Saturday, October 26, 2002

Safety, Again

Well, I was in Silver Spring, MD during the recent sniper episode and arrived home alive. So did my husband. So did all of our friends.

Or, as the button many of us bought and wore (thanks, Lee and Nancy!) said:

    No stupid sniper is going to ruin my convention.

And he didn't. Capclave was probably slightly less well-attended than it might have been, but most of the people I wanted to see braved the news reports and went to Silver Spring anyway.

I don't want to be too blase about danger, but the overreaction to living is getting tiresome. Some of my friends have become very fatalistic ("If there's a bullet out there with your name on it, that's it"). I'm not. Increasingly, I feel like I'm living with the religion of statistics. I'm more likely to die of a stroke in my 70s than of a bullet or terrorist action in my 40s.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein

So what do they have in common?

Both have a penchant for wearing military uniforms and growing facial hair.

Both are absolute dictators over small countries.

Both are irrationally demonized by the U.S. government.

Sure, we should be wary of these two, but is there any rational reason to go to war?

In the case of Fidel Castro, we've contained him for years. Despite several adventures in the early '60s, Cuba has proven to be fairly harmless. When the Russians wanted to put nuclear missiles in Cuba and the US government said "No way," the Russian government collectively blinked and nothing further happened. Rationality triumphed.

In the case of Saddam Hussein, he tried to invade Kuwait (and was thrown out decisively), murdered a bunch of his own citizens, and is suspected to be developing "weapons of mass destruction."

It's clear that the Iraqis have had some bioweapon capabilities. They gassed a few hundred Kurds for almost no reason other than to say that they could do it. But, they haven't done anything else with those weapons since the early '90s.

It's not so clear that they have nuclear weapons. It's not that easy to enrich uranium. Uranium enrichment facilities are large and easy to spot from the air. It's also not that trivial to transport enriched uranium, so it would be tough to "secretly" bring it in from another country. [[I later heard a report from an independent source (since I'm extremely untrusting about anything the Bush administration would say about Iraq) that the Iraqis probably did have some amount of enriched uranium in about 1990). And, as we've just learned from North Korea, it is possible to enrich uranium and build bombs without the US knowing "for sure" (parentetical comments added 10/25/02)]]

And how would they deliver a nuclear weapon - by the post?

They don't have missiles and their Air Force is kept pretty busy due to US monitoring of the no-fly zone.

Have representatives of al-Queda met with representatives of the Iraqi government? Probably. And have representatives of al-Queda met with other governments? Almost definitely. We don't seem to be going after other governments (beyond getting the Taliban mostly out of Afghanistan).

There is no rational reason to go to war against Iraq. While Saddam Hussein is dangerous, he's much, much more dangerous to his own people than he is to the rest of the world. Containment has worked very well, and can continue to work.[[(Comment added 2015: Sadly, the war the Americans started in Iraq destabilized the country and led to an ugly civil war. So it turned out America was much more dangerous to Iraq than Hussein had been...)]]

I keep hearing we should be afraid of Saddam Hussein. It's as if we learned absolutely nothing from September 11 - we need to be more afraid of, more wary of the enemy we cannot see. Like Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein is more bluster, someone I refuse to loose any sleep over, despite the overly-earnest pronouncements of our government.

Frankly, it's embarrassing.