Sunday, December 14, 2003

"We got him!"

Bremer's elated first words in reporting the capture of Saddam Hussein were quickly followed by a more diplomatic statement to the effect that now is the time for the Iraqi resistance to lay down their arms and join their fellow Iraqis in the rebuilding of their country.

Exactly how the resistance will respond of course remains to be seen, but how can this be anything but incredibly disheartening to Baathist holdouts and other anti-coalition insurgents in Iraq? The last remaining symbolic obstacle to the eventual sovereignty of the Iraqi people has been removed. This is a very good day.

Unless the Iraqi resistance caves completely in response to Saddam's capture -- an unlikely outcome -- day to day coalition operations in Iraq probably won't be affected by this development. My expectation is that the really interesting consequences, at least in the near term, will be rhetorical, both within the U.S. and abroad.

There will almost certainly be some attenuation of the I-told-you-so swaggering of our European "allies," at least for the moment. What will replace it? And will scenes of Iraqis dancing in the streets of Baghdad make it any harder for Dean et al. to be vociferous anti-war candidates?

The news is still too fresh to have yet generated the inevitable slew of op-ed pieces commenting on what Saddam's capture means. That'll start in earnest tomorrow, but for right now we have a couple of early responses from pundits in London and Paris. No surprises: the fundamental angle is that the Bush administration just dodged a bullet. At least the IHT piece expressed the hope that Saddam's capture will bring an end to organized violence against American troops. Meanwhile Paul Reynolds, writing for the BBC, employs his psychic powers to determine that Bush and Blair are struggling to contain their glee.

This is going to be interesting.


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