Pour encourager les autres
Austin Bay argues that precedent is the key concept to connect with Saddam's exection.
The Strong Man expects to die in one of two ways — with a nine millimeter ballot (ie, assassination) — or old age. That has certainly been the case in the Middle East. A public, legal trial followed by court-sentenced execution? That isn’t going to happen unless…unless a democracy replaces a tyranny. This is astonishing news — history altering news. For centuries the terrible yin-yang of tyrant and terrorist has trapped the Middle East. In 2003 the US-led coalition began the difficult but worthy effort of breaking that tyrant’s and terrorist’s trap, and offering another choice in the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East.
Saddam’s demise serves as object lesson and example. In late 2003 every Middle Eastern autocrat saw the haggard Saddam pulled from the hole; now they’ve seen him hung. The larger message: To avoid Saddams fate means political liberalization. The message extends beyond the Arab Muslim Middle East. Iran’s mullahs see it. At some reptilian level, destructive despots like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe also understand it.
Austin Bay's hope that some good may come of Saddam's life, with its Crimes discouraged by Punishment is an interesting contrast to those who may have secretly hoped for rioting or widespread Iraqi indifference to prove their moral superiority in regards to the abolition of capital punishment, or the illegtimacy of crossing international boundaries to topple a dictator. Nothing would be more discouraging to some than to actually observe a real, if temporary, moderation of despotism from the the example of Saddam's execution. The great fear that swept through the liberal intellectual establishment on the night US forces first entered Baghdad was that some good would come from it: that the tribes in Iraq might actually turn to democracy and live in peace. How terrible it would be, from a certain point of view, if Austin Bay turned out to be right.
But if history is any guide the consequences of an act will be determined only partly by their intent; the explanation of the deed and the subsequent management of its effects will largely determine whether Good can be salvaged from Evil. What happened after the end of the Second World War may have been as important as events in its duration. Saddam is dead. Whether his demise becomes a force for peace or death is largely up to the living.