Hitch continues touting what he regards as its good effects:

Can anyone imagine how the Arab spring would have played out if a keystone Arab state, oil-rich and heavily armed with a track record of intervention in its neighbors' affairs and a history of all-out mass repression against its own civilians, were still the private property of a sadistic crime family? As it is, to have had Iraq on the other scale from the outset has been an unnoticed and unacknowledged benefit whose extent is impossible to compute. And the influence of Iraq on the Libyan equation has also been uniformly positive in ways that are likewise often overlooked.

On the first point, I admit that Egyptian and Tunisian and other demonstrators did not take to the streets waving Iraqi flags, as if in emulation. (Though Saad-Eddin Ibrahim, intellectual godfather of the Egyptian democracy movement, did publicly hail the fall of Saddam as an inspiration, and many leaders of the early Lebanese "spring" spoke openly in similar terms.) This reticence is quite understandable since, apart from the northern Kurdish region of Iraq from which Foreign Minister Zebari hails, the liberation of the country was not entirely the work of its own people. But this point has become a more arguable one since the Arab League itself admitted that there are certain regimes that are impervious to unassisted overthrow from within. Qaddafi's is pre-eminently one of these, and Saddam's was notoriously so, as the repeated terror-bombings and gassings of the Shiite and Kurdish populations amply proved. Meanwhile, Iraq already has, albeit in rudimentary and tenuous form, the free press, the written constitution, and the parliamentary election system that is the minimum demand of Arab civil society. It has also passed through a test of fire in which the Bin Ladenists threw everything they had against an emergent democracy and were largely defeated and discredited. These are lessons and experiences that are useful not just for Mesopotamia.

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