Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Thought experiment for the Left

Mitchell Cohen, co-editor of Dissent Magazine suggests A Thought Experiment for the Left in which an imaginary left wing President has defeated Reagan and is struggling to deal with Saddam during the early 1980s.

On Chirac:
"What is with that fellow Chirac? He seems to have been infatuated by Saddam, fantasizing that this dictator is a Napoleon-Nasser-de Gaulle. Because French Socialists gave the Israelis nuclear technology in the fifties, Chirac the right-winger wanted to correct this 'strategic error' in the 1970s by giving nuclear technology to Saddam. I heard that some wit renamed Iraq's Osirak nuclear site 'Ochirac.'"

"Fortunately, Chirac is no longer prime minister," you respond to the secretary, "now that our friend Mitterrand won the presidential election and there is a socialist government in Paris. I hope its grasp of the consequences of these sorts of policies is more astute. And let's make sure ours is astute too and pay special attention to developments in this region."

On dealing with reality:
"We cannot make decisions in government as if we were out of government. We cannot invent choices that are comfortable to us and then choose between them. How can we find some practical equilibrium between our left-wing values and the intransigent realities of the world out there-like the consequence of the aggressive ambitions of either a fascist dictator or a 'fanatical, reactionary, and the bearer of crude prejudices,' to quote Falk. Regardless of what we do, neither Saddam nor Khomeini is likely to function in ways that are wholly rational and predictable. Can we minimize the maximum damage each might do? If we do nothing, if we don't 'tilt' to Saddam, the regional and then global consequences are likely to be catastrophic. Military intelligence makes it clear that the hour is very late. If we do tilt to him, our hands become very dirty, and a lot of the consequences are unpredictable."

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