Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been making the media rounds to promote his new memoir, and this morning, he stopped by Fox and Friends where he credited the Iraq war with helping to start the Arab Spring. While Cheney cautioned that it’s hard to lump all Middle East countries together, he said it’s likely that the pro-democracy movement that swept the Arab world in the past six months is a “ripple effect” of the introduction of democracy in Iraq:
KILMEADE: Is it a reach to say Libya’s unrest…all has a lot to do with what happened in Iraq? Letting those people, seeing those people vote, and the Arab community seeing what’s going on?
CHENEY: Well, I think there may be some of that going on. [...] But I think that what happened in Iraq, the fact that we brought democracy, if you will, and freedom to Iraq, has had a ripple effect on some of those other countries.
A number of Bush foreign policy apologists have tried to claim the Arab Spring as vindication of the Iraq War and its cheerleaders’ claim that the invasion would help spread democracy across the Middle East. But as CAP’s Matt Duss pointed out this month, “there is no real evidence for the claim.” The war was overwhelming unpopular in the region and, as an April 2010 RAND study concluded, “Iraq’s instability has become a convenient scarecrow neighboring regimes can use to delay political reform by asserting that democratization inevitably leads to insecurity.”
Indeed, Iraq is hardly a model of democracy, and its leaders, rather than seeing solidarity with activists in other Arab countries and encouraging them, have done little to help the pro-democracy movement and at times even expressed sympathy for the autocratic regimes the movement is seeking to overthrow.
Addressing the question in July, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven Cook concluded, “It is time to put the Bush boosters’ arguments where they belong: in the trash heap of discredited ideas.” “There is no connection between the invasion of Iraq and Arab efforts to throw off generations of dictatorship,” he added.