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The Middle East, Over Dinner and Drinks
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Forty-Eight
by Brian S. Wise
14 January 2004Saddam

Dinner and drinks, ruined by questions about Iraq, Saddam Hussein and terrorists.

Two weekends ago I was the reluctant guest of honor at a small, stuffy social occasion involving a host and several people who “enjoy the column.”  This is precisely the sort of interaction I hope to avoid, but there are only so many times you can reject an invitation before it becomes rude (in this case, three), and so on that Saturday I subjected myself to the type of crowd that continually referred to me as “Mr. Wise,” no matter how politely, or how many times, I assured them Mr. Wise is my father’s name.
What began as dinner and drinks turned into an over-the-table question and answer session, e.g., “What did you mean last summer by suggesting Howard Dean isn’t a very smart man?”  Well, I don’t think Dean is intellectually honest, or especially gifted, and he seems to take far too much delight in showing it.  This had the Democrats in the room halfway to hysterics.  “And Bush was altogether on the money when running for president?”  Eh, on some things, but not on a lot of other things.  If you actually read the column you’d know I’m not the president’s biggest fan.  “All right then, name two things you think the president has done well.”  I love the way he’s overthrown toilet regimes in third world countries, and I love the way he’s bombed militant pro-Taliban and pro-Hussein Muslims back to Allah.”
Now, I continued to elaborate, someone e-mailed to ask if I still meant what I wrote in July, namely that the problem of insurgencies has more to do with our failure to kill uppity Iraqis than it does with unhappiness in the general population.  Of course I still mean it.  “What is the practicality of killing uppity Iraqis?”  None, other than it means one less terrorist is able to drive a cement truck / bomb into a United Nations building, which is good.
“But in killing more uppity Iraqis, wouldn’t we just be creating an anger that will breed new terrorists?”  Yep.  But here’s a dirty little secret: No matter what we do, it’s going to breed new terrorists.  If we kill terrorists, subsequent anger will lead to the direct creation of replacements.  If we ignore them, the consequent bravado of existing terrorists will prove too intoxicating for potential recruits to bear, America and its interests will be seen more as punching bags than is actually the case, and there will come new terrorists.  If we hang in Iraq just long enough to see a stable, moderate government elected, it will be seen by militants as just too moderate, which will lead to an anger that produces new terrorists.  See, terrorists don’t need opportunities to breed more foot soldiers, because any circumstance can be twisted to fit recruitment.
“What about weapons of mass destruction?  Does it bother you we haven’t found them?”  Nope.  I’d have gone into Iraq because there wasn’t fluoride in the water.  “Shouldn’t it bother people that many of the WMDs Hussein claimed to have came from America?”  Look here: Iran was a country that had taken American hostages from our embassy, that was putting women to death for dancing, and so forth.  The bottom line is, the fewer living Iranian militants there were in the early 1908s, the better.  It just so happens Hussein was the wrong gamble.  Regrettable, but it doesn’t mean, two decades later, Hussein should have been given a free pass for weapons he wasn’t supposed to have anymore.  “And if no WMDs are ever found there?”  Also regrettable, but still the correct decision.  He was our mess to clean up, and we did.  “Was it worth our initiating war with another country for the first time?”  Yes, and besides that, had Carter been a man he would have sought a declaration of war against Iran in 1979, but that’s a conversation for another time.
“What do you think should happen with Hussein’s trial?”  Ah, here’s another dirty little secret, this time about conservatism: There’s a far greater appreciation for vigilantism and properly motivated mob violence in the conservative character than is commonly thought; our instinct is to hand Hussein over to the Kurds and let them have their way with him.  What the world needs is video of Hussein’s corpse hanging by its feet in the streets, cf. Mussolini at the end.  But on the other hand, the moral thing is for the best; let the Iraqis try him, and hope the eventual outcome involves street justice.

Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.

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