What if Francis had been pope in 2005?
(Catholic Herald UK) Last week marked the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, the great western foreign policy failure that inspired the interventionism of Tony Blair. On Monday Blair was arguing for intervention in Syria and justifying his own adventures in Iraq on the grounds that without the 2003 invasion that poor country would have slid into civil war following the Arab Spring, just as Syria had.
Setting aside the fact that Iraq is sort of descending into civil war again anyway – the death toll is now back to the dark days of 2008 – his basic premise is probably right. However Saddam fell, it would have been ugly and sectarian. One thing he failed to mention, though, is that Iraq may well have been caught up in a wider Syrian conflict, in which case the Sunni Saddam Hussein and the Alawite Bashar Assad would have been on opposing sides. As Blair is so keen to topple the Syrian leader right now, would we have been intervening on the side of Saddam against Assad, Iran, Hezbollah et al? The whole thing is a mess.
An equally interesting historical what-if comes to mind as we approach April 19, the ninth anniversary of Benedict XVI’s election to the papacy. The man who reportedly came second in the 2005 vote was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has reputedly said since that he would have taken the name John XXIV but was deeply relieved not to have been elected. Who can blame him? Benedict took the helm just as a number of storms were approaching the Church: the gradual build-up of child abuse scandals across a number of countries, the rise of New Atheism that followed the September 11 attacks, and a new cohort of young people who were not only atheist, but the product of totally secular homes. [more]