Is Saddam Hussein dead or badly wounded? If so, is that good for us?

My non-expert answers: (1) Very possibly. (2) Probably not.

If SH is alive and well, surely he could give his supporters a morale boost by proving it. That, in turn, would require no more than a videotape mentioning some current event (and not praising generals who are now out of action). It’s hard to believe that he’s alive and well but so carefully hidden no one can get a video camera to him or a videotape from him to al-Jazeera.

But if he’s dead or too badly hurt to appear on TV, and if the Iraqi machinery of war and political repression is functioning, that suggests a more resilient regime than we’ve been assuming. Here again, it seems to me that our leadership and their media (including blogospheric) cheerleaders didn’t think carefully about the meaning of the term “Stalinist.” The Soviet Union did not collapse, and the Party did not loosen its grip on power, when Stalin died. A party dictatorship can survive an individual.

If SH is dead, then our hope that killing him would make the regime crumble has proven unfounded. That would be bad news.

As always, I’m glad to be corrected by those who know more.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: