Wednesday, October 02, 2002


Two examples today. For the Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Hugh White seems remarkably optimistic about Saddam’s intentions.
Saddam will agree to effective inspections only if he thinks the most likely alternative is a major US invasion. He may think there is an element of bluff in the US position, but he can't be sure.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Saddam would ever back down in the face of threats. The record points in precisely the opposite direction. He had months to get out of Kuwait, while the biggest buildup of forces since 1944 assembled on his doorstep. Did he think they were just there for the sun?

The second point here is that word “effective”. There are two possibilities facing the Allies: he either has a WMD program, or not. If he has, then he cannot agree to an “effective” inspection regime, for fear that the program will be uncovered. Exactly as it was in the past. If he has no program, the inspections will not find it, but this will not satisfy the US. The past record of concealment makes an assumption of innocence unsafe and irresponsible. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
If Saddam's army proves to be good at urban warfare, the Battle for Baghdad would be, by far, the most formidable military operation America would have undertaken since the Vietnam War.

The Battle for Baghdad? Has White ever heard of any new tactics, like siege warfare? Cordon off the city, and rain down J-DAM munitions each time a tank or artillery placement exposes itself. Given that only the Special Republican Guard is allowed in Baghdad, I don’t think they will hold out for more than a few weeks.

Alan Ramsey, on the other hand, is seeing a return to the Good Old Days , when resistance was king, and Labor was its handmaiden. His ever-present anti-Americanism, always simmering just below the surface, gets a good outing today, as he boots a collection of self-proclaimed elder statesmen around the block for their resistance to the war. Contradiction? Ramsey is taking the Old Left line that nobody who ever supported a war at any time can ever go against a war at any time in the future. And of course, he understands the Real Reasons.
Yet doesn't anyone twig that the Republicans have got a mid-term congressional election next month amid a climate where the domestic US economy, in more normal times, would likely have crucified a number of Bush's colleagues? Don't you think all this bellicose bluster about Iraq and the "axis of evil" and September 11 might, just might, have something to do with simple politics and the manipulation of political advantage?

It’s all about the elections, OK? For our benefit, Ramsey might like to define the Election Event Horizon and exactly what is the time frame for election-free planning? Given that the American system involves Congressional and/or Presidential elections every two years, we are talking about a fairly narrow window of time. This fight is over events that happened in September, less than one year after the previous election. A generous reading of Ramsey’s assumptions would mean that no war planning can take place within a year of an election, regardless of circumstances, and regardless of when the cause took place.

Look forward to smart terrorists planning attacks for late October, safe in the knowledge that the authorities will end investigations in a few weeks to avoid the charge they are involved in “the manipulation of political advantage”.

For my money, the Elders are guilty of rank political opportunism and wilful blindness.

Ramsey is confusing right with legal, and has a fairly confused idea of what legal means when it comes to international relations. There is no international law, because there is no international tribunal to which sovereign states cede their authority. That’s why there is such fear of a US invasion; that it might erode the sovereign right of nations to do whatever the hell they like to their own populations. A competent tribunal with enforcement powers is precisely what the members of the UN fear. Not the UN mind; this would suit the UN down to the ground, as their recent effort to get the International Criminal Court going has shown.

What is right, however, is a different matter. There is a fair degree of accuracy in “might makes right”, provided you are on the side of the might. Fortunately for us, we also happen to be on the side of right. There is no dispute over whether Saddam should be overthrown. There are only arguments about paperwork. People like Ramsey and Robert Corr
are like lawyers standing around defending the system that lets a child die of abuse, rather than kick a door in without a warrant.

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