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Hullabaloo


Monday, October 26, 2015

 
About those birth pangs of freedom

by digby

On CNN this morning Wolf Blitzer featured Fareed Zakaria replying to Donald Trump claiming that things are worse in Iraq and Libya now than they were under Saddam and Ghaddafi:
Zakaria: There's a powerful argument there to be made. I think this is a kind of position worth hearing out. There's a kind of old fashioned real politik school in the US that would have alway advocated this.

The trouble is that, as Tony Blair talked about in the documentary, he says 'look, in Iraq we went in and took out the regime and what followed was chaos and Islamic terrorism. In Libya we went in and didn't get involved in nation building -- chaos and terrorism. In Syria we didn't do anything, didn't take out the regime. What has resulted? Chaos and Islamic terrorism.'

The region is in turmoil. So play it out Wolf. If Saddam Hussein was in power and the Arab Spring had broken out and then went to Damascus --- you remember that's what happened it started as a uprising following the Arab spring --- it would probably have happened in Iraq as well. The Kurds might have risen, the Shia might have risen. 80% of the country didn't like Saddam, so it's quite possible that something very much like Syria would be taking place in Iraq now had Saddam been there. The big difference is the United States would not have owned the problem because it would not have precipitated it.

But wasn't the idea of the Arab Spring part of the plan? I seem to recall a lot of "let a thousand flowers of democracy grow" and "birth pangs of freedom" stuff being bandied about. That was the idea --- we would go into Iraq and show 'em how it's done and then they would all rise up and become all American-like.

I particularly recall Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's characterization of the nature of unrest in the Middle East in the wake of the Iraq invasion:

For weeks, while Israel responded to Hezbollah’s abduction of two soldiers on July 12 by heavy bombing of Lebanon’s infrastructure and Hezbollah rained rockets on Israel, the United States blocked efforts to arrange a cease-fire. On July 21, asked why she had delayed going to the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that the devastation represented “the birth pangs of a new Middle East — and whatever we do we have to be certain that we’re pushing forward to the new Middle East, not going back to the old one.”

Here is how the New York Times described the Arab Spring in 2005:

Young protesters have been spurred by the rise of new technology, especially uncensored satellite television, which prevents Arab governments from hiding what is happening on their own streets. The Internet and cellphones have also been deployed to erode censorship and help activists mobilize in ways previous generations never could.

Another factor, pressure from the Bush administration, has emboldened demonstrators, who believe that their governments will be more hesitant to act against them with Washington linking its security to greater freedom after the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States says it will no longer support repressive governments, and young Arabs, while hardly enamored of American policy in the region, want to test that promise.

"Everything happening is taking place in one context, the bankruptcy of the authoritarian regimes and their rejection by the Arab people," said Michel Kilo, a rare political activist in Damascus. "Democracy is being born and the current authoritarianism is dying."

Maybe this really is a chicken or the egg question. Zakaria makes an interesting point --- it's chaos in the middle east where we intervened and where we didn't, where we attempted nation building and where we just deposed the leader and then left it alone. Maybe our intervention caused all this or maybe it would have happened anyway. But I think one thing is clear: our intervention in Iraq certainly didn't do what they insisted for years that it was intended to do which was to create a more stable middle east and bring democracy to the people. And it was going to be a cakewalk.  That did not happen and right now that goal looks even more remote than before.

Our alleged good intentions notwithstanding, the lesson is that if the goal is to bring peace and democracy to a country not your own, war is unlikely to accomplish it, or at least unlikely to accomplish it without a willingness to stay there fight that war for decades ... centuries ... at whatever cost to your own country. And even then ...

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