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Tuesday, March 18, 2003

REFLECTIONS AND PREDICTIONS ABOUT THE IMMINENT WAR WITH SADDAMITE IRAQ

Issued last night --- aimed above all to the Iraqi people and military commanders --- President Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to quit Iraq with his family or face war has brought 6 months of efforts at the United Nations to an end, something already clear in the US-British-Spanish statement made after the three heads of government met in the Azores on Sunday. It has also brought to an abrupt halt 12 years of Saddam's cunning ability to outwit and disgrace the UN and UN inspectors, even as he obtained influential patrons abroad as his defenders --- especially the French, but also the Russians and even the German left-wing government.

Here, in response to about a dozen emails the buggy prof has received today --- mainly from his listserver subscribers --- are some quickly jotted down thoughts and predictions
1) Will Saddam leave Iraq as the Ultimatum Demands?

Very doubtful. To expect that is to miss the core of his megalomaniacal psychology, along with the heavy doses of malignant narcissism, that have convinced him, like Hitler before, that he's a man of destiny, slated to alter the entire history of the world, and in jolting far-reaching ways. In particular, all the best studies of his mental make-up --- basic beliefs, values, high-pulsating emotions, brought out in decades of behavior --- converge in noting that he believes he's the greatest Islamic statesman since Saladin, the Arab leader who defeated and ousted the crusaders in the late 12th century from Jerusalem, and right below Mohammed himself in the Islamic Parthenon. To be the greatest Islamic statesman, you understand, is the equivalent in his parochial mind --- a man who has traveled little in his 28 years in power, has no impressive educational background, has the brutal outlook of a tribal-clan leader whose morality reduces to "kill or be killed" when it comes to everyone else (a callous paranoia that fits the definition of a malignant narcissist, totally unable to empathize with other human beings), and is surrounded by sycophants --- of being the greatest statesman in the world.

More specifically, he believes, apparently, that his destiny is to dominate the Middle East by dominating the key oil resources there and the fabulous wealth it presents, in order to achieve three related goals: [1] to make Saddamite Iraq the center of a revived Arab people, 280 million now, all fervently seeing him in his mental assumptions as their savior save for the totally menacing Arab leaders in place who are the puppets in the hands of the Americans and the British; and then [2] to translate that unity and wealth into WMD that will destroy the American-British hold on the Arabs; and [3] to make Islam the center of a new world order again . . . something Muslims, wrongly, think occurred in the past. (It never did, despite quickly overrunning the Zoroastrian Persian empire in the East in the 7th century and the Christian Middle-East, North Africa, and Spain and Portugal in the decades that followed. It never dominated Northern or Central Europe or India or China and the rest of the Far East, and despite some initial cultural vigor in the 8th to the 12th century, it went into intellectual and then political decay rapidly in the 1100's and afterwards . . . a collapse that is captured by the startling figure that in the last 1000 years the 280 million Arab peoples have translated fewer books from abroad than Spain with its 40 million people does each year.)

The best works on Saddam's hot-wire mental world, its cunning intellectual stuff and grandiloquent, kinetically charged emotions --- as earlier commentaries have noted --- are:

[1] Jerrold Post (a psychiatrist who was with the CIA for years and developed an extensive portrait of Saddam's emotional and intellectual inner world, now available as part of a longer study, The Psychological Assessment of Political Leaders: Psychological Profiles of Saddam Hussein and William Jefferson Clinton, just out and recently bought by the buggy prof);

[2] Jeffrey Goldberg's Great Terror ;

[3] Mark Bowden , Tales of a Tyrant;

[4]Kenneth Pollack, Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (2002), by another CIA analyst, a specialist on Iraq and the Gulf region for almost two decades, who was Clinton's main adviser on Iraq on the National Security Council.

 

As Post, now a specialist in political psychology at George Washington, noted in a recent interview with The Guardian of London:

..."Saddam's rise to the top through coups, intrigue and assassination have convinced him he has inherited the same myth-laden mantle of leadership - and that belief has deepened with every layer of sycophantic, frightened followers who have gathered around him. It has produced that most dangerous political personality - malignant narcissism," Post says. This particular brand of personality disorder exhibits itself in an extreme lack of empathy for others, paranoia, the absence of conscience and a readiness to use violence to achieve goals. Post believes Bin Laden is suffering from the same malady.

"This does not mean that either man is "crazy". Rather, both act with a cool rationality which is primarily limited by the yes-men around them. In his profile of Saddam, Post argues: "While he is psychologically in touch with reality, he is often politically out of touch with reality. Consequently, Saddam was caught by surprise when virtually the entire planet united against Iraq after his invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It also helps explain why he thought his army could hold back the coalition forces.

"Post predicts that faced with the threat of UN inspections, Saddam will try to repeat the evasions and subterfuge of the past decade in an attempt to avoid a war. "He is not a martyr. He is a quintessential survivor," the psychiatrist insists. But on the other hand, he will never give up his arsenal of mass destruction, which Post says are essential to his self-image as a world-class leader. "Big boys have big toys," as he puts it. "Without the weapons, he's nothing."

"Threatened with extinction, Post predicts Saddam will probably both set fire to the Iraqi oilfields, as he did in Kuwait 11 years ago, and order the use of chemical and biological weapons against the invading troops and against Israel." From an Interview in the Guardian


 

2) But Isn't Saddam the Ultimate Survivor?

That Saddam's been an unusual surviving mass-murderer on a vast scale is evident. Like Stalin before him --- his hero, by the way (just as the Godfather films are his favorites) --- he has used a combination of ruthless terror and pervasive fear to underpin his 28 years in power, almost all uncontested after the initial period, roughly three years or so. Again, exactly like Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union during his mobilized terror and Gulag-system, killing 30 million of its citizens in the process, for 29 years, 1924-1953. Like Stalin too, who destroyed the Communist Party through systematic purges in the 1930s and again after WWII, essentially ruling through the KGB and a system of organized terror, slave-labor, and mass killing, so Saddam destroyed the leadership ranks of the Baathist Iraqi party and has essentially ruled the Iraqi people for 15 years now with a small clique of family members and a Palace Guard of 20,000 Special Republican Guards and his Arab Feyadeen comprised of his tribal-clan idolators from Tikrit, his home base.

All that on the one hand. On the other hand --- and when you're dealing with the psychological make-up of a complex person, never mind a systematically cruel megalomaniac political leader, there's always another hand --- you have to dig deeper into the murky depths of his unconscious warring emotional conflicts and the motive-forces they generate as an outcome, all protected by layers of defenses and self-illusions. When you do, what you find is something odd.

In particular, contrary to conventional wisdom about megalomaniacs being the ultimate survivors --- a conviction not at all in line with psychiatric work, by the way; but somehow parroted by journalists --- he isn't just a survivor, but a recurringly reckless, high-stakes risk-taker who ignores, again and again, the realities of force arrayed against him at key moments of decisions. Far more perceptive, in line with more perceptive work on abnormal psychology, Pollack notes that for all his cruelty, cunning, and survival tricks, Saddam has at bottom in his view an unconscious suicidal-tendency, the only way to explain his reckless behavior in the past that ordinary rational policymakers would have avoided. He notes the constant rhetoric of this sort, which Pollack claims matches that behavioral pattern:

"Today is a day in the Grand Battle, the immortal Mother of All Battles. It is a glorious and a splendid day on the part of the self-respecting people of Iraq and their history, and it is the beginning of the great shame for those who ignited its fire on the other part. It is the first day on which the vast military phase of that battle started. Or rather, it is the first day of that battle, since Allah decreed that the Mother of All Battles continue till this day".—Saddam Hussein, in a televised address to the Iraqi people, January 17, 2002

Saddam, additionally of course, has killed off any dissenters within his clique. Surrounded by sycophants and terrorized generals, he never finds any of his delusive mental workings, however frazzled and out of contact with reality, ever challenged. To be a challenger in his presence is to court torture and death.

At which a key questions prompts itself. Namely,

 

3) Does Saddam Think He Can Win?

Surprising as an affirmative answer will be to almost anyone, it appears to be the soundest surmise: yes, just as he no doubt has convinced himself that he did indeed win the first Gulf War --- that he would outlive Bush Sr.; that Americans, by not pursuing him to Baghdad and destroying his government when we had victory in our grasp in March 1991, are cowards, fearful of losing casualties in war . . . a conviction shared by Al Qaeda and bin Laden until the war against Taliban Afghanistan in 2001; and that he will be able to mount a prolonged defense around Baghdad that will frustrate the US again and win over his beloved Arab masses and the great peace movements abroad, whose members, like Lenin who called western intellectuals and apologists "useful idiots" (and Hitler the bulwarks of appeasement), will rally to his cause too. How so?

Well, we can only conjecture, the secretive Saddamite regime and its one-man dominant show rivaled only by the mass-murdering Stalinist system in North Korea . . . both of which rule by fear and terror.

That said, quite likely --- in his raw, high-pulsating mind undoubtedly bombarded non-stop by imagery of heroism without rival and the need to demonstrate his power to the world --- he need only slow down the American approach to Baghdad for a week or two, maybe letting hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees crowd the way; simultaneously, keep his main forces behind his weak military units (almost all of them, save the Republican and Special Republican Guards and his faithful Tikrit Arab Fedayeen, using the soldiers as fodder) and hence save Baghdad in the final bloody battle, keeping intact his center-citadel for weeks if need be; and then let the usual naive journalists repeat the images of countless civilian casualties . . . energizing the peace forces abroad, all his admirers of course, while waiting until his patrons in the UN Security Council and elsewhere urge a negotiated settlement (guess which ones want to head the negotiations in his demented mind?). As a magnanimous twist --- see how much I love my country above myself --- he might even offer to resign in the future, maybe abdicating to one of his sons, both of them mass-murderers on a vast scale too. (See the analysis of all this by Amir Taheri, a well-known Iranian journalist who once edited the prestigious Politique Etrangere in Paris.)

But what about the overwhelming military might of the US that will be unleashed after the ultimatum? Saddan's aware of it, but like Hitler before him, what matters in his crackling, closed-off mind, it seems, is the belief that will-power and successful inspired leadership and cunning tactics and strategy are what determine wars, not hardware and superior numbers.

 

Ponder this analogy with Hitler a little more.

Again and again, before WWII, the German military heads warned Hitler that he couldn't win a war against an overwhelming coalition of France, Britain, Russia, and the US --- which they predicted would materialize --- and again and again Hitler fired them, one another, as cowards until he was surrounded by lackeys and sycophants who were feared resisting him. If anything, Saddam actually has outdone Hitler here. The Nazi psychopath never actually shot or killed any generals who disagreed (until the abortive, late effort to assassinate him in July 1944 as Anglo-American troops were breaking out of Normandy and speeding toward Paris); Saddam, by contrast, has been repeatedly reported as whipping out his own pistol and killing generals who dared to report factual matters at odds with Saddam's God-given inspired insights, to say nothing of killing off dozens of generals in the military and Republican Guards by his Palace Guards and Special Republican Guards, the latter two units numbering about 20,000 and forming the internal core defenses of Baghdad (not even the regular Republican Guards, 18 of whose generals have been killed in the last 15 months or so, are let into the center of the city, lest they stage a coup).

And just as Hitler was able, initially --- thanks to Blitzkrieg tactics in Poland, then against Norway and Holland, Belgium, and France --- able to disorient his military dissenters by his startling victories, so apparently Saddam has convinced himself that his survival after 1991 and all his other cunning victories have proved that he's Destiny's choice all right for carrying out his messianic mission. What are these other victories?

Easy enough to answer: The continuance of his WSM programs full-throttle despite harsh economic sanctions. And his non-stop cagey ability to outwit inspectors --- including the naïve Hans Blix, who 12 years ago, as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was ready to certify that Saddam had no nuclear program, only for deserters to show he was totally wrong. His no less impressive and crafty skill in winning powerful patrons like the French and Russians (and maybe the Germans). ready even to veto strong action against him. Nor is that all. Don't forget the repeated efforts at coups or assassination, all failures. Do they not also show he is surrounded by desperate heinous enemies, even inside his government and military? And don't all these victories since 1991, even apparently in his mind his triumph over naive and gutless Americans in March 1991, for all their hardware, prove that any of his critics in and out of Iraq are all wrong, that he's right, that he will carry out to perfection his mission? Stymie and frustrate the cowardly, hardware-ridden American forces once more?

 

Sound crazy?

Well, consider Hitler in early May 1945, his end even closer than for Saddam right now. The scene: Russian troops were breaking through the fierce defenses around Berlin, their tanks and infantry fighting their way toward Berlin's center, the city a total ruins, where Hitler, along with some hard-core followers, had taken refuge in deep underground bunkers. Still issuing orders to phantom armies. Still believing as American and British forces swept eastward and toward Bavaria and Austria (following lines of demarcation between the US, Britain, and Russia worked out earlier by diplomats), with the noise of Russian artillery and tanks now audible even 100 feet below ground, that he would prevail. Surely, surely, we can hear the proponents of a rational view of Saddam-the-diplomat say, Hitler had finally recognized he had badly miscalculated, that his own Destiny-driven mission was a delusionary sham from start to finish. Nope; no way.

Only in the last day before he committed suicide did he acknowledge that victory might be elusive , destiny no longer with him: that the Western-Russian alliance wouldn't crack, that there were no miracle weapons his scientists could rush into battle, that not every German above the age of 4 or 5 was willing to die for their beloved Fueher. Even then, the blame lay with the German people. Yes, not with himself, but the Germans. They were not, it turned out, the Master Race after all: the Russians had proved superior, and hence were the superior race, and the German people who had let him down now deserved to die, one and all. To which end, he ordered Albert Speer, the architectural fiend who had promised to carry out Hitler's obsessive delusions about creating a new Roman-like city in Berlin once he triumphed over his ruthless evil enemies, to flood the subways of Berlin where the Germans had taken refuge as the Russians destroyed one building after another in their simultaneous destruction of all remaining German military resistance.

No doubt, Saddam will go to his death the same way. He wasn't at fault. Hot-wire narcissists never are, even the garden-variety kind you run into on university faculties and in the administration. Others are. They are at fault. Saddam's destiny, his overwrought grandiose vision that nobody could challenge directly without being killed or tortured until now, will have been thwarted by the cowardice of the Iraqi people and all the furtive cowards and fiends within his military and Republican Guards who refused to implement effectively his matchlessly brilliant military tactics. He will, if he can, set fire to the oil wells, let Baghdad be destroyed, let his military be chewed up. Total victory or total defeat, the latter won't be his fault. It never is, to repeat, for malignant megalomaniac narcissists like Hitler and Stalin and Mussolini and Mao who have killed their way to power, then kill and torture to remain in it, aggrandizing total control over the lives of tens or hundreds of millions in the process, and who relish being the ultimate wielder of life-and-death in the center of the world's eyes for years and years.

 

4. The French View

Not that, you understand, his chief patron in Europe, Jacques Chirac, anticipates any of this in Saddam's behavior. Instead, in an interview with CNN two days ago, the French president --- who in 1976 was the French Premier and sold the nuclear reactor to Saddam that started his nuclear program, even after Moscow had turned Saddam down --- assured the interviewer and the American people that Saddam truly does "love his people." And the Premier confesses that he is disappointed his friend, the head of a Francophile people according to the deuxieme television state-network, hasn't responded to the offer to go into exile.

What Chirac and Villepin will likely do in the next few days and weeks --- now that their scheme to entangle American power in rules within organizations, especially the UN Security Council, which alone gives France power and influence, has backfired --- is try to figure out three things, none easy to do none likely to be brought off fully or quickly, if at all: [1] repair relations with the US (hence the threat to Saddam that France will intervene on the side of the US-led coalition if Saddam uses the chemical and biological weapons that he was supposed to fully own up to and destroy under resolution 1441, immediately, totally, and unconditionally; [2] get in on the spoils in Iraq afterwards, including salvaging huge French oil and industrial contracts by (see the previous parenthesis); and [3] somehow keep the hypocritical Don-Quixote left-wing government in Berlin, which went to war without ANY Security Council approval in 1999 and sent German troops into battle for the first time since 1945, as the junior partner in the renewed duo to dominate the EU . . . something made doubly difficult by the fact that the government in Berlin is under heavy fire for its ham-fisted moralizing diplomacy and its total inability to figure out how to reform the German economy and kick-start growth in a country that is beginning to look very much like Japan in its economic future.

Does Chirac, by the way, look happy here --- a photo taken two days ago?

NY Times: Germany's Military Sinking to Basket-Case Status notes today, is only partly the sudden conversion to pacifism, moral exhortation, and utopianism by the Green-German government that went to war over Kosovo 4 years ago; nor even the anti-Americanism that appeals to the German people, infatuated with their New Way in Diplomacy that has left German military and intelligence and Christian Democrat and even some Social Democratic politicians uneasy and aghast. It is that the slowest grower in the EU for the last 5 years, unlikely to grow at all this year, has no money for the military budget --- now this year around 1.2% of GDP --- given all the social security and pension commitments of the government.

There is no likelihood this will change.

By contrast with Paris, though, the Berlin government --- where Joshka Fischer, the Green Foreign Minister, has openly rebuked Schroeder for his excessive and rigid anti-Americanism --- has long given the US overflight rights for the war against Iraq, backed away from the French-Belgium-German refusal to send supplies in advance to Turkey (an unprecedented refusal in the 54 years of NATO's existence), is guarding American bases with German troops, and has sent Patriot batteries to Israel. In time, with patience, Washington can count on the Schroeder coalition falling (mainly in economics, unless there happens to be huge and embarrassing revelation to come out of liberated Baghdad about German industrial chicaneries in Iraq above and beyond what German papers have themselves reported), and a friendly government coming back into power. That said, Germany is essentially through as a solid military member of the alliance, and at most can be counted on for limited peacekeeping missions.

Brief tag-on observation. Paris too, it now appears --- in its effort to retrieve a predictably exploding-in-your-face diplomacy of cagey cleverness that has reduced badly the status of the Security Council, badly split the EU, and led essentially to its isolation in NATO --- has given the US overflight rights, something Mitterand didn't do in 1986 when US planes attacked the terrorist state of Colonel Khaddafi's Libya. Belgium too, come to that: the Prime Minister there overruling the Defense Minister.

Moral: you don't want to be on the losing side all the time.



 

5. The Arab Street as a Mighty Force

Has there ever been a greater, more phantasmal turnip-ghost as a force in international relations than the so-called Arab street. Not a peep out of it, you'll note. And the reason why? The despots in the Arab countries, including the leaders of the governments supporting us --- the tiny Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, plus more quietly Egypt and Morocco and Tunisia and Algeria, the latter three French former colonies no doubt further ingrates, mal eleve and knowing not when to speak up any better than the East European 13 countries supporting the US over Iraq didn't know when to shut up --- all rule through the secret police and the control of the media and can easily control their peoples when they want them to. Then, too, in the Gulf States the populations probably hate Saddam anyway, sad as the Great Messiah-of-the-Sands would be if he knew this. Even the Palestinians haven't done much more than jump and down in the streets some, the Palestinian Authority --- another despotic repressive organization, only with Arafat now losing control over it (thanks to the US demand that it reform itself or else) --- fearful of creating a bad image on American television similar to the joyous crowds out on the streets after learning the news of the 9/11 slaughter of Americans. 

 

5. The Peace Movements as a Mighty Force

Whatever its impact in Europe, it has not prevented five major EU countries from energetically supporting the US over Iraq: Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Denmark. As was easy to predict, Blair survived any challenge in the House of Commons to going to war --- even though Robin Cook, a minister, quit . . . the same Robin Cook who, in 1999, was Britain's Foreign Minister and didn't raise any objections to going to war against Yugoslavia over Kosovo without ANY Security Council approval, which Blair rightly can say, like Bush, he has under 17 UN resolutions, including 1441 passed unanimously last November. Note that all these governments are led by moderate conservatives, except for Labour --- itself a centrist party by Continental standards.

In Australia the peace movement similarly failed, and Australia will be sending troops into battle along with US and UK forces. Japan has stood solidly by the US diplomatically and has openly reproached Paris for its pigheaded behavior in defending the Saddamite regime in the UN. Above all, in the US -- unlike in 1991 when public opinion was barely in favor of going to war WITH full-fledged and unequivocal UN authority --- over 60% of Americans were found in a poll today favoring war as the best way to deal with Saddamite Iraq's threats to this country, whose sense of vulnerability has changed drastically since 9/11 . . . exactly as the President has repeatedly warned.

What's especially interesting is that young Americans have been more favorable in supporting the president than those over 40 --- the latter's mentality influenced profoundly when they were young by the Vietnam war.

 

6. Should We Respect the Peace Movements?

Five brief responses:

  1. If you respect the appeasers of the 1930s, sure.


  2. Good intentions aren't enough, far from it. For one thing, In international relations, judgment, knowledge, insight, the willingness to confront if need be clear menaces --- as well as diplomatic flexibility --- are more important. For another thing, morality is judged not by intentions alone but by consequences. Just as the appeasers of the 1930s made a far greater, more devasting war inevitable, so the peace marchers today have prevented in part a more effective coercive diplomacy that might have forced Saddam to disarm and flee the country.


  3. In the peace movement, distinguish between the hard-core ideologues and the average poorly informed person for whom war is distasteful. The former cannot even be said to have good intentions.

    Haters of America, including the key agitators here in the US, they are generally stinkeroos in sheep's clothing and never learn anything. For them, anti-Americanism seems to combine disillusion over failed socialism and heady doses of utopian leaps into some radically restructured world, plus sheer projected virulence and unresolved self-identity conflicts . . . the resulting ideological concoction something of a new surrogate religion for the disenchanted radical left everywhere. Their behavior prompts the question that Michael Walzer, a good IR scholar and political theorist who edits a solid journal of Social-Democratic orientation: Can There Be a Decent Left? A former avant-garde member of the radical left going back to the Vietnam war days, he answered that it looks more and more difficult to be optimistic here.


  4. As they say, better late than never for the few remaining decent people who, through self-annointed activism, are the leaders of the various groups that constitute the peace-movements here and abroad. Not least among the increasing number of defectors from the radical ranks, like Walzer himself, are Jewish intellectuals, left aghast at the hatred of Israel that prevails among the left in the EU and even in the US, with crackling anti-semitism evident too. See Todd Gitlin, another left-wing radical from the old 1960s and 1970s at UC Berkeley, and increasingly appalled by the rapid spread of anti-semitism on the left. For a broader, very recent, and wide-ranging symposium on this topic that features four Jewish intellectuals, each with different views (often wide apart), see Front-Page. Christopher Hitchens, the well-known former left-wing journalist, like Gitlin and Walzer a Jew, has written extensively on the topic as well. For a good survey of his writings, see Village Voice


  5. You will be hard pressed, save when an occasion peace-activist leader is interviewed on TV and recalls the need for some PR-fluff, to find any in these hard-core cliques who abominate Saddam Hussein's brutal rule (they usually are apologists or shrug their shoulders with a "So what, lots of dicators around and who gave America the right to decide when to deal with them forcibly?" or some such blather). And who don't think that the unprovoked attack on tens of thousands of Americans (and foreign residents) in New York on 9/11 that killed 2800 of them --- which could have been ten times that number if the WTC buildings had collapsed faster --- and killed another 100 or so at the Pentagon and 44 in Pennsylvania, wasn't at bottom the US's fault. And, to boot, who don't show various degrees of hate and contempt for this country and average Americans, their upper lips curling at the very thought of President Bush and Republicans and the white working class that votes for Democrats or the alleged sell-outs among minorities and women who are essentially political moderates . . . however much these firebrand types like to dress up their venom in idealistic claptrap.

    Essentially, it was for these very reasons and the sheer lack of any patriotism that immediately radiated radical and pc-left circles after 9/11 that former intellectual activists like Walzer, Gitlin, Hitchens, and others have distanced themselves quickly from these hard-core agitators and ideologues, some more and more to the right than others. And all of them, like others, have been doubly appalled at the rapid resurgence of anti-semitism in West Europe the last few years. Symposium. The Anti-Defamation League published the results of its survey of rising anti-semitism in 5 European countries last June: not the best of surveys, but a revealing one all the same. ADL




To be Continued

Replies: 1 Comment

FYI: Saladin was a Kurd, not an Arab.The Arabs tend to leave this out when talking about their golden past.

Posted by Steve Anich @ 03/18/2003 05:10 PM PST