Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Most Dangerous of All?

President George W. Bush!?!?

So Yale Law School Professor Jack Balkin asserts!


Question 1: Is a judgment about the question of "most dangerous" rooted in part in judgments about responsibility for danger? (If I remember my torts and criminal law courses correctly, the answer may well be "yes." We would not blame the spherical earth for the trajectory of an intercontinental ballistic missile that incinerates a million or so people. And we might not blame the stupid person was ordered to push the launch button without realizing that (s)he was pushing a button that would result in the incineration of a million or so bodies and souls. And so on with the hypotheticals & analogies, until they become less extreme & more persuasive for present purposes.)

Question 2: Does Saddam Hussein bear any responsibility for any war that the U.S. may launch against Iraq?

Question 2A: If so, does Hussein bear more responsibility for any such war than Bush does?

Question 3: Is it pertinent that Saddam Hussein -- by at least one reputable account -- very much wants to be another Stalin?

Note: Most Russians know, even if many Americans do not, that Stalin was, by any measure, responsible for the deaths of many millions of people. (This is why informed people feel free to say that Stalin "killed" millions of people.)

Question 3A: Is it pertinent that Saddam Hussein apparently (i) murdered members of his immediate family, (ii) gassed dissident Kurds (including dissident infant Kurds), and (iii) started a war -- the Iran-Iraq war -- in which hundreds of thousands of people -- over a million people, I believe -- died?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, the question is not who is good or the best of them all, but perhaps who -- would y'all say -- is the worst of them all?

Hitler? Stalin? Pol Pot? Saddam Hussein? Or would you say: Bush?????

BTW: Roosevelt was to blame for a good part of World War II. Isn't that right? He did have the temerity to lead the U.S. into war against Hitler (and Germany).

Well, I'm naive, I know. I suppose I should not assign the lion's share of the blame for a possible war against Iraq to Mr. Saddam Hussein just because this Mr. Hussein is a tyrant and a torturer and a murderer. Isn't that right? The world, after all, is full of torturers and tyrants and murderers.

But wait! Have I not taken leave of my senses? Am I not free to celebrate the demise of a tyrant and torturer -- even if (i) the deposer of that tyrant acts more rashly than I or some other observers might like and (ii) the world remains riddled with tyrants and torturers? Am I not free to celebrate incremental victories over tyranny, torture, and murder?

Postscript: I do not believe that anything I say in this post forces me to embrace the proposition that war against Iraq is the best course to take in the near future. I really don't know what the best course of action is; I fear the possible consequences of an American-led war against Iraq in the near future. But I do know this: I have good reason to believe that Saddam Hussein has a close spiritual kinship with Stalin and Pol Pot. I also know -- I also believe -- that it is therefore inappropriate to say that Bush bears more of the blame than Hussein does for any deaths that may result from Bush's use of arms to attempt a "regime change" in Iraq.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the worst and the most dangerous of them all?

(I recognize that the thin air at Yale may prevent people there from giving a plausible answer to this last question. Yale Law professors are not expected to have a great deal of comon sense. They are meant to think. Indeed, we expect Yale Law professors to think and utter provocative thoughts. Professor Balkin, I readily admit, has performed the last-mentioned service.)