Monday, January 01, 2007

Execution Ambivalence

The Butcher of Baghdad is dead and I don’t care. Well, it's not that I don't care, really, but I'm of two minds on the issue. Given that Saddam Hussein has been America’s boogieman since I was a sophomore in high school, I figured the day that he got his just deserts would be a jubilant one. However, I feel ambivalent about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel no remorse for the man. Saddam was a mass murderer and a tyrant and he received a fate befitting a tyrant. I’d like to see a few more world leaders, past and present, with their heads in a noose.

Nor do I feel ambivalent because I’m against the Iraq war, or war in general. War is as natural of human endeavor as is love or trade. Our nation was birthed by it. While I’d like to see America return to the peaceful foreign policy of “free trade with all and entangling alliances with no one” envisioned by our founders, I’m not so naïve as to think I’ll see that in my lifetime. For good or ill, America will continue to be the world cop into the foreseeable future. Putting Democrats or Republicans in charge is merely to choose whether that world cop should be Barney Fife or Dirty Harry. If those are my only two choices I’ll choose Dirty Harry, since the world seems to be populated with a cast of characters much more dangerous than the denizens of Mayberry. So, while I might not agree with everything about it, I’m not going to take the easy route and Monday-morning quarterback the Iraq war. Within the framework of current U.S. foreign policy, it wasn’t entirely a bad call.

But with Saddam dead am I, an average American taxpayer, any safer? Saddam’s regime obviously was a deadly threat to his own people. But what’s that to us? Why should the American people slip their necks into the yoke of oppressive taxation in order to free oppressed people in countries that most Americans can’t identify on the map.

Despite what the popular press reports, Saddam did provide support to some terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda. But he did so less than the Saudis, our stalwart “allies” in the “war on terror.”

Obviously the biggest threat that Saddam’s regime posed was a threat to the “stability” of the region, meaning he may try to capture territory from his neighbors (as he did) or attack Israel (as he did). However, the lines on the map of the middle-east were arbitrarily drawn by the British empire. While threatened countries certainly have the duty to defend themselves, why should the rest of us treat these lines as being sacrosanct? And if every last Israeli citizen was butchered and raped, would it really affect the average American’s daily life? That’s the flip side of “entangling alliances with no one” that Americans won’t have the stomach for. Most of us are usually compelled by our compassion to want to help.

So while the Butcher of Baghdad is dead, I feel no safer. In fact, I didn’t really feel threatened by him to begin with. While foreign despots and terrorists do present somewhat of a threat to my life and limb, the only credible threat to my liberty and property is my own government and it’s still here.

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