Christopher Hitchens column for Slate today argues that, "if Saddam Hussein were still in power, this year's Arab uprisings could never have happened." This is a bit of rhetorical sleight of hand, and I can't believe Hitchens doesn't know what he's doing.
First of all, I find it hard to believe that between The Leys School and Oxford no one bothered to explain post hoc fallacies to Hitchens. That's not to say that Bush's Iraq misadventure has had no effect at all on Arab politics, only that Hitchens' claim that recent uprisings "could never have happened"* requires a post hoc reliance that is not supported by the evidence.
Second, I don't recall anyone arguing that Saddam Hussein should have remained in power. The argument was over how he was deposed – the lies, the hubris, the lack of planning and forethought – the causal, amateurish adventurism that defined the entire episode. Hitchens conveniently ignores the uncomfortable historical details, in effect arguing that the ends justified any means.
I share Hitchens' hope that we will soon see "a new Libyan provisional government on the soil of a free Iraq". But I'm afraid that will not "have closed the circle—and vindicated all those brave people" who died in George W. Bush's Iraq fiasco. Such vacuous rationalizations may sooth Christopher Hitchens' conscience, but not mine.
But what really made me chuckle (and the true impetus for this post), was this line:
Can anyone imagine how the Arab spring would have played out if a keystone Arab state, oil-rich and heavily armed with a track record of intervention in its neighbors' affairs and a history of all-out mass repression against its own civilians, were still the private property of a sadistic crime family?
Yes, it's quite hard to imagine, isn't it?
* emphasis added