Except Tunisia, in most Arab countries, where a popular uprising has taken place, chaos and instability have prevailed. Scholars and analysts, who never believed that the Arab world could ever embrace democracy as a political and economic system, took advantage of the post-revolution difficult conditions in Libya, Yemen and Syria to influence the public debate in the US about the Middle East. “The fact that a state is despotic does not necessarily make it immoral. That is the essential fact of the Middle East that those intent on enforcing democracy abroad forget,” Robert Kaplan, a distinguished US writer, argued in an article published in the Washington Post.
More than a decade ago, such voices were eclipsed by the shock of 9/11. At the time, the real threat for America seemed to be coming from undemocratic regimes and ‘failed states’ in the Middle East. The rationale behind this argument was that there are ‘failed’, ‘rogue’ and ‘weak’ states in the world that are, in varying ways, brutalising and killing their own people, disrupting regional stability, developing weapons of mass destruction, engaging in acts of terror or are linked with violent anti-western terrorist organisations. In such cases, it is the moral duty of democratic states to intervene in a variety of ways, including militarily, and even preemptively, to ensure that humanitarian crises are brought to an end, that good government is restored or implanted and that order reigns. Policymakers could not agree more. “In a world where evil is still very real, democratic principles must be backed with power in all its forms: Political and economic, cultural and moral, and yes, sometimes military”, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice suggested once. Iraq was the first step in a long process to implement this strategy: Overthrow Arab autocrats and replace them with democratically elected governments.