We’ve heard a lot over the last year or so, and quite a bit in recent days, about how ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq led to the rise of extremist groups like ISIS. Even former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair has stepped up and accepted (partial) responsibility for ISIS now. However, Republicans in the U.S., like Jeb Bush, jump on anyone who blames George W. Bush for the Middle East’s current problems, but Donald Trump evidently doesn’t see it that way.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump whether he believes that the world was better off with Saddam and, incredibly, Gadhafi, in power. Trump’s answer was a simple, “100 percent.”
Whoa, what? Trump wants to close mosques here in the U.S. to keep Muslim extremists out, but thinks the entire world would be better off if Saddam and Gadhafi were still in power? Here’s what’s happening: Trump knows and understands something that much of the rest of the GOP won’t even acknowledge.
Saddam’s secular regime actually kept extremist factions in check in Iraq. He didn’t tolerate religious extremism, and while he was a cruel dictator who had no problems hurting his own people, it was the power vacuum created when we got rid of him that helped those extremists seize power in the Middle East.
It was also the prison system we created in Iraq that allowed ISIS to develop its ideologies, and band together into a force. Without those prisons, without that organizational tool, they would have been very hard-pressed to meet, let alone develop and grow as they have.
As far as Libya, Gadhafi at least kept the country intact. Terrorist forces had a difficult time gaining a foothold there because of him. Now, both Iraq and Libya are splintered, and ripe pickings for the terrorist factions that are now threatening the rest of the world.
This is what we have wrought in the Middle East, and we have an entire segment of our political field that refuses to acknowledge that. But CNN reports that Trump, proving that he likes to buck the establishment, doesn’t see it the same way as the rest of the right. He also said:
If you look at Iraq from years ago, I’m not saying he was a nice guy, he was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now Libya, nobody even knows Libya, frankly there is no Iraq and there is no Libya. It’s all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what’s going on.
He said, a little later on:
People are getting their heads chopped off, they’re being drowned. Right now, they are far worse than they were, ever, under Saddam Hussein or Gadhafi.
Trump may well alienate a lot of the right wing by saying that leaving horrific leaders like Gadhafi and Saddam in power would have kept the world safer because leaving dictators in place goes against our own delusional thinking about “spreading the light of democracy.” However, Trump has also voiced support for bombing Iraq back to the Stone Age and then using the oil companies to go in and rebuild. That shows that he’s sketchy on foreign policy, and especially on what to do to fix what we’ve broken in the Middle East, but at least he knows we broke it.
One question we absolutely must start asking ourselves honestly is, “How often do these so-called ‘regime changes,’ where we go in and oust a leader, and try to put a democratic government in their place, ever work out well for us?”