Top Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump likes to stir controversy. On Sunday, he said the world would be a better place if dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi were still in power. Trump’s aim is to keep himself in the headlines, and certainly his controversial statements have kept him at the forefront. However, it is a long time until election day.
Whether a dictator is ousted by a foreign power, as was the case with Saddam, or at the hands of their own citizens, as was the case with Qaddafi, or due to death from natural causes, the possibility of chaos erupting afterward is very high. Therefore, chaos was most probably imminent after Saddam’s or Qaddafi’s overthrow.
Regimes that last, whether they are democratic or not, are based on sustainable foundations. No one can say that about Qaddafi’s or Saddam’s regimesAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The world today is made up either of regimes or individual leaderships. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the regime’s structure continued to exist under a different slogan. However, when Somali President Siad Barre was ousted in the 1990s by an internal rebellion, the entire regime collapsed, and Somalia has remained in chaos ever since.
Cult of personality
Would Libya have been united and stable if Qaddafi had died of a heart attack rather than at the hands of rebels who found him hiding in a drain pipe? I rule that out as the entire regime was solely based on him. The same can be said of Saddam, especially that Iraq was weakened by international sanctions that lasted for 13 years from 1990. This is why when the U.S.-led invasion began, his army melted away in one week.
Even if Saddam had died of natural causes, his regime would have collapsed because he had eliminated most of the leading figures in his inner circle, such as his son-in-law Hussein Kamel, and dozens of others who belonged to his party.
After the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, the regime weakened for several years before the revolution erupted. One scream of rebellion in Deraa was enough to ignite protests in Syria. If people had not revolted in 2011, they would have probably done so five or 10 years later.
As for Egypt, what kept its unity following the recent revolution there is its army, which has always been the state’s backbone. Former President Hosni Mubarak was merely the head of state, not an absolute leader.
Regimes that last, whether they are democratic or not, are based on sustainable foundations. No one can say that about Qaddafi’s or Saddam’s regimes. The reason for the chaos in Libya is that no one helped its people to establish a reasonable, inclusive regime. The same goes for Iraq, as the Americans underestimated the internal challenges when they disbanded the army, security forces and other state institutions.
Yemen was also structured to serve one person: former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. I expect the allied forces, which are pushing back rebels, to work on including all factions in any future political and institutional solution, otherwise chaos will continue. Institutional regimes are capable of surviving, while those based on individuals are subject to collapse regardless of wishes and aspirations
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 27, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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