoeuvering.”

Well, Sir Michael, if that is the case, then clearly the U.S. and its allies have a clear duty to their citizens by taking this man out of circulation, seizing/destroying his stocks of weapons of mass destruction, and attempting to place a form of government less likely/able/willing to menace its neighbours! Of course the problem is that Saddam is not uniquely evil and there are other potentially lethal regimes (China springs to mind) which we could act against, but for the much greater risk. But just because we cannot take out all the world’s monsters in one go does not mean we should not move against some of them. At least doing so can deter others.

The bulk of Sir Michael’s argument becomes one, long eloquent case for doing, well, nothing. Apparently, poor old Saddam has no hostile intent, it is just that he is frightened of what other terrible folk next door will do to him. You know, like Joe Stalin invading half of Europe because he was worried someone would want to invade his socialist paradise:

“Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, unconscionable thought it is, is entirely capable (entirely?) of explanation as an act of defiance, a bid for prestige (gotta kill those Kurds, impresses the ladies) and an insurance against mortal attack.”

The clincher argument for me is this – if Saddam has or is trying to get horror weapons, he is going to use them sooner rather than later. The evidence exists. He has used them before. He has invaded his neighbours, brutalised his people and sponsored terrorism abroad. We haven’t got time to wait for the monster to die of old age. I wish we could. I wish we could worry about school vouchers, restoring the right to trial by jury in full and ending the Nanny State. But priority Numero Uno right now is getting rid of regimes that could make our humble ruminations so much blather and radioactive dust.

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