Friday, November 19, 2004


No, I am not about to accuse anyone of making one. Instead, I am curious for the reasons why the U.S. government doesn't use them more. In particular, I've been thinking this with regards to Saddam Hussein, and thought this back when we first went to war with him. Why couldnt we have paid him to go away? First, I think he would have considered it--he was savy about his own career and if confronted with the reality that he was going to be removed from power one way or the other, my guess is he would he have considered a one billion dollar buy out and his own island (Napolean style). Obviously this is a lot lot lot cheaper, not to mention the untold number of lives we would have saved among Americans and Iraqis, and we'd likely not have the insurgency/martyr problem that we are currently facing b/c Hussein would have left on his own power.

So I am interested in what the reasons are for us not wanting to do it. I can think of ethics as a reason, but is anyone naive enough to think ethics plays a role in our war plans anymore? Not many Woodrow Wilson's and Eleanor Roosevelt's running around the White House these days. More likely, it's a bad precedent and we don't want future wanna be dictators thinking they can get the same cash or even more. Think if they hired Scott Boras as an agent and actually had weapons of mass distruction--that would merit some serious cash. (we could offer the dear leader money plus his own movie production company. I'd watch his films if it saved a few thousand lives). But how often would this happen?--we'd use it only in extreme cases; and for anyone who wants to make a quick billion, becoming a dictator and threatening the US is definitely the long way approach to getting rich. Plus, we already do this kind of thing under the table. We pay informants to help us catch mafiosos and the KKK and we are giving out ransoms all the time. We could have offered Saddam the money under the table and told him to keep it quiet as part of the deal. So, why not?


Anonymous said...

Actually, the Saudis proposed exactly that, and Libya was allegedly building a palace for his exile. But I think Bush nixed it.


ric ottaiano said...

And what would it have cost to buy off and relocate Uday, Qusay, Baghdad Bob and the rest of his Baathist henchmen (or, in your world, "people of hench")to their own lesser but still opulant private palaces so that they didn't simply slide into the power vacuum without even a burp and continue with his murderous policies? Or better yet, simply continue to take orders from him while he luxuriated away in the safe confines of a client state? Fools, all of you.

Anonymous said...

I'd throw out a few things.

First, offering an outright bribe would undermine the moralistic underpinnings of Bush's Iraq policy. Right or wrong, Bush's rhetoric on Iraq (well, at least lately) has been rife with idealism about democracy and has been essentially an implicit rejection of realpolitik (yes, I know that he's not ACTUALLY rejecting a damn thing, what with our convenient marriages to Pakistan and Russia, but still). Offering a flat-out bribe would undercut all that.

Second, one of the big arguments for removing Saddam from power (factually accurate or not) was that he was supporting terrorists (and, for all the lack of linkage to al-Qaeda, he was certainly paying off Palestinian suicide bombers). I'm not sure that putting Saddam into semi-retirement would solve that problem. I suppose that part of the deal could be a promise to completely leave the world stage and stop supporting the suicide bombers - but, then, it's unclear how enforceable such a promise would be, and Saddam was apparently pretty good at hiding and channeling money. Also, on a side note - the Napoleon exile didn't really work out that first time, did it?

Third, I really don't think that Saddam would have accepted. He certainly had good reasons not to. He was notoriously paranoid, and I can't imagine that he would let himself be placed essentially at the mercy of the United States, promise or no promise (let's not kid ourselves - anywhere outside of Iraq he was vulnerable, short of a bizarre solution like Cuba that the US would never countenance). Moreover, even if Saddam found a way to trust American or third-party assurances, he would have plenty to fear from his erswhile supporters. Sure, he could take his family and perhaps top leadership with him into exile - but way too many Ba'athists in Iraq stood to lose their positions of power and privilege for Saddam to have made an easy escape. Between his (not entirely unjustified) distrust of the US and his (perfectly justified) fear of his own supporters, accepting a US buyout would likely have been more dangerous than staying put and taking his chances, however remote.


Anonymous said...

I've always felt that bribery would be a practical solution for North Korea. Unlike China, the DPRK under Kim Jong Il is not capable of reforming without a total collapse. Kim knows he would not survive the transition to a market economy and his brain is not programmed to even know where to begin.

Kim is only concerned with his lifestyle, his legacy, and his survival. That's why he's building nukes. He's afraid we're going to kill him. If a few nations could just get together and offer him a payoff that would allow him to save face and guarantee his personal security, I'm sure he would take a one-way trip out of North Korea.



Devo said...

Bush should love that idea - without the burdens of running a country anymore and with a billion dollars at his disposal, Saddam would have nothing better to do than to ACTUALLY get involved with terrorists.

Paul Frymer said...

I think Solomon is right that Kim Jong Il might be a better candidate for this than Hussein was. He seems less wedded to ideology than to his own personal privileges and if those can be offered elsewhere, and he were to leave, North Korea might be able to transition peacefully into a relationship with South Korea (understanding that I know very little about North Korean politics).

As far as Saddam, issues such as his kids, his relations to terrorists--it seems like those could all have been worked out if he and the U.S. were genuinely interested in the idea. He could be given immunity to future war crime charges, and have certain restrictions on his bank account. My sense is that a lot of these dictators care more about themselves than about hating the US, Israel or anything else--I know Bush supporters think its all about being 'evil', but I dont humans work that way. With him leaving on his own accord, it also defuses his supporters in a way that being violently deposed obviously does not. I am ambivalent about regime change generally, but if we are going to do it, why not use this as an approach?