Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Republic of Fear, Kanan Makiya

Finished this one during the front end of my 4 day pass.

Learned about Michel Aflaq as a major player in the forming of the Ba'ath party.

I found the author's description of the psychological effects of the actions of the party on the population compelling. In some ways it appears they manifest learned helplessness, or something similar to what is seen in some battered spouses- after a while some stop trying to escape or fix the problem. They act in seeming self-preservation, but they are no longer living in any full sense of the word.

I also found it interesting how the political party eventually became nothing more than an organization by and for the Leader, in this case, Saddam Hussein, who seemed to be the perfect embodiment of the type of person that would and should lead such an organization that worked by and through instilling fear in his country's population.

In short, the book suggests Saddam was a bad man.

There is still fear in the Republic- but it is different. I think in some ways it has changed for the good, in others, for the worse.

I still see no easy answers, but I'm cautiously optimistic that the locals are starting to understand what behaviors are productive or are counterproductive in creating a society and government that will enable them to not only live with the absence of fear, but to thrive and flourish.

A view critical of the author.

Mortimer's take on another of Makiya's works.

An NYTimes piece by Packer in March 2003 discussing Makiyah's activities at the time.

Makiya painted a profile of Saddam, and made an effort to explain the "why" of the Iran-Iraq war. To sum it up and bludgeon his work through paraphrasing it- he did it because he could.

Makiya disputed all political or strategic reasons, refuted all of the types of logical arguments associated with the casus belli other than simply that- because he could. And then I started musing about our current engagement here, and how many of the reasons presented for the war have been discredited, and I personally feel that there are some parallels. I wouldn't take that too far, but it gave me pause.

Anyway, I'm going to take a break from the heavy reading and hit something light next- Benjamin Graham's "The Intelligent Investor". He's already chastised me for being more of a speculator than an investor. I feel shame and horror. But man, stock prices seem low right now! Doh! He chastises me again- don't look at the market, look at the value of a company! Aargh!


Ross said...

I remember a story we read about in one of my political science classes where one of Hussein's advisers questioned one of his decisions. He was later cut up into pieces before being delivered to his family in a bag. He was a bad man.

Dana said...

Yes, one can say that Hussein was "naughty bad." Read an interview with an interrogator that worked with him quite a while after his capture. He indicated that Saddam was pretty happy that he'd lasted as long as he did. Dictators, like contractors out here, can be "easy come, easy go", so he figured he'd had a good run.

No real remorse for the damage and hurt he'd caused with his reign of terror. As things get better here, I can see more of folks coming out of the funk they were under- kind of like my ego recovery after my Ph.D. program, except on a much grander scale- to paraphrase Hillary's plagiarism of other's lines- my problems pale in comparison....