Regime Change Isn’t Always a Good Thing

Since the mid-1990s, or thereabouts, regime change is a phrase we often hear when foreign policy is talked about. It’s easy to see why it’s so tempting to politicians; after all, there are a lot of pretty awful regimes in the world and some of them cause a lot of problems. Others have policies that western leaders object to, or are just generally unwelcome in polite company. Surely, if these regimes can be removed, things will get better?

Well, maybe. Or maybe not. There are regimes that just need to go. The Afghan government leaves a lot to be desired, especially during the reign of the appalling Hamid Karzai, but it’s still way better than what it replaced. The Taliban were simply barbarians and had no business running anything, never mind a country. Not every case is as clear-cut though. Take Saddam Hussein, for example. Saddam was undeniably not very nice, but how much of a threat did he actually represent to western interests? The answer has to be not much. He wasn’t an evil mastermind, just an Arab tribal strongman, and his interest never extended beyond the Middle East. To Europe and America he posed exactly zero danger.

AssadBut, as well as an Arab strongman, Saddam was something else too – something vanishingly rare in the Middle East; a secular, non-sectarian leader. Saddam was a Sunni muslim but never a particularly devout one, and he rejected the idea of an Islamic state. His Ba’ath Party followed a 1960s strain of pan-Arab socialism, far from an ideal philosophy but a lot better than religious fundamentalism. Saddam’s deputy, Tariq Aziz, was a Christian. His sole standard was loyalty to the regime, not religious beliefs. Yes, his regime was brutal, but it was stable. It was also unrelentingly hostile to the islamist extremists who pose the real threat to global stability. ISIS would never have gained a foothold in Saddam’s Iraq because he’d simply have bombed them mercilessly as soon as they appeared.

Now look at what happened when he was removed. Iraq immediately collapsed into bloody sectarian chaos. The majority Shia tried to seize the political power they believed was rightfully theirs. The minority, but traditionally dominant, Sunni fought back viciously. The Christians fled to Europe. Everyone kept right on hating the Kurds. Without the Ba’athist lid to keep it down, Iraq’s sectarian pressure cooker boiled over into carnage.

In 2002 there were three non-sectarian regimes in the entire Middle East. All – Saddam, Gadaffi and Assad – were unpleasant, but was the alternative better? With Libya no longer existing as a functional state and Iraq in chaos, the answer is clearly no. The survivor, Assad’s Syria, is threatened by the islamist uprising but so far, and despite western hostility, it’s holding on. Bear in mind that Syria is the last Middle Eastern nation where status isn’t decided by the way you worship. Yes, it’s a repressive dictatorship. No, it’s nowhere near as bad as it would be if any of the opposition parties ran it. Before planning for regime change, we need to pause and remember that not all change is for the better.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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