Jewish World Review March 25, 2003/ 21 Adar II, 5763
Give Saddam credit
Jacques' old buddy has now taken Iraqi military operations out of the hands of the generals and placed them under the control of four psychotic Saddamite family loyalists. They've had some terrific ideas: Close the border with Iran, so the great tide of civilian refugees will be forced to head for Kuwait and, with any luck, will get mowed down by the advancing Americans. Saddam was greatly heartened by the big round-the-world demos by the NION narcissists (Not In Our Name), and he evidently feels that if he throws enough of the Iraqi citizenry into the path of Anglo-American tanks the NIONist Entity will take to the streets of San Francisco, Glasgow and Sydney and force President Bush to give up. You can't blame him for thinking that way: As he sees it, Western wimpiness in 1991 gave him another 12 years.
Give Saddam credit. With the simple act of getting Iraqi seamstresses to run up the Royal Marine look for Baghdad's pret-a-porter spring collections, he's shown a shrewd understanding of the West's weak spot: the susceptibility of its peoples to believe the worst of their own side. We in turn should return the courtesy and see his elaborate ''plan'' for what it is: the heart of the problem.
It is Saddam's intention to compensate for American squeamishness about civilian casualties by ramping up the numbers himself. You couldn't have a more exquisite manifestation of an all but inviolable rule: For all their bluster about killing Jews and infidels, Arab leaders' first and last victims are always Arabs. This has been true ever since the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the first Arab nationalist colossus of the modern era, launched his revolt against the British in 1936. By the time the dust settled, there were hundreds of dead British, hundreds of dead Jews, and thousands of dead Arabs, the vast majority of that last group murdered by the Mufti's men as part of intra-Arab score-settling. ''Kill the Jews wherever you find them,'' the Mufti liked to say, but, for all the stirring rhetoric, he found it a lot easier to kill his fellow Arabs--a tradition that his successors from Assad to Arafat have been happy to maintain. Saddam, like the Mufti, will depart the scene leaving behind a mound of mostly Muslim corpses.
Fortunately for the Saddamites, there are plenty more where they came from. On Thursday in Gaza they were jumping up and down in the street. ''Death to America!'' they chanted. ''We will give our souls and blood for you, Saddam!'' Good. 'Cause that's pretty much all he needs from you. On the other hand, if I were the Butcher of Baghdad, I'd be little disappointed by the turnout: The Great Satan launches his unprovoked war on Iraq, and only 700 Palestinians bother to protest? He needs more blood than that, fellers.
Cynics like Chirac are relaxed about this. Arabs have never known democracy, so who cares? That was a more or less viable position when the Turks, French and British were running the place. But traditional Arab fatalism and self-victimization have mutated under various psychotic post-colonial regimes into something far more toxic. What's wrong with the region is not simply a purely local problem. That's the lesson of Sept. 11--that the Arab world can no longer be entrusted to the present Arab leadership.
Political realities require that we don't express it quite like that. As Tony Blair told the House of Commons, ''Sept. 11 changed the psychology of America. It should have changed the psychology of the world. Of course, Iraq is not the only part of this threat. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously.''
So America, in returning to Iraq 12 years on, is embarking on its boldest gamble in decades--a new Middle Eastern domino theory that says the liberation of Iraq is the best way to reform Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and beyond. Yes, it's a long shot, but in this discussion it's the fellows who insist you can never implant Western concepts like the rule of law and economic activity who are being the simpletons. The modern ''Middle East'' is an Anglo-French invention that they never had time to complete: They're like Baron von Frankenstein interrupted in his lab while he's still fine-tuning the formula and chased off by the excitable burghers, leaving the monster to break free of his shackles and stagger off down the hill to terrorize the village. But, even as a failed and prematurely abandoned experiment, certain distinctions can be observed: A rough rule of thumb is that the least worst countries in the region are those which were most Britannicized. The continuing ''moderation'' (comparatively) of Jordan and the Gulf emirates is essentially the enduring legacy of the Colonial Office. Were Iraq to be restored to its 1950s condition as a ramshackle Hashemite backwater, that in itself would constitute an almighty improvement in a part of the world that could certainly use some. Writing about last year's Arab League summit, Jonathan Kay of Canada's National Post noted that if Zimbabwe's election-fixing strongman Robert Mugabe had shown up, he's have been the most democratically legitimate leader in the room.
No one knows what regional ''reform'' will look like down the road. The odds are not good. But they're better than the certainty of disaster that another couple of decades of Baathism, Wahhabism, Hamas and the Ayatollahs will bring. When the most prominent Saudi trust-fund baby is Osama bin Laden and the most famous middle-class Egyptian is Mohammed Atta and the only example of Arab pluralism is a Christian deputy prime minister of Iraq who enjoys gassing Kurds and lobbing Scuds at Israel as much as his Muslim masters do, one thing is sure: The status quo is not an option.
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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.
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