Assassination? Here is an interesting question: do we really want Saddam’s generals or party faithful to kill him in a coup? Sure, Saddam may already be dead so this may be moot (I tend to think he is dead). However it is interesting to think through the possibility we would ever deal with a self-installed post Saddam leadership on anything other than an unconditional basis.
To analyze this it is interesting to look at the parallels and differences between the assassination/coup plots against Hitler in WW2 and one that could be made against Saddam. After the battle of Stalingrad in January of 1943 (where a quarter of a million German soldiers lost their lives to Hitler’s military incompetence), the majority of the German General Staff (including most of its Field Marshals) decided that Hitler must be eliminated or replaced. The general’s cabal approached the Allies through a secret communication delivered via Norway asking for the terms of the surrender if Hitler was eliminated or replaced. The Allies didn’t respond directly. They opted later to make a public pronouncement that they wanted unconditional surrender with the Germans and that no other option existed. The ideological intransigence of the Allies resulted in 2 more years of war and the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.
The parallels between these two situations are as follows:
[John Robb’s Radio Weblog]
- Both Saddam and Hitler suffered humiliating military defeats. In contrast, Saddam caused three Iraqi Stalingrads (the war with Iran, the disaster in Kuwait during the first Gulf war, and the most recent disaster throughout Iraq). Therefore the motivation for a coup in both cases is high.
- The allies are much closer to victory against Saddam that against Hitler at the point of the first attempt at negotiation. This promotes a need for the allies to not give in at all with victory so close at hand. 2 months of war vs. 2 years.
- Both Saddam and Hitler have been ideologically characterized as super-villains. Additionally, their parties have been characterized as intrinsically evil. This makes negotiation with anybody in the party that would desire a change in leadership difficult to do despite the advantages to an end of hostilities. Ideology drove the Allies of WW2 to reject the offer and it would likely drive to do the same today — they couldn’t distinguish between the generals in that actually anti-Nazi opposition within the German leadership and the party loyalists.
- Saddam’s generals are not a professionals, rather they are relatives and henchmen. As such, these generals do not view themselves as valuable due to their skills but rather due to their relationship to Saddam. This makes them unlikely to take any action.
- There is little common cultural ground between Saddam’s generals and our leadership. This is in contrast with the German general staff which was highly educated and of similar cultural background to the allies. This would make the Allies much less likely to deal with Saddam’s generals as equals or even rational negotiating partners.
- Both the Allies of today and the Allies of WW2 have very little sense of what the post-war world will look like. Both had strong desires but the number of variables and the complexity of the situation is well beyond easy prediction. The Allies of WW2 did fail. They didn’t anticipate the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. This would tend to point to a situation where we keep the devil we know in power (the Baathists) minus Saddam rather than the devil we don’t know. This approach would limit downside surprise. However, it is unlikely we will take this approach given our ideological view re: the current regime and its members.