Philip Gordon has written a smart article in Foreign Affairs explaining why policies of regime change fail even when they initially “succeed” in toppling the targeted government. He concludes:
Regime change will always tempt Washington. So long as there are states that threaten American interests and mistreat their people, U.S. leaders and pundits will periodically be pulled toward the idea that Americans can use their unparalleled military, diplomatic, and economic power to get rid of bad regimes and replace them with better ones. The long, diverse, and tragic history of U.S.-backed regime change in the Middle East, however, suggests that such temptations – like most quick fixes that come along in life and politics – should be resisted. The next time US leaders propose intervening in the region to overthrow a hostile regime, it can safely be assumed that such an enterprise will be less successful, more costly, and more replete with unintended consequences than proponents realize or admit. So far, at least, it has never been the other way around.
Gordon makes a persuasive case that the US should generally avoid policies of regime change, and I recommend reading the full article. It is always encouraging to see the case against regime change being made, but I fear that the argument will be wasted on regime changers. So long as the costs of regime change are primarily borne by the people in the affected countries, they will continue to promote these policies until there is enough of a political and professional price for them that it no longer makes it worth their while. Pointing out the chaos and devastation that regime change policies have frequently caused does not discourage them, because destabilizing and fragmenting these countries simply provide regime changers with new excuses for further interventions. They are primarily arsonists, but regime changers are also eager to pose as firefighters once they get the blaze started.