In fact, the US may be stronger now in the region than it was when it was allying itself to oppressive regimes. It is obviously more popular with the youth who adopt US pop culture and dress. American soft power is possibly more effective than the old precarious balancing act to keep the Arab dictators in power. Post-colonial hang-ups about intervention seem to have dissipated with the Arab Spring.
More questions can be raised. How much of the chaos that followed the removal of Saddam was caused by the regimes that the US was ‘engaging’ with? Syria and Iran openly promoted the chaos; but Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen and even the UAE sheikhdoms didn’t help. In invading Iraq, was the US fighting against the whole regional system?
Did the fall of Saddam break the myth about the power of such dictatorships? It is not unrealistic to think that Saddam’s trial could have planted the idea that dictators may face a reckoning in the end. How much did this contribute to the Arab Spring? The Berlin Wall did not fall because somebody kicked it: the ideas propping it up collapsed much earlier, with the Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms in Russia. The idea that the Arab Spring was triggered by a self-immolating street trader in an obscure Tunisian town is just not credible…
A philosopher with an Iraqi background asks the rhetorical question: ‘A young man from the city of Al-Salt in Jordan decides to infiltrate Iraq and blow himself up in a book market together with a couple of hundred people. His family celebrate his martyrdom and people in the area congratulate them on that glory. Why is that the fault of George Bush?’