The headlines about Condoleezza Rice’s new memoir have mostly focused on the tit-for-tat between the former Secretary of State and former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Rice called naive and said claims about her in Cheney’s memoir were an “attack on my integrity.” But the reality is that Cheney and Rice see eye-to-eye on some big issues too. Talking with USA Today about the book, Rice, like Cheney, credited President Bush for the Arab Spring:
The demise of repressive governments in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere during this year’s “Arab spring,” she says, stemmed in part from Bush’s “freedom agenda,” which promoted democracy in the Middle East. “The change in the conversation about the Middle East, where people now routinely talk about democratization is something that I’m very grateful for and I think we had a role in that,” Rice says.
Indeed, Cheney had a similar take. When asked about the Arab Spring in August, Cheney replied, “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.” And of course, according to Rice, the only to get rid of Saddam Hussein was to invade militarily:
“It would be a mistake to make the leap of faith that this [Arab Spring] would somehow have worked in Iraq,” she says in her first newspaper interview about her memoir, No Higher Honor. […]
“Gadhafi … wasn’t Saddam Hussein in terms of his reach and capacity,” she says. “I do think that an Arab spring in Iraq would have been unthinkable under Saddam Hussein.”
There isn’t any real evidence of this claim that Bush’s democracy promotion in the Middle East (i.e. invasion of Iraq) had something to do with the Arab Spring. And this claim also ignores the agency of Arab citizens themselves in their collective action to rise up against social and economic injustices.
A 2010 RAND report found that “Iraq’s instability has become a convenient scarecrow neighboring regimes can use to delay political reform by asserting that democratization inevitably leads to insecurity.” And now, ironically, the Iraqi government is “offering key moral and financial support” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his violent crackdown on pro-democracy activists there.
The Council on Foreign Relations’ Steven Cook addressed this question back in July. “It is time to put the Bush boosters’ arguments where they belong: in the trash heap of discredited ideas,” he said, adding, “There is no connection between the invasion of Iraq and Arab efforts to throw off generations of dictatorship.” (HT: The Hill)