[lit-ideas] Re: Realpolitik and my Counterfactual

  • From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 22 May 2008 19:48:01 +0700

Lawrence Helm wrote:

"The Ayatollah caused the war with Iraq by attempting to spread his
Islamic Revolution to the Shiites on Iran's border."

This is a reason, not a cause.  But for the purposes of considering
realpolitik and counterfactuals, reasons are irrelevant.  Saddam
couldn't take care of business with Iran.  How could he deal with Iran
and the rest of the peninsula?

Lawrence continues:

"Also, he asked for and thought he got clearance from the American
ambassador to Iraq before he invaded Kuwait.  That is the famous April
Glaspie scandal.  Glaspie admitted that what she told him was

Again, irrelevant for the purposes of this thread.  If Saddam had been
able to establish political stability in Kuwait after invading,
justifying the first Gulf war would have been far more difficult.
Saddam couldn't bring political stability in Iraq and he couldn't do
it Kuwait.  How could the Americans believe he could do it in Saudi

Lawrence again:

"You don't think he would be an attractive alternative to the Saudis,
but it was cozying up to the Saudis that got our World Trade Center
bombed -- by Saudis mostly.  The pretext for the bombing was our
entering the Saudi holy land.  That wouldn't have occurred if we were
still cozy with Saddam."

If we are playing with counterfactuals, the consequences of Saddam
taking control of the oil fields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as well as
controlling Mecca and Medina would far exceed that of the World Trade
Center bombing.  The situation would be one of ongoing war, since
Saddam never demonstrated he could win militarily, and the triumph of
Islamic extremism, since few Muslims would tolerate control of the two
holy cities in the hands of a secular Baathist.  Oil would trickle out
of the Middle East, devastating the world economy far beyond what we
are seeing now.  Yes, even with the WTC bombings, the Saudis look
pretty good when compared to Saddam.

"In what way is being on good terms with the Saudis better than being
on good terms with a pre-Kuwait-invasion Iraq?"

The Saudis have demonstrated that they can bring stability and
prosperity to the Middle East.  They have managed the development of
the entire petroleum project in the Middle East providing enormous
wealth to many people.  The Sauds have been very effective custodians
of the holy cities, managing the interests of both Sunnis and Shia.
On the other hand, Saddam never provided the same distribution of
wealth to Iraqi society while creating a situation of continuous
political instability in order to maintain his own privilege.  The
Iranians could never tolerate Saddam controlling the holy cities so
Saddam would have to fight a multi-front war.  The options would be
the stability and prosperity of the Saudis or war and political
instability with Saddam.  How could the Saudis not be the most obvious


Phil Enns
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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