The post-2003 democratic wave was brief and somewhat shallow, and it indirectly benefited Hamas and Hezbollah as well as the Kurds and Shiites of Iraq and the Lebanese democracy movement. But the regime-change school in America can claim a degree of vindication. — Christopher Hitchens, Jan. 31, Slate
There’s a lot of auguring going on now that we’ve entered the age of Peak Oil and climate change and new political upheaval in the Middle East. Is it food shortages that trigger revolutions? Too much brutality by the regime? The shutting down of Internet access and the subsequent trauma of life without Facebook?
Hitchens would have us believe the tipping point for revolution is a mass feeling of “indignity and shame” that results when dictatorships too blatantly remind the people that they’re being exploited — i.e., when the dictator builds too many palaces for himself or stops bothering to pretend elections are fair. “People do not like to be treated like fools,” Hitchens writes, referring in this case to the treatment of Egyptians by Hosni Mubarak and his goons.
But wait — tens of millions of Americans were made fools of by the U.S. government, which bailed out the Wall Street con men who helped trigger our ongoing economic crisis and did nothing to curtail record unemployment or stop mortgage foreclosures. If the tipping point was the degree to which people feel they’ve been had, then Lloyd Blankfein and his fellow robbers would be swinging by their necks from the lampposts in Lower Manhattan.
Hitchens’ subtext is his desire for “vindication.” He and his fellow neocons are still arguing the U.S. did the right thing when it invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein in 2003, even though the invasion resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people and political instability that persists to this day. At the same time, he’s saying it would not be the right thing for the U.S. to help depose Mubarak, a dictator almost as brutal as Saddam, because the Egyptian people, after deciding they’ve been made fools of, should do this on their own.
So which is it — do we depose all dictators or only those who aren’t our friends? Does the “regime-change school” only want democracy for countries that don’t support anti-U.S. groups such as Hezbollah?
Hitchens was a neocon, but now he’s arguing for realpolitik. If only he’d stop pretending he’s making a case for morality.