Saddam, Stalin, Hitler and History
Even the harshest
Bush-bashing pundit tends to qualify his or her criticism of the
war in Iraq with the line, "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein
was an evil man and we should all be thankful that he and his cronies
have been deposed, but...."
In fact, you
can already envision neoconservative columnists insisting a year
or two from now that despite the fact that we weren't successful
in establishing a democracy in Mesopotamia, we should appreciate
the "legacy" that President George W. Bush has left behind.
Our grand ambitions
of making Iraq and the Arab world safe for political freedom weren't
fulfilled. But at least we don't have another bloody dictator around
to that question, one should press the rewind button of 20th-century
years ago, liberal intellectuals in New York, London and Paris were
united in the certainty that the most anti-democratic and corrupt
regime in Europe was czarist Russia.
II and his cronies were considered leading reactionary figures who
were opposed to reform, oppressed their people, launched anti-Jewish
pogroms and dominated a huge empire.
It was not
surprising, then, that the abdication of Czar Nikolai II in 1917
produced a sense of euphoria among liberals everywhere. Now that
the evil tyrant was gone, they expected Russia would enter an age
of political and economic progress.
considered, the Russian people were expected to be better off without
Czar Nikolai II.
also followed the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in the aftermath
of Germany's defeat in World War I. Most western observers regarded
the authoritarian and militarist Kaiser Wilhelm II as a warmonger
responsible for the outbreak of the Great War.
His exile and
replacement by a republican system committed to democratic principles
was seen as great progress.
the end of the Czarist rule in Russia as well as the collapse
of the despised Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires the
Kaiser's removal was another step in the worldwide march toward
a better future.
The world was
supposedly now better off without all these autocrats and despots.
we can vividly spot the weaknesses of these assumptions.
exposed the revolting personalities of Hitler and Stalin and the
horrific images of Auschwitz and the Gulag, the bloody battlegrounds
of World War II and the protracted history of the Cold War.
what you wish for
terror of the civil war in Yugoslavia and the continuing mess in
the Middle East, some may even feel nostalgic toward the Austro-Hungarian
emperors and the Ottoman sultan.
This is not
to dispute that Hussein was a monster like Stalin and Mao
he certainly was. However, the more relevant point to consider is
whether whatever or whomever replaces him will be an improvement
over the status quo ante.
and more importantly, the Iraqi people feel a similar sense
of nostalgia toward Saddam Hussein years from now? Let us hope not.
But if the
country degenerates into a bloody civil war à la Afghanistan
with weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of
warlords and terrorists then all bets are off.
If parts of
Iraq come under the rule of a theocratic Shi'ite regime, women and
Christians wouldn't even enjoy the limited freedom they had under
the secular Baath rule.
Will the times
and actions of Saddam be sanitized if Iran, equipped with nuclear
weapons, becomes the hegemonic power in the entire Persian Gulf?
A hazy picture
What will happen
if Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia become embroiled in a regional
war in which they would carve up Iraq?
will the past be reinterpreted if the United States is forced into
a lengthy and costly occupation to prevent these scenarios sketched
We should recall,
however, that Czar Nikolai II was forced out of power by the Russian
people and not by an outside power.
President Woodrow Wilson's slogan of "making the world safe for
democracy," World War I resulted from political and strategic considerations
and was not aimed at "regime change" in Russia or Germany.
United States ousted Saddam Hussein, a man known for brutality against
his own people and for his threats against his neighbors, in a war
As a result,
we Americans have become responsible for whatever scenario might
unfold in Iraq or its remnants, for better or, more likely
article is excerpted from Sandstorm:
Policy Failure in the Middle East.
Hadar [send him mail] is Washington correspondent
for the Business Times of Singapore
and the author of the forthcoming Sandstorm:
Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan).
© 2005 The Globalist.
Reprinted with permission of the author.