Monthly Archives: February 2003

“Recruitment” – Will an Iraq

“Recruitment” – Will an Iraq war make our al-Qaida problem worse? Not likely. By Christopher Hitchens

There is a parody of the old Uncle Sam “I Want YOU” recruiting poster in circulation. It shows Osama Bin Laden in the Uncle Sam finger-pointing pose, proclaiming that he wants us to invade Iraq and thus generate massive infusions of young and eager talent to his ranks. In different verbal and cartoon forms, this thought has become part of the standard repertoire of those who take the regime-preservation or regime-prolongation view of Iraq.

Before examining the argument—if it is an argument—one might observe that these are often the same people who scoff at any connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, and who furthermore are the most critical of the war on al-Qaida and the Taliban. So, it might be noted that for this purpose at least, they take as a given what they otherwise doubt.

Now why didn’t I think of that! Oh, wait…

satisfice vb to obtain an


vb to obtain an outcome that is good enough. Satisficing action can be contrasted with maximising action, which seeks the biggest, or with optimising action, which seeks the best.
In recent decades doubts have arise about the view that in all rational decision-making the agent seeks the best result. Instead, it is argued, it is often rational to seek to satisfice i.e. to get a good result that is good enough although not necessarily the best.
The term was introduced by Herbert A. Simon in his Models of Man 1957

A few things about Iraq:

A few things about Iraq:

Yes, Iraq is a sovereign country, but it is a sovereign country ruled by the same regime that ruled it when it lost a war it started when it invaded one of its neighbors. Iraq is ruled by the same regime because we didn’t conquer it when we had the chance because we thought we could disarm them without further military action via sanctions and inspections. Guess what? That didn’t work, why should we expect it to work in the future?

Instead what has happened is that Iraq, pretty clearly started re-arming. They may or may not be far enough along re-arming to pose a threat now, but if they have gotten as far as they have, I think we should assume that they will become a threat again at some future date.

There are certainly those who will question my assumption. Indeed, some argue that the inspections are working, and we need only give them more time. I personally think the inspections have only worked in so far that they have already demonstrated that Iraq is acting in bad faith. What else can they do now? Does anyone believe that the inspections can verify that Iraq has disarmed?

However, whether or not there are more the inspections, it is worth considering why it is that the inspections occurred at all. It would be disingenuous, I think, to conclude that they happened for any reason other than the fact that the US threatened unilateral action. You might argue that Iraq was responding to multilateral action on the part of the UN, but it is still hard to believe that the UN would have taken any action without the US threatening unilateral action.

So, even if war is not the answer, the threat of war certainly seems to be part of it, eh? And what is the threat of war without the will and ability to follow through?

The other argument to be made is that Iraq is far enough from becoming a threat that we can afford to wait. I suppose this might sense. There are times when it is better to wait. Whether it is worth waiting is a difficult question to answer though.

Part of the argument for waiting is that by acting now, we risk further alienating Arabs in the middle east, and by extension, muslims the world over, and that by doing so, we increace the threat of terrorism. Waiting, it is argued, will allow the Islamist wackos to cool off, and might make war with Iraq unnecessary.

I don’t see how this is going to work. First, I don’t see how war with Iraq will become unnecessary. It is going to take more than inspections to get Iraq to disarm. The best we can hope is that inspections, sanctions and other pressures slow Iraq’s progress towards rearming and acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

But even if inspections were enough, we have to keep in mind the conditions that made them possible in the first place: The threat of war. For the threat of war to be credible, there must be a demonstrated will and ability to follow through on the threat. This is going to require troops in the middle east, including places like Saudi Arabia.

In other words, it is going to take maintenance, if not escalation, of the same conditions that got this batch of Islamist wackos so wound up in the first place. Now, it is true that they got bent out of shape over US troops in Saudi Arabia, but I don’t think the wackos are going to feel any better if there are also French, German, English, Australian, Canadian & Norwegian troops there along side the Americans.

These wackos have added to their list of grievances, of course. If we are to take them at their word, they have a problem with Israeli treatment of the Palestinans, which, coming from Islamist wackos, really translates into a problem with Israel’s existence.

Sadam Hussein seems to have no trouble with exploiting the situation in Israel for his own purposes either, as amply demonstrated by his decision to fire missiles at Israel during the gulf war in an attempt to draw them into the war and ignite a larger conflict.

I’ll bet that he will do it again and this is why I think waiting is such a bad idea. Waiting keeps a big thorn in the side of the Islamist wackos, and gives Saddam Hussein the chance to accumulate weapons of mass destruction. It gives him the chance to carry on his secret weapons programs; it gives him a chance to wait until the UN’s attention lapses, which will allow him to further ramp up his efforts. In short, it gives him the chance to develop nuclear and chemical weapons without us knowing until it is too late.

Many have argued that the only possible reason for Saddam to accumulate nukes is for deterrent purposes, since he would clearly be nuked to hell if he used them. I’m not so sure. I think it is very likely that he would use them in a first strike against Israel, with the aim of igniting a much larger conflict that shakes a number of arab states in the region. A retaliatory strike by Israel, using their own secret nukes, would only fan the flames. Under those conditions, the US might well loose its foothold in the region as contries like Saudi Arabia, where the US has bases fall into a border spanning civil war, Israel could fall, and Iraq would come out on top as the only regional power with nuclear weapons. It wouldn’t end there , of course, the Islamist wackos would try and seize the opportunity. The outcome would be uncertain. Saddam could end up on top due to his superior firepower, the wackos could end up on top due to their superior numbers and single-mindedness, Saddam could get religion and form an alliance with the wackos, the west could restore stability to the region, but whatever it would probably be damn bloody for every one involved, and it would fester for a century or more.

Is this what we are waiting for?