Shock and awe from Damascus to Pyongyang

In his New York Post column Ralph Peters pays tribute to the unprecedented aspects of the new American way of war on display in Iraq: “A new age of warfare.” Victor Davis Hanson, on the other hand, pays tribute to the traditional aspects of the American way of war on display in Iraq (Los Angeles Times registration required): “Slow to anger, awesome in fury.”
Charles Krauthammer observes that the war is targeted in an unually difficult and unprecedented manner: “Killing a regime, not a people.” He concludes: “From Damascus to Pyongyang, totalitarians everywhere are watching this war with shock and awe.”
Like Secretary Rumsfeld in his statement at the press conference held yesterday, I have understood Saddam Hussein as he seems to understand himself, a fascist tyrant in the style of Hitler and Stalin. Christopher Caldwell, however, notes the qualities of his reign: “Thirteen ways of looking at a blackguard.” (The title of the piece alludes to a poem by Wallace Stevens — it doesn’t make much sense.)
Caldwell observes: “This dictatorship was sui generis. You can see this, symbolically, in the actual destroyed statue in al-Fardos Square, which did not fall with a giant Ozymandian weight, like those sturdy (whatever else you can say about them) Stalins and Dzerzhinskys that used to dot eastern Europe. No, this thing was cheap, hollow, and phony. When the statue started toppling, it just sagged. It didn’t have enough weight to snap the pipes with which it had been tacked onto its plinth. It wasn’t even a block of stone, but a collection of screwed-in modular parts, as in a model-airplane kit. But there was nothing “symbolic” about the terror of Saddam regime, which was also sui generis. The same morning the statues were toppled, news broke that the allies had liberated a “children’s prison” set up for those kids whose parents had not let them join Baath-party youth organizations. A political prison for children!”

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