There is some pressure from some countries, including the US, (and I think Saudi Arabia) to remove Bashar Assad from leadership in Syria. There has been pressure from some countries, including Russia and Iran, to keep Assad in power. The situation is complicated because some of ‘our’ rebel groups are against ISIS but also against Assad, and ISIS is sometimes against Assad (I think. I said it was complicated.)
Now I would like to ask this dumb question: how well has the removal of dictators worked out, especially ones removed with US assistance?
A related dumb question is, how well has the installation of puppet/dictators worked out, especially ones installed with US assistance?
I will give a short list of examples, and encourage you, o reader, to look them up if you are unfamiliar with them. Here goes:
- Chile and Pinochet
- Cuba and Fulgencio Batista
- Iran and the Shah
- Iraq and Saddam Hussein
- Libya and Muammar Gaddafi
- Nicaragua and Daniel Ortega and Oliver North and the Contras
The first three are essentially US installations. At one point the Shah fled Iran, but US operatives there made it possible for him to return. Pinochet was installed in Chile as a result of Nixon and Kissinger not wanting Salvador Allende to succeed, so this is also a deposition instance. Cuba had the result of the later revolution of Fidel Castro. So installing Batista didn’t work out all that well either.
The latter three are examples of removing or preventing someone from power. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was imho despotic, but it worked a lot better than the current chaos.
Libya is a mess after the removal of Gaddafi.
Daniel Ortega was prevented from the presidency of Nicaragua by Colonel North’s manoeuver, where US arms were sold (illegally) to Iran and the money used (illegally) to fund the Contras in Honduras who were attacking Nicaragua.
At one point Nicaragua took the US to the international court, which ordered them to un-mine the harbour, stop the funding, and pay massive reparations. To quote Noam Chomsky from memory here: since the US ignored this ruling, it ‘drops out of history.’
Many years later Daniel Ortega was successfully elected. Amazingly, Oliver North published an article shortly before this, roughly saying that the US should be actively campaigning in this foreign country to prevent this.
I mention Nicaragua because it is an example of later blow-back from an intervention. Ortega probably remembers the US / Contra insurgencies.
This was also a key moment in the invention of intervention techniques: when the Contras weren’t as successful as the US wanted, they were advised to go after soft targets: schools, hospitals, and markets. This tactic is in continued use today; witness the bombing of hospitals run by MSF in Yemen and in Afghanistan.
There is a seventh example, but it is messy. Somehow the US got Panama to separate from Columbia as a distinct country. Then they established the Canal Zone and Manuel Noriega. This quote from Wikipedia:
From the 1950s until shortly before the U.S. invasion, Noriega worked closely with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Noriega was one of the CIA’s most valued intelligence sources, as well as one of the primary conduits for illicit weapons, military equipment and cash destined for US-backed counterinsurgency forces throughout Central and South America. Noriega was also a major cocaine trafficker, something which his U.S. intelligence handlers were aware of for years, but allowed because of his usefulness for their covert military operations in Latin America.
Of course, the US can be fickle, and this was Noriega’s reward:
In 1988, Noriega was indicted on drug trafficking charges in Miami, Florida, and shortly thereafter, in the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama he was removed from power, captured, detained as a prisoner of war, and flown to the United States. Noriega was tried on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering in April 1992. On September 16, 1992, he was sentenced to 40 years in prison (which was later reduced to 30 years).
Noriega’s bad luck didn’t end there; for the rest, see the Wikipedia article linked above.
We have here seven instances of interference with a foreign country’s leadership. In no case can, imho, a case be made that the result was good overall.
So, why do we think removing Bashar Assad will have a different result?
The definition of insanity is, repeating the same action while expecting a novel outcome.
Are we nuts?