View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Thursday, December 18, 2003

Littwin and the Iraqis

Jared has a fine take-down of Mike Littwin's latest this morning. Littwin's basic thesis is that the Iraqis aren't celebating more because we're doing the work of scrubbing the Baathists, not them. That when Ceaucescu went down, at least it was to Romanians, but when a foreigner does the work, it the "us" in "us vs. them" includes the dictator. There's some evidence for this, although citing the Los Angeles Times rather than this Washington Post report calls into question his taste in newspapers.

I confess to understanding the Sunnis on this point. It's the same reason people went crying through the streets rather than celebrating when Stalin died. The man failed in just about every mission he set for Soviet society, and his failures resulted in the occupation of Central and Eastern Europe than eventually fractured his country. The fear of the unknown is often worse than the terror of the known.

There's another point here, too. The Iraqis may be embarassed that Saddam looked more like the Cowardly Lion than the Lion of Baghdad. But when the guys crawls out of his hole looking like he's been collecting cans and bottles for the deposit money, your second or third thought may be, "shoot, I could take that guy." And you'll be embarassed that you didn't. There's a notion in Judaism that when you're judged, you're shown your "evil inclination," the force behind the little red devil on your right shoulder whispering, "go ahead, do it." The righteous will see it as a mountain, and ask themselves, "how could I have overcome that?" The, um, not-so-righteous will see it as a hair, and ask themselves, "how could I have not overcome that?" I think there's a little of that in the Iraqi reaction, too.

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