United States presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said what it appears many are thinking; that the world would be a better place if Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein were still in power.
“People are getting their heads chopped off. They’re being drowned. Right now it’s far worse than ever under Saddam Hussein or Gaddafi,” Mr Trump said.
“I mean, look what happened. Libya is a catastrophe. Libya is a disaster. Iraq is a disaster. Syria is a disaster. The whole Middle East. It all blew up around Hillary Clinton and around Obama. It blew up.”
Trump has even described Iraq as the “Harvard of terrorism.”
Donald Trump is right in several respects. The Middle East is an absolute mess. And much of the mess comes down to the fumbling and appallingly weak foreign policy from the Obama administration. Obama pulled US troops out of Iraq way too early, not allowing the new Iraqi leadership time to get to properly established. It is the withdrawal of troops that enabled terrorist groups like ISIS to arise and capture large swathes of Syria and Iraq. While George W Bush won the Gulf War, Obama failed to win the peace.
A similar sad story happened in Libya. The United States and NATO deposed Gaddafi, bombing Libya to smithereens. They won the war, but failed to commit to building long term peace in the country. Now Libya is a wasteland ruled by terrorists and warlords.
A pragmatist may be tempted to concede that given the current disastrous situation in the Middle East it would have been better to have left Gaddafi and Saddam in charge. Better the devil you know, and all that.
But just because the situation is worse now, doesn’t mean the tyrants didn’t need to go. They did. The problems arising now stem from the lack of commitment from Obama and Western powers to commit to these operations for the long haul.
It was necessary for US forces to remain deployed in Europe for decades after the Second World War so Europe could rebuild peace and security. There are still thousands of US troops stationed in South Korea following the Korean war, and the same with Japan.
This commitment to win the peace in Europe, South Korea and Japan has not only led to peaceful societies, but political stability and great prosperity. And it is the lack of commitment to win the peace in the Middle East that has led to the mess and carnage we now face there.