One thing I was struck by in my exchanges with Richard Perle at the Hudson Institute panel discussion on Monday was that this didn't seem like someone who had the confidence to discuss the issues at hand without resorting to risible caricatures of the opposing arguments. Having watched Perle's discussions of these issues over the last two years I have the sense that the intensity of the arguments has rather increased as their factual support has, shall we say, frayed.
In any case, to the business at hand.
In his opening remarks Perle noted that he had recently been on a radio program with Independent columnist Robert Fisk (he then made a throwaway line suggesting that Fisk and I were 'pals'). Fisk had said that he thought the capture of Saddam Hussein would strengthen the resistance movement by removing the taint of Saddam and thus allowing it to become a more broadly national or at least pan-Sunni enterprise.
Perle mocked what he took to be Fisk's desperate spin and said it was an example of trying to make the facts fit your ideology, rather than vice versa.
At this point I was sitting in my chair thinking, man, this guy's really the pot calling the kettle black, isn't he?
However that may be, today comes word that another whacked-out left-wing organization had come to a similar conclusion. Who? The US Army.
Today's Philadelphia Inquirer reports that an intelligence report prepared for the US military in Iraq argued that "seizing Hussein could provoke more attacks by making the insurgency more acceptable to Sunni Muslims who were not members of Hussein's Baath Party elite."
Now, another thing occurs to me, which is that at least when he was Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Perle had access to a pretty wide range of highly classified reports and information at the Pentagon. I assume that that privilege continues even as a mere member of the board.
Certainly, having theoretical access to various reports doesn't mean Perle has read them all. Perhaps the report is only circulating at the CPA in Baghdad, though the Inquirer story did quote two "senior administration officials" who had read it.
Hard to say. But it did make me wonder.
Now, I don't know if that Army report is on the mark or not. Juan Cole advances the theory that taking Saddam out of the picture may embolden the Shi'a. Both reasonings seems plausible enough. But plausibility and logic are poor guides when so many of the underlying facts remain obscure.