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Regime Change and Unintended Consequence

This is a guest post by MoreMediaNonsense

Recent events in South Africa and Zimbabwe are of interest when discussing the issue of regime change and its consequences.

Critics of the war in Iraq are very fond of pointing out the averse unintended consequences of the invasion in view of the sectarian violence that has gripped the country since liberation and which is thankfully now receding. They are very happy it seems to take the “I told you so line” and spout on at length about military misjudgements and the incompetency of the Bush administration. They seem to believe the bad consequences automatically cancel out the benefits of liberation.

But any country is likely to fall victim to instabilities when a strong but unjust regime is removed. And the replacement leaders we have previously feted as “freedom fighters” may prove to be failures and worse. Look at what is happening in Zimbabwe for example. The dire present state of that country is now far worse than when Ian Smith ran it. Does that mean we should have left Smith in charge ? I cannot imagine any one on the Left saying that, certainly not on the “anti-imperialist” wing. Why then is such a similar argument heard from the stopper Left re Iraq, that we should have done nothing because of the future possible bad consequences ?

Even in South Africa there is still a very high level of violent crime affecting both black and whites. In fact since 1994 272,000 people have been murdered.  and the murder rate in South Africa is now higher than in Iraq. Some of the apartheid regimes supporters predicted law and order would break down if the regime was changed and unfortunately to some extent they were correct. Surely if you use the “we told you so line” on Iraq you should likewise criticise the lack of foresight of the anti-apartheid campaigns on this. But we don’t hear about anti-apartheid campaigners having “blood on their hands”.

The “Troubles” in Northern Ireland could also be seen as the unintended result of the removal of a stable but unjust regime, NI for the majority Protestants before 1968 was a stable and peaceful country. But the government was unjust and rightly, progressives campaigned vigorously for its demise. Unfortunately the result of regime change there was nearly 30 years of violence.

It seems there is one way to be sure your actions to change a screwed up country have no bad consequences. Do nothing and leave the people to suffer as they are. Far better all round for your Western Liberal conscience.