Tuesday, October 1, 2002

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BACK TO IRAQ: Slate under

BACK TO IRAQ: Slate under Jacob Weisberg is having a rollicking good debate on the Iraq question. Some highlights and responses:

-- Tim Noah considers how a war with Iraq would erode the cooperation of Muslim states in the global war on terror. The most damaging argument is the effect it would have on Pakistani cooperation and, potentially, Pakistani stability. He also acknowledges that the quicker the war goes, the lower the costs in terms of lost cooperation. However, Noah doesn't discuss the possible political benefits of eliminating the U.N. embargo and reducing U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia to U.S. standing in the region.

-- Anne Applebaum and Steve Chapman have contributions on whether Hussein is rational enough to be deterred. Their debate is couched in terms of whether Hussein is as "rational" as Western policymakers. Actually, that misses the point. Hussein is clearly rational; the question is how well-informed he is of the actual state of the world. As Ken Pollack has pointed out, Hussein has structured his rule in such a way that no one has a real incentive to deliver the bracing truth to him. In 1991, this meant that Hussein was way too overoptimistic about his chances during the Gulf War. The $64,000 question for today is whether Hussein believes he could survive an American attack against him. You could argue that in this situation, you want Hussein to be overoptimistic, since this reduces the chance that Iraq would use its unconventional weaponry.

posted by Dan on 10.01.02 at 08:06 PM