Iraq’s Real Consequences Vs. Libya’s Potential Consequences

Staring into his magic neocon 8-Ball, Jackson Diehl writes that Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s “scorched-earth campaign to save himself has not only stopped and partially reversed the advance of rebel forces on Tripoli during the past two weeks; it has done the same to the broader push for Arab democracy”:

If he survives, the virus of repressive bloodshed and unyielding autocracy could flow back through the region.

Maybe it already has. Egypt has seen dangerous outbursts of violence the past couple of weeks, including sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians. Security forces in Yemen have attacked crowds in the capital, Sanaa, with live ammunition twice in the past week, and violent clashes have resumed between security forces and protesters in Bahrain.

Pro-democracy forces outside of Egypt and Tunisia have stalled. Algeria and Morocco have gone quiet. In Saudi Arabia on Friday, a “day of anger” advertised for weeks on Facebook failed to produce a significant turnout. And there has been no sign of rebellion in the Arab country whose dictatorship rivals Gaddafi’s for ruthlessness: Syria.

This is, to put it charitably, unconvincing. While it’s true that Qaddafi’s eventual survival or non-survival, and the manner in which that’s achieved, will impact the calculations of authoritarian rulers in the region and the world, it’s fortune telling of the most arcane sort to suggest that the failure of the international community to step in and remove Qaddafi has caused the Middle East revolutions to stall. As if to refute his own point, Diehl quotes “one well-informed source” who lists a number of obstacles to Egyptian democratic reform — none of which have anything to do with Qaddafi.

But what’s really interesting here is this: Jackson Diehl, a huge supporter of the Iraq war, has, as far as I know, never acknowledged any of the war’s numerous negative consequences (which my colleagues and I detailed in a report last year, The Iraq War Ledger). These are not theoretical consequences, but real, actually existing consequences. It’s very hard for me to take seriously Diehl’s warnings of the possible consequences of non-intervention in Libya when he himself has yet to acknowledge the real, actually existing consequences of intervention in Iraq.

Especially when he finishes up his piece by suggesting that U.S. intervention in Syria wouldn’t be such a disaster, either. These people have learned nothing.