Today In Counterfactual History

A combo shows (L): Iraqi ringing a rope

Bobby Ghosh believes that Saddam would have survived the Arab Spring:

Saddam forbade satellite dishes, and economic sanctions–in place since his troops were kicked out of Kuwait in 1991–meant Iraqis could have neither personal computers nor cell phones. That meant no Facebook, no Twitter, not even text messages. And no al-Jazeera to spread the word from Baghdad to other cities. Unlike Ben Ali and Mubarak, Saddam would have had no compunction ordering a general slaughter of revolutionaries; and unlike the Tunisian and Egyptian military brass, the Iraqi generals would swiftly have complied. They had already demonstrated this by killing tens of thousands of Shi’ites who rose against the dictator after his Kuwaiti misadventure.

Max Fisher thinks that possibly “the most apt comparison for how Saddam Hussein’s Iraq would fare in the Arab Spring isn’t Syria, but Algeria”:

Though Algeria is ruled by an authoritarian, nationalist, military-aligned government, and though popular discontent appears high, there has been no revolution. There are many theories for why this might be, but one of the most persuasive comes down to uprising exhaustion. The county endured an awful civil war from 1991 to about 1999, which the regime won. In the thinking of some Algeria analysts, the legacy of that conflict has left the would-be protesters too tired, too wary of bloodshed and too weak to rise up again. In this thinking, the case for Hussein’s survival isn’t that he would crush an uprising, but that the uprising, like in Algeria, would never really happen.

(Photo: A combo shows (L): Iraqi ringing a rope around a giant bronze statue of toppled Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s al-Fardous (paradise) square on April 9, 2003. (R): Iraqi women sitting under the newly erected ‘Statue of Hope’ at the square that has taken the place of the former statue of Saddam. By Ramzi Haidar (L) and Timothy A. Clary (R) /AFP/Getty Images)