Worry Not, Lex

Worry not, Lex. I don’t think the anti-war demonstrators are helping their own cause. If anything they are antagonizing the many Americans who are inclined to support our government while our troops are in harm’s way.

The loony-lefties who drive the demos probably think they are positioning themselves to ride any wave of popular anti-war sentiment that develops in response to war setbacks. I think it’s more likely that the inevitable setbacks will increase popular determination to see the war through, and that many Americans will blame the antis for encouraging and even aiding our enemies. This isn’t Vietnam, where there were widespread doubts both about our tactics and our reasons for being at war. (It isn’t Algeria, either, Jacques.) The case for war against the Iraqi regime is clear. The case for finishing the job — after the first Gulf War and endless resolutions and sanctions didn’t — ought to be clear to anyone who isn’t blind.

We’ll win, and I don’t think it will be as difficult at you fear. Iraq isn’t 1940s Japan, the hard core of Hussein’s supporters isn’t likely to resist indefinitely. Those who aren’t soon killed or captured face an inevitable choice between 1) certain death in battle, 2) surrendering to U.S. troops and probably surviving, 3) being killed by other Iraqis, and 4) trying to escape while there’s still time. How many will choose death as opposed to some variant of surrendering or escaping? My guess is that an increasing number of them will, in one way or another, stop fighting as our victory becomes increasingly certain.

International hostility? We ought to be used to it by now, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing us down. The only thing that can stop us is if we lose our nerve, and I don’t think that will happen.

In The Money

The market-determined odds for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power by the end of March were last quoted at around 78% (and may be higher by the time you read this), an increase of about fifty percentage points in the past couple of days. Markets don’t always evaluate probabilities accurately, but they tend to provide the best available estimates, and they adjust rapidly as new information becomes available.

That’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

Sylvain and Lex: Is the U.S. government’s early emphasis on “shock and awe,” a concept which our media predictably hyped, itself a calculated tactic to intimidate the Iraqi leadership? Certainly we have plans to bomb heavily, and will do so when and if necessary. But the Iraqis watch the same TV news as we do. It would be well worth it if we could scare them, or at least as many of them as possible, into surrendering. Maybe that’s the intention.

If so, it marks a new high in sophistication for our government’s use of information. This is the kind of thing the Iraqis are supposed to be good at. It would be both excellent and ironic if it turned out that we were as competent in this area as we are in so many others.

UPDATE: I finally looked at Dave Himrich’s blog, which I found on this morning’s referrer list, and noticed that he has already made similar points. So has Suman Palit.


Many people have predicted that the German and, especially, French governments will be greatly discredited after we depose Saddam Hussein — and learn how deeply involved with his regime the Germans and, especially, French were. I agree. I also predict that the war will be, if not a walkover, at least much easier than critics anticipate (Perry DeHavilland predicts the mother of all surrenders); that the scope and horrific nature of Hussein’s atrocities will be revealed to exceed even our worst estimates; and, if I am right on my first two predictions, that George W. Bush’s father, and some of his father’s key advisors, will come out of this looking worse for not having finished the job the first time around.

Salam reports that life for ordinary Iraqis has been worse during the past ten years of anti-regime sanctions than it was prior to the Gulf War. He may be right. You can interpret what he says in a couple of ways:

1) America’s use of force against Iraq in 1991, followed by sanctions, was a bad idea. We harmed innocent Iraqis and made Saddam Hussein into more of a monster than he already was.

2) America used inadequate force against Saddam Hussein in 1991. Our subsequent imposition of sanctions was a cop-out, a cheap substitute for additional force that showed Hussein we weren’t serious about stopping him and that he could do whatever he wanted without serious consequence.

Leftist elites in Europe and the U.S. tend to believe the first explanation. I believe the second one. I suspect that if the coming war is relatively easy, Bush Sr.’s decision to withdraw prematurely from Iraq in 1991, and our subsequent betrayal of Iraqi Shiites in their post-war uprising (not to mention the 1995 northern rebellion from which Clinton precipitously withdrew support, and perhaps even our double-cross of the Kurds in the 1970s), will come under renewed scrutiny. They should. Policies under which we sometimes allowed allies to twist in the wind may have made some sense under old-style “stability” politics, but they taught opponents of tyrannical regimes that the U.S. can’t be counted on. I think that’s been one of the main reasons for Arab opposition to our imminent attack on Hussein: they haven’t believed that we would go through with it, and consequently they didn’t want to risk Hussein’s revenge if they cooperated with us. If we want these people’s trust (e.g., to facilitate “regime change”), we should follow through on our talk and actions. People who get shafted have long memories. Our elected officials and foreign-policy appointees sometimes act as though they’re off the hook for previous administrations’ actions. They are not.

The easier the coming war is, the more it will appear that the first President Bush was excessively cautious and lacking in vision. I hope that afterwards we will reevaluate the cynical assumptions by which we overvalued the short-term stability of despotic regimes and discounted the noble dreams of pro-U.S. freedom fighters.