Back in January I posted an excerpt from and link to some reflections of Jeff Weintraub's on the likely costs of Saddam Hussein's having been left in power in 2003, as judged by reference to what is now happening in Syria. Tony Blair has lately spoken in similar vein to the BBC: 'If you examine what's happening in Syria, just reflect on what Bashar al-Assad, who is a 20th as bad as Saddam, is doing to his people today and the number of lives already lost; just ask yourself the question, what would be happening now in Iraq if he [Saddam] had been left in power?' (Report also here.)
In Time Magazine, Bobby Ghosh makes the same case. He argues that none of the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan examples fits what is likely to have happened had Saddam remained in power. 'That leaves only the Syrian example: a long, bloody rebellion that devolves into a sectarian war. Iraq already had its version in 1991, and the regime won easily.'
Naturally, no one reasoning out these counterfactuals can know for sure or with any precision how the costs of leaving Saddam's regime in place would have measured against the actual costs of not having done so. What is pretty certain is that those former costs would have been very high. But they hardly get so much as a sniff, let alone a mention, from those who, ten years on, claim vindication for their opposition to the Iraq war. It's generally just bloodshed, lives lost and mayhem on the one side, and... us not going to war on the other.