The actual lesson of Iraq is not complicated but clear. When you remove the dictator -- no matter how vicious and oppressive -- you end one battle only to begin another: How to stabilize and govern the country when the ethnic, tribal and particularly religious tensions are unleashed after the oppression has been lifted.
This is the true lesson of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it doesn't mean that it is right to keep the dictator in place. Or possible. Because the lesson of what used to be called the "Arab Spring" -- beginning in 2011 -- is that with young and alienated populations deprived of political rights, these dictatorships no longer had the capability of maintaining control.
The real choice for the Middle East was, and is, reform or revolution. So when we come to reassess Iraq, it is possible to disagree strongly with the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003, to be highly critical both of the intelligence on WMD and the planning for the aftermath, and yet still be glad that he is gone.
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