All Writings
November 10, 2002

The Samson Solution

Will Saddam Hussein opt for the Samson solution? Based on what we know about Iraq's president, he will for now accept the U.N. Security Council resolution demanding the return of weapons inspectors and a restricted timetable for him to comply fully with the requirement that will bring about the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction.

While Saddam is motivated by several compelling reasons to comply with the Security Council demands, will he fully cooperate? Or will his instinct for ruthlessness and wanton cruelty drive him to opt for the "Samson solution," lashing out at the United States and destroying himself in the process?

(According to the Old Testament, in the 12th century B.C., captured by the Philistines, Samson pushed against the temple pillars he was tied to and brought it down, killing his enemies and himself.)

The rationale behind the Iraqi president's initial compliance is easier to discern than his convoluted thinking and long-terms schemes. He realizes that at this juncture a better option has not presented itself and it is best to bide his time. The international community, including France and Russia on which he has relied for support, is unified in its demands, leaving him with little or no maneuvering room. His hope that his fellow Arab states would come to his aid also evaporated with the Security Council's unanimous resolution, with even Syria supporting it.

In addition, the resolution chipped away much of the resistance of other Arab states, notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which have said they will support America's strategy toward Iraq, provided that the Bush administration works through the United Nations. Moreover, Saddam does not want to provide the United States with any excuses to wage war immediately and thus play into President Bush's hands. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, Saddam is not suicidal.

Even though disclosure of his WMD will prove him to be a liar, he is perfectly capable of swallowing his pride and even more capable of presenting his initial compliance as part of a new and clever scheme to presumably foil the American war strategy.

That said, if Saddam concludes that whatever he does Bush is out to get him, he may then choose the Samson option. Unfortunately, he will not die alone. Under the worst possible scenario, Saddam will unleash any weapon of mass destruction at his disposal, not only against our forces, but certainly against our allies, including Israel, Kuwait and the other Gulf states, while incinerating every oil field in the Middle East he can possibly target. This is not to suggest that we must let him get away with noncompliance or equivocate in our response should he egregiously defy international will. It only means that we should not look for a pretext to attack, lest the president be accused of trying to settle old scores or to gain control of Iraq's oil supplies. Therefore, we must first demonstrate a sincere effort to disarm Iraq peacefully.

Indeed, Saddam's own military officers and the Iraqi general public, who we are trying to lure to our side, will carefully watch how responsibly we conduct ourselves before we embark on a war with the potential for disastrous consequences.

With determination and persistence, Bush has succeeded even beyond the Administration's own expectations in mobilizing the international community to place the Iraqi leader on notice to disarm or face the inevitable. The president can build on this success by showing even a greater capacity to lead a global coalition, not simply to disarm Saddam by force if necessary but to defang any other ruthless tyrant or terrorist groups threatening international security.

To this end, the administration must not decide to go to war because of what it sees as favorable weather conditions in the Middle East. That we have already invested so much in preparations for war or created the momentum for war are not sufficient reasons to prevent us from backing down. Finally, we must not wage war to seek other advantages, including Saddam's ouster from power, because such a war may have many unintended dire consequences which can make any victory, even under the best of circumstances, seem hollow.

For these reasons we must continue to work with, lead, and seek the support of the Security Council, especially if the use of force becomes inevitable. We can either strengthen the Security Council as the ultimate institution in charge of international security or undermine it immeasurably to the detriment of any world order that we must strive to secure by virtue of being the only superpower.

Leave it to Saddam to scheme, collude, and conspire to do everything in his power to preserve some of his dangerous toys. But although he is a despot, he is a realist. Thus, he is unlikely to sacrifice himself and to forfeit the prospect of passing on his power to one of his sons, just to keep some weapons that he assumes he can reconstitute at some later date. I believe that his actions, from this point on, will be determined by his instinct to survive.

He will opt for the Samson solution only if we push him beyond the brink. If we do, like him, we may have to pay a steep price.