The Sunday Magazine

Does military intervention in the Middle East ever work?

Why do chaos and instability so often ensue when the West embarks on a military adventure in the Middle East? Now that Canada has taken the fight against ISIS into Syria, Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in the U.K., illuminates with his usual bracing blend of history, wisdom and sharp analysis.
On May 1, 2003 President George W. Bush speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq. (Credit: The Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite)

Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Two ruthless dictators despised by the West and by their own people. One deposed in a controversial war led by the United States, the other by a ragtag collection of Libyan rebels with Western military assistance. Two countries that rejoiced at their liberation. Two countries that quickly descended into instability, despite the jubilation of their citizens and the wishful thinking of the US and its allies.

Iraq is now in a desperate struggle against ISIS, and Libya has been torn apart by rival factions that were united only by their hatred of Gaddafi. They're just two examples of the unintended consequences of the West's enthusiasm for forcible regime change in the Middle East and its environs. 

Yemen, now, has become inflamed by a violent uprising, but Syria - a case in which the West actually declined to get involved militarily - remains perhaps the biggest mess of all: hundreds of thousands of citizens killed by their own government or by one or another rebel groups and now ISIS. And millions more forced to flee to Syria's neighbours as refugees. Canada is embarking on an expanded campaign against ISIS that will take us into the intractable civil conflict and humanitarian disaster that is Syria. 

Michael speaks with Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom about what the West has typically gotten wrong in its military adventures in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, and what it could possibly do, to not make things worse. 

Paul Rogers is the author of  A War on Terror, Afghanistan and After. He's also the international security editor of the website openDemocracy.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?