The Strong Man expects to die in one of two ways -- with a 9 millimeter ballot (i.e., assassination or suicide) -- or old age. Hitler went by his own hand; Stalin and Mao succumbed in bed. A public, legal trial followed by court-sentenced execution? That isn't going to happen unless ... unless a democracy replaces a tyranny.
This has happened -- and it's history-altering news. For terrible centuries, the yin-yang of tyrant and terrorist has trapped the Middle East. In 2003, the U.S.-led coalition began the difficult but worthy effort of breaking that tyrant's and terrorist's grip, and offering another choice in the politically dysfunctional Muslim Middle East.
Saddam's demise serves as object lesson and example: to avoid Saddam's fate means political liberalization. The message extends beyond the Middle East. At some reptilian level, destructive despots like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe also understand it.
At one time, Saddam compared himself to Babylon's Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar. Now, the man who threatened the Mother of All Battles turned out to be a frightened, petty scoundrel. In late 2003, Saddam surrendered without firing a shot; he faced the rope with strange surprise and a strain of fear.
Western peaceniks and other tyrant-enablers will call Saddam's execution the "further humiliation of Arabs" or "injustice and revenge." As usual, they are wrong. It's a political signal that it is possible to escape the dismal oppression of autocratic killers.
Let the tyrants look upon Saddam at the end of the rope -- and despair.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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