Friday, February 07, 2003

Josh Marshall says, in essence that Saddam's refusal to cooperate with inspectors is self-destructive, in that it is a course of action which leads his nation closer to war, a war which will almost inevitably end in his being deposed, if not his death. These are his exact words: "Yes, one can figure issues of pride, national honor, unwillingness to lose his WMD capacity, etc. But at the end of the day he's courting his own destruction, sealing his fate. How does that square with the idea that he's purely a rational actor, most interested in his own survival?"

I'm sure Marshall read Mark Bowden's profile of Saddam in last May's Atlantic Monthly (he seems to have read everything else even tangentially related to the possibility of war in Iraq). I don't know what he got out of it, but I got a picture of Saddam as a tribal chieftain in a modern world, brutally devoted to the acquisition and maintenance of personal power. Power is his reason for being, the driving force in his life, and so it's no surprise to me that he'd rather die than have to genuflect before the U.S. But I still think of him as a rational actor within the limits of his character. Like most of us, he sees social standing as a survival issue, so he'll fight to save face as much as any cornered animal. The secret to the art of war is allowing your opponent a way to survive that saves face.

In his own way, I think Bush is trapped by the same alpha male mindset, and just as unable to step outside of his own macho rhetoric to see a solution that doesn't involve the deaths of a whole lot of people who, honestly, could care less about the psychosociological and/or political issues involved.

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