Resigned to Regime Change


By Leonard Fein

Published March 14, 2003, issue of March 14, 2003.
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There’s considerable talk about Saddam Hussein resigning, and that would doubtless be a good thing all around. Unfortunately, little thought has been invested in how he might be encouraged, beyond military pressure, to leave office voluntarily. What follows is not only intended to give the Iraqi leader the necessary push — as will be immediately obvious, it has substantial ancillary benefits.

Simply put, I propose that President Bush set the necessary example by submitting his own resignation. Saddam and Bush can confer beforehand and issue a joint announcement, poignantly phrased, or Bush, who has gambled his presidency on Iraq and, given the complexity of “the morning after” problems, seems likely to lose the gamble, might decide to go it alone, serving as an inspiring role model for Saddam.

The exciting aspect of this proposal is that it might actually start a trend. Think of it: For starters, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat could quit, breaking the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, with the international system in disarray, would no longer be able to have his fun with the rest of us. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, these days so twisted into awkward knots, could be free at last. And so on, the momentum gathering until we have a wholesale phenomenon and the world can look forward to a new start. What a joy that would be! In all likelihood, it would be at least a few decades before we’d be back in the mess we are in just now. But even if the respite would last only for months, not years, would it not be immensely welcome?

There are, to be sure, some leaders who should be excepted from the mass resignation. I have in mind, for example, His Excellency Leo A. Falcam, president of the Federated States of Micronesia. (Most people are not aware that Micronesia is in fact a federation; its member states are Kosrae, Pohnpei, Yap and Chuuk.) I say this not only because Micronesia has been so supportive of Israel — although that surely must count for something — but also because the international community will benefit from having some leaders with experience.

What to do about the several very recently elected leaders — in Kenya, China (“elected” may be a stretch there), Turkey, Brazil and so on? Give them a chance to fail on their own, or press them to join the bungle? (I have decided that “bungle” should be the collective noun for world leaders, as in a gaggle of geese, a sleuth of bears, a murder of crows, or, very much to the contrary, a parliament of owls.) My preference would be for a thorough cleansing, but I am prepared to negotiate the fate of the newbies. We shall also have to deal with the hereditary monarchs, such as King Abdullah of Jordan, and the hereditary non-monarchs, such as President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. My hunch is that they will feel obliged to join the departing group since the anomaly of their role would become so absurdly obvious were they the sole holdovers.

If this plan is to work, the normal rules of succession must be suspended. It would be pointless to have Bush resign if the result were to be President Cheney. Ehud Olmert in Israel? Perish the thought. No, some sort of interregnum would be best, a time for us to consider the next step. It will be argued that it doesn’t much matter, since in any case we are governed these days more by multinational corporations than by political officeholders, and there is considerable truth to that. Accordingly, I would enthusiastically recommend that the CEOs of the top 1,000 or so corporations and banks around the world — a graft of CEOs to go with the bungle of leaders — be encouraged to depart. A clean sweep should be squeaky clean.

Who will govern in the meanwhile? Wrong question. Whoever governs, or no one, it is difficult to imagine a greater mess than the one we are in today.

It comes down to George W. Bush. Is he man enough for the job, the job being that of quitting? I have argued since very nearly the beginning of his presidency that we make a grave mistake when we take him at face value and therefore underestimate him. He is a man, as we can daily see, of firm conviction, even obsession, and his patriotism is surely not in question. I would not be surprised, not at all, to learn that he is painfully aware that he is in way over his head. Accordingly, he might welcome this graceful opportunity to retire to Texas, there to receive the thanks not only of a grateful nation but of a world relieved of its current anxieties.

Yes, there will be temporary disconcert. People will feel confused, vulnerable. But that is how people feel today anyway, so what’s the difference? And if we do not change, we are heading straight for the Flood — or, if we take the Bible seriously, as we should, not this time a flood, but a fire. The worst kind of fire, in fact — not the expression of God’s wrath, but arson.

So: Farewell bungle, farewell graft. Hello hope, somewhat muddled.

Leonard Fein’s most recent book is “Against the Dying of the Light: A Father’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope” (Jewish Lights, 2001).

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