Packer pays surprisingly little attention to this issue--except when he invokes, with some skepticism, Paul Berman's grandiose notion that bin Laden's Islamism and Saddam's Ba'athism
were the same enemy because they were both "Muslim totalitarianisms" (a concept that may be valid in the long run, measured in decades or centuries, but which bore little relevance to the task at hand).
Comparisons between Iraq and 1945 Germany are particularly apposite; there was a far more subtle sifting of the Nazi faithful than the blanket ban on Ba'athism
that Washington imposed.
Deep isolation, abuse, and resultant rage during Saddam's first twenty years created in him a messianic ambition and an insatiable pursuit of power and control that made him well adapted to revolutionary Ba'athism
and the fragmentation of Iraqi politics.
In the past several decades, almost every form of nondemocratic government imaginable has been tried: absolute monarchy, personal dictatorship, military rule, colonial rule, fascism, communism, Ba'athism
, the socialist one-party state, other forms of one-party rule, the Islamic Republic, pseudodemocracy, semidemocracy, and numerous other permutations.
Founded by a Christian and a Sunni Muslim in Syria in 1943, Ba'athism
aimed to unite warring tribes.
A wide variety of ideologies of Arab political life--Nasserism, Ba'athism
, and militant Islam--all failed to place the Arab world on a par with the West.
Even when pan-Arabism was the dominant ideology in the region, however, it had several versions, mainly Nasserism and Ba'athism
, which actually expressed national identifies and ambitions.
35) Responsibility for the fact that the war was not avoided lies equally with the totalitarian nature of Ba'athism
and Hussein's personalist rule.
The Egyptian, Syrian and Israeli governments each have long traditions of paternalistic etatisme, rooted respectively in Nasserism, Ba'athism
and Labor Zionism.
Iraqis have probably learned from their experiences under Ba'athism
not to want to repeat the experiment of a one-party state, and the Ba'athist experiment, a product of the mid-twentieth century secular Arab Nationalism, is in any case a dead horse by now.