The NY Times prompts spilled coffee all over the Upper West Side with this guest op-ed:
The Arab Spring Started in Iraq
ON April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell to an American-led coalition. The removal of Saddam Hussein and the toppling of a whole succession of other Arab dictators in 2011 were closely connected — a fact that has been overlooked largely because of the hostility that the Iraq war engendered.
Them's fightin' words! To a Times audience, anyway. And Barack Obama is still trying to figure out whether Bush's surge was a success, so the possibility of a link between Saddam's overthrow and the broader collapse of Arab dictators is surely beyond his pay grade.
The author, Kanan Makiya, is an Iraqi ex-pat and:
...a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University and the author of “Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq” and “Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World.”
He also supported the 2003 invasion, but says this about the aftermath:
The first gulf war achieved America’s goals, but the people of Iraq paid the price for that success. They were left with international sanctions for another 12 years under a brutal and bitter dictator itching for vengeance against those who had dared to rise up against him, including Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south. By the time of the American invasion in 2003, the Iraqi middle class had been decimated, state institutions had been gutted and mistrust and hostility toward America abounded.
Both the George W. Bush administration and the Iraqi expatriate opposition to Mr. Hussein — myself included — grossly underestimated those costs in the run-up to the 2003 war. The Iraqi state, we failed to realize, had become a house of cards.
None of these errors of judgment were necessarily an argument against going to war if you believed, as I do, that overthrowing Mr. Hussein was in the best interests of the Iraqi people. The calculus looks different today if one’s starting point is American national interest. I could not in good conscience tell an American family grieving for a son killed in Iraq that the war “was worth it.”
We didn’t know then what we know today. Some, including many of my friends, warned of the dangers of American hubris. I did not heed them in 2003.
But the greater hubris is to think that what America does or doesn’t do is all that matters. The blame for the catastrophe of post-2003 Iraq must be placed on the new Iraqi political elite. The Shiite political class, put in power by the United States, preached a politics of victimhood and leveraged the state to enrich itself. These leaders falsely identified all Sunni Iraqis with Baathists, forgetting how heavily all Iraqis, including some Shiites, were implicated in the criminality of Mr. Hussein’s regime.
Although I always feared, and warned in 1993, that the emergence of sectarian strife was a risk after Mr. Hussein’s fall, my greatest misjudgment was in hoping that Iraq’s new leaders would act for the collective Iraqi good.
Out with the evil, in with the beneficient? That was one of Bush's many miscalculations as well.
FWIW, here is a 2007 post ruminating on whether the Iraq result was a failure of conception or implementation. I think people who supported the inital invasion would prefer to fault Bush's lack of planning for the post-war reconstruction (I know I do.)
As to the notion that the Arab Spring took inspiration from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein rather than the election of Nobel Prize winner Barack Obama, well, maybe with the souring of Springtime in Egypt and the disaster in Syria the Times is looking for a way to Blame Bush.