A client writes:
Your objection to US anti-Iraq policy is well taken; everyone knows it is stupid, non-productive, and a cause of great suffering to the Iraqi people.  BUT complainants simply wring their hands and say we should do better, without saying what a better policy would be.  Do you have any *positive* ideas about this?  I'd sure like to know them.
    My response:

    It is important to keep always in mind that when we grind Iraq
    1. EVERYONE hates Saddam Hussein, ergo we can get away with it
    2. We get to show the other oil Arabs what could happen to them if they don't deal with us.

    Grinding Iraq does not damage Saddam, it simply frustrates him, and we can see this happening.  It has a negative effect for us in that the Iraqi people, the real victims, hate us too.  But our feckless leaders figure they hate Saddam more, and as soon as he's gone they'll be on our side, because we have more fun.  They are taking a risk here, because Iraq is a majority Shi'i country and they could tilt toward Iran.  Again, our leaders are probably seeing the Iranian revolution running out of steam, and figuring that as long as their liberal hedonistic culture can continue delivering the goods the world will trend towards that norm rather than some revolutionary call to arms or another.  And I figure they're probably right, as long as they/we can deliver the burgers and fries to go with the song and dance.
    Given then that Saddam is an entertainment, after the fashion of Elizabethan bearbaiting, rather than a real problem, how could I possibly propose another course of action for our great politicians to follow?  As long as they have straw men like him to punch around they can use up precious media moments showing airplanes flying rather than having to deal with what some intrepid newsmanager might bring up regarding global warming or other real topics.

    My client asked me what we should do, though, meaning, I suppose, what our policy should be.  Well, Bill and Al, our policy should be
    1. We should be fair.  That means we should stop being nice to that jerk Netanyahu, and we should go find another source of energy so we don't HAVE to be nice to those idiots the Sauds.
    2. We should initiate a program of clandestine humanitarian aid into Iraq, and deny that we're doing it.  Everyone will know.  This would be easy.  All we have to do is start slipping medicine and stuff into the smuggling pipeline from Jordan.  Jordan could use the kickbacks.  Doing good on the sly would have been right up poor dead King Hussein's alley, and I think the new king might dig it too.
    3. Start a Radio Free Arab World program, in which we might try to explain how liberal capitalistic culture could be compatible with liberal Islam (such a thing actually does exist!).
    4. We should start a backchannel cooperation WITH SADDAM to overthrow the dangerous fanatics in Sudan.  In relation to those guys Saddam is actually on our side.  We could give him something to do for us, with the promise of serious relief if he succeeds.  You have to give him a way out if you want him to come out of the bunker.  Given the opportunity to flex his muscles he might not even mind being a mercenary.

    You see, I've read 1984, and I KNOW that all this so-called policy is just a matter of convenience and inertia, and it could change overnight if any of those fools who decide things in our name thought they had a reason to.

    But the basic fact is that our bigshots, and we as well, are addicted to petroleum.  We really need to kick that habit.  That's what we really need to do.