The Spectator


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Saddam Hussein is a dangerous and evil man, and the world would be a better and safer place if he were removed from power. A killer from early adolescence, he is brutal and psychopathic even by the high standards of inhumanity prevailing in his region.

His constant and unremitting search for weapons of mass destruction or mass terror augurs little good for the Middle East and the world. It has been argued, however, that even if he were successfully to develop such weapons, he would be unlikely ever to use them. After all, the military potential of Iraq is very limited, and Saddam, while utterly ruthless, is not known to be personally suicidal. His enemies have, and will always have, far more destructive weapons than he can ever hope to obtain. By using any such weapons as he managed to develop, he would risk total annihilation.

If he accepted this reasoning, however, he would not have tried to develop the weapons in the first place. They are for use, if only in blackmail operations. Having observed the value that the West places on human life - that is to say, on its own human life - he has realised that even a small number of potential American deaths would be a very useful bargaining tool. Moreover, a man of his psychological disposition is quite likely to rage against the dying of the light. He knows that the loss of his power by now means the loss of his life; he cannot hope to retire gracefully and cultivate his garden. And he has no reason to fear the annihilation of his country, for which he cares nothing except as a stage for himself. After me not the deluge, but the void.

The fear of upsetting Arab opinion is another spurious argument against a war on Iraq. Even if Arab opinion mattered -even if the entire region of hundreds of millions counted for more in the international economy, oil excepted, than the Nokia telephone company of Finland, which at present it does not - refraining from war would not assuage it. The Arab world hates America not because of what America does, but because of what America is: advanced, secular, powerful, democratic, pluralistic. It is a living reproach to the stagnation of the Arab world, which is economically and technologically entirely parasitic and likely to remain so as long as it is attached to its own traditions. The only useful emotion that America can hope to evoke in the Middle East is fear: pusillanimity invites contempt as well as hatred. Arab governments will learn to control extremists when they fear the consequences, and not until then.

A war on Iraq, however, would have to carry internal American, and to a much lesser extent British, opinion. To carry this opinion, three conditions are necessary and so far none of them has been met, which is why George W. Bush has sounded a note of caution.

The first is that no convincing evidence has yet been presented that Iraq is any nearer its goal of developing weapons of mass destruction than it was one or two years ago. So long as that evidence is not presented, the suspicion will remain that a war is being waged for domestic reasons,