Friday, October 3, 2014

Regime change

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What to think of regime change? Is it a good thing? Or is it a bad thing? Some advocate it passionately, in the name of democracy. Others are more skeptical, to say the least.

Even if it's often confused with revolution, regime change is not an internal affair, so to speak. It's not a genuine popular uprising against an oppressive regime, as we are led to believe, but a direct foreign intervention in the government of a sovereign nation.

So, what does history tell us about regime change?

If we remember some of the most notorious regime changes in the 20th century, what do we see? The sudden reign of democracy and liberty for the oppressed or the exact opposite?

- Iran, 1953: the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, was overthrown, turning the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, from "constitutional monarch" to dictator.
- Guatemala, 1954: the democratically elected President, Jacobo Arbenz, was overthrown and replaced by a dictator, Carlos Castillo Armas.
- Republic of Congo, 1961: the democratically elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, was deposed and murdered, then replaced by a dictator, Mobuto Sese Seko.

- Brazil, 1964: the democratically elected President, João Goulart, was overthrown and replaced by a military junta.
- Greece, 1967: the democratically elected MP, Grigóris Lambrákis, was murdered right before the elections, prompting a coup d'état that replaced the parliamentary regime with a military junta.
- Chile, 1973: the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende, was overthrown and murdered, then replaced by a dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

And these are only a few examples, all of them the result of US Cold War foreign policy, commonly known as the "Truman doctrine".

Having said that, regime change is not only a mean to overthrow democratically elected leaders, it’s also a mean to get rid of ruthless dictators. We might think that it’s a positive change. But if we look closely, what do the most emblematic post-Cold War examples show us?
- Iraq, 2003: a ruthless dictator, Saddam Hussein, was overthrown and killed, then replaced by chaos.
- Libya, 2011: a ruthless dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was overthrown and murdered, then replaced by chaos.

This chaos is not the regrettable result of bad regime change management but rather a deliberate objective. It's another well defined doctrine called "constructive chaos", promoted and implemented by successive US administrations, Republican and Democrats alike.

In conclusion, to the question "what to think of regime change?", history has a clear answer: regime change replaces democratically elected leaders by dictators, and dictators by chaos. Always changing for the worse.

Still wondering why, when I hear them talk of regime change in the name of freedom and democracy, I can’t but smirk and be very perplexed? 

© Claude El Khal, 2014