The Daily Telegraph reports that Tariq Azziz, Saddam Hussein's former Deputy Prime Minister, has told American interrogators Saddam was convinced the United States would not follow through with the threatened invasion of Iraq.
According to Azziz, Saddam's confidence was founded on assurances from French and Russian contacts that their governments would block American initiatives in the U.N. Security Council. The Russians and the French certainly lived up to Saddam's expectations, but somebody in his inner circle should have pointed out to Saddam that there's a new Sheriff in town over in Washington. Indeed, in a twisted way, the swift and relatively easy ousting of Saddam could be considered part of the Clinton legacy. Since Saddam was evidently expecting the same kind of weak-kneed response from George W. Bush that he had grown accustomed to during eight years of Clinton.
Saddam has now added his name to the long list of Bush's "misunderestimators," and if the reports of Azziz's remarks are accurate, that list would also have to include the Russian and French governments, who wrongly assumed that President Bush would not make a move against Saddam without the blessing of the United Nations.
It is tempting to think George W. Bush's enemies and detractors will eventually conclude that they would be much better off overestimating George W. than underestimating him, but it so happens that Bush's enemies are disporportionately comprised of the the self-consumed and the arrogant, so they won't.
I'm reminded of a scene in the movie The Patriot, in which Mel Gibson's character, Benjamin Martin, observes that his foe, General Cornwalis, is very impressed with his own vast knowledge of warfare, which creates in Cornwalis the exploitable weakness of pride. When one of Martin's companions opines that he would instead prefer an enemy whose weakness is stupidity, Martin pauses and replies simply, "pride will do."
Likewise, one of the best things George W. Bush has going for him is the impenetrable arrogance of his enemies, and the relative certainty that they will continue to "misunderestimate" him time and again.