Why Democracy will fail in Iraq

Discussion in 'Middle East - General' started by bamthin, Jan 26, 2004.

  1. bamthin

    bamthin Guest

    Robyn E. Blumner: 'Why democracy will fail in Iraq'
    Date: Sunday, January 25 @ 11:15:43 EST

    By Robyn E. Blumner, St. Petersburg Times

    Nineteenth century French writer and statesman Alexis de Tocqueville said, "The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform." He could have been talking about today's Iraq.

    President Bush dragged our nation into this hornets' nest by misleading us over weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein's connection to terrorism; now all he has left as a justification for 500 dead American soldiers is Iraq's democratization.

    But bringing representative self-government to a place steeped in religious, tribal and ethnic rivalries - a place with no national tradition of political participation or trust toward one's fellow countrymen, and little experience in tolerance toward minorities - is going to be a high-wire act worthy of the Flying Wallendas.

    Putting aside the troubles L. Paul Bremer III is having with Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani on how and when the United States is to transfer sovereignty back to Iraqis, the real question is whether there are any plausible near-term prospects for the creation of a liberal democracy in Iraq. To answer that, one needs to plumb what is required for one.

    Are democracies created through the top-down development of political structures and institutions? Will an overlay of a constitution, some form of representative legislature and the establishment of elections be enough to turn Iraq into a democracy, or are there intangible barriers that make it ridiculous to think that five and a half months from now Iraq will be a model of self-rule?

    My money's on ridiculous.

    Democracy in Iraq isn't a rational goal within two decades, according to Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Basham. In a policy analysis released earlier this month, Basham argues that it is normative culture and not mechanics such as parties and elections that determine whether democracy will succeed.

    "Four cultural factors play an essential, collective role in stimulating and reinforcing a stable democratic political system," Basham writes. "The first is political trust. The second factor is social tolerance. The third is a widespread recognition of the importance of basic political liberties. The fourth is popular support for gender equality."

    Iraq has none of these.

    What Iraq does have is tribes, 150 of them. Its 25-million people are not only divided along religious and ethnic lines, 75 percent of the population is also connected to a tribe as a base allegiance. Tribal societies - contrary to the democratic ideal of autonomous actors, each operating on behalf of the social good - tend to be less individualistic, viewing the world from an "us versus them" vantage.

    When 100,000 Iraqi Shiites took to the streets last week demanding direct elections, they were not agitating for Western democratic values. They want the political and economic power that has eluded the strict Islamic sect since Iraq's creation by the British in 1920. Iraq is 60 percent Shiite. As a decided majority, they know an electoral democracy will serve their interests. But it won't serve much else. Forget political meritocracy, forget women's rights, forget the separation of church and state; an Iraq under Shiite rule will more closely resemble Iran than secular Europe.

    Is this the kind of "freedom" we have sacrificed 500 Americans for?

    During his initial presidential campaign Bush said he would steer clear of nation-building. Too bad he didn't stick to that, because he stinks at it. By diverting our attentions from Afghanistan to Iraq, he has allowed the terrorist incubator to devolve into a nation of fiefdoms controlled by warlords and revived elements of the Taliban. Iraq will be another failure. We are transferring power back to Iraqis on a schedule that makes a lot of sense for Bush-Cheney 2004 but not much for the country's future as a durable liberal democracy.

    There is a reason political pluralism, individual liberty and self-rule do not exist in any of the 16 Arab nations in the Middle East. Cultural traditions there tend toward anti-intellectualism, religious zealotry and patriarchy, values which provide little fertile ground for progressive thinking. The U.N. Arab Human Development Report of 2002 noted that the Arab world translates only about 330 books annually.

    As laid down in his 2002 pre-emption strategy, Bush pledged to use "every tool in our arsenal" to promote a "single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise." He followed through by using military force to export the Enlightenment to a part of the world that has none of the component parts needed to embrace or sustain it.

    A "dangerous moment" doesn't begin to describe it.

    © Copyright 2002-2004 St. Petersburg Times.

    Reprinted from The St. Petersburg Times:
  2. jimnyc

    jimnyc ...

    Aug 28, 2003
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    New York
    **I think the US has done a great job thus far, and soon it will be up to the Iraqi's to embrace democracy or not.**

    Democracy, Closer Every Day

    Many Americans, not to mention our European allies, may be shaking their heads over President Bush's defiant speech at the United Nations yesterday. With the coalition forces under daily attack and billions being spent to rebuild Iraq, shouldn't Mr. Bush have been more conciliatory in an effort to get other countries to send troops?

    Actually, Mr. Bush was right to refuse a rushed transfer of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government as the price to pay for greater international participation in the postwar effort. The reconstruction of Iraq is a two-track process: one track for security, one for politics. The problems on the security track will not be overcome simply by bringing in more soldiers, American or otherwise. Meanwhile, the political track has been going much better than critics admit � but it could be derailed if the coalition fails to help Iraqis achieve security before turning things over to an Iraqi government that can actually rule the country. To depart from our present course probably wouldn't help � and it could do real harm.

    First, security. Instability in Iraq is not as broad-based as many fear. Essentially all of Iraq's Shiite Muslims and Kurds, who between them make up 80 percent of the population, were happy to see Saddam Hussein go and have made it clear that they want the coalition to remain long enough to prevent the Baath party from re-emerging.

    Thus the main internal threat comes from Sunni Arabs, who have long held power despite being only about 15 percent of the population. Yet even if many of these Sunnis want the coalition out, only a few seem so far to be willing to take up arms � otherwise we would be seeing thousands of incidents each week rather than a handful. Perhaps the greatest concern is the possibility that some attacks have been initiated by terrorists controlled by Iran or Al Qaeda who have infiltrated Iraq's essentially unguarded borders.

    Still, the answer to this threat isn't bringing in foreign troops or putting more Americans on the ground, but creating an effective Iraqi security force � fast. Only Iraqi police officers and soldiers, knowledgeable about local conditions and populations, and with access to high-quality local intelligence, stand a chance of breaking Sunni resistance cells and identifying foreign agents. The call by Democrats (and, lately, many Republicans) to internationalize the coalition forces is well taken in terms of saving money and patching up diplomatic relations. But Indian and French troops would have no better luck combating terrorists than the Americans.

    As for French and German suggestions that we speed up the transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, it would be just as unlikely to aid security. The violence is not coming from people who would be sympathetic to any such interim government. Worse, unless the police and military have been truly reconstituted, an interim body would be a travesty of a sovereign government. Actual control is the indispensable hallmark of sovereignty. Nothing could be worse for the future of democracy in Iraq than the creation of a puppet government unable to keep the peace.

    To see the path to a legitimate, functional Iraqi government one must consider the remarkable and unexpected progress being made on the political track. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in May, the Iraqis participating in organized politics have shown a maturity and unity of purpose that prewar critics would scarcely have credited.

    The two most important Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have subordinated their historical rivalry and have acted in concert, casting a steadying light over the rest of the political scene and often taking the lead in coordinating policy among the Iraqi Governing Council. Far from insisting on secession and Kurdish independence, as many in the region expected, the Kurdish leaders are sticking to the vision of a federal Iraq, and urging their sometimes impatient community not to falter when they are so close to achieving long-awaited freedom from autocratic Arab rule.

    More important to the future of democracy in Muslim Iraq, the senior Shiite religious leaders, and the political parties loosely associated with them, have consistently eschewed divisive rhetoric in favor of calls for Sunni-Shiite unity. Most have repeatedly asserted their desire for democratic government respectful of Islamic values, rather than government by mullahs on the failed Iranian model. As a result, they have been largely successful in marginalizing younger radicals like the rejectionist Moktada al-Sadr. When Mr. Sadr organized an anti-coalition protest in the holy city of Najaf in July, he was forced to bus in supporters from Baghdad, three dusty hours away. (Wisely, the coalition has declined to arrest Mr. Sadr; his hopes for a living martyrdom denied, he increasingly looks more like a small-time annoyance than the catalyst of a popular movement.)

    The emergence of democratic attitudes among religiously committed Shiites was underscored on Saturday in Detroit when Ibrahim Jafari, leader of the Islamist Dawa Party and the most recent Iraqi Governing Council member to hold its rotating presidency, addressed the second annual Iraqi-American Conference. The largely Christian audience of Iraqi-Americans spent the morning worrying about the dangers of a constitution declaring Islam the official religion of Iraq, but then treated Dr. Jafari to a standing ovation after he made the case for a pluralistic, tolerant Iraq in which all citizens � Muslim and non-Muslim, men and women � would have full rights of citizenship.

    The same proud insistence on the compatibility of Islamic values and a democratic Iraq was sounded last week in Bahrain by 40 Iraqi Shiites at a program on constitutional values sponsored by the American Bar Association. Skeptical of arguments for a strong separation of religion and state, these representatives nonetheless took as a given that a country as religiously diverse as Iraq must ensure religious freedom � mandated, they said, by the Koran � and equality for all citizens.

    The next step is for the Iraqi Governing Council's constitutional preparatory committee to complete its canvass of the country and to propose a system for naming representatives to an Iraqi constitutional convention. The committee needs to find a workable solution � short of a general election, which would be logistically impossible right now � to choose a legitimate representative body. It is considering several proposals, including a national "yes or no" referendum on a complete slate nominated by the council. The details need to be worked out, but there is no question that a solution will be reached and that the constitutional convention, once named, will draft a constitution for ratification by the Iraqi people.

    It is difficult to imagine elections being held under a new constitution before next fall. The constitutional convention will have to resolve complex questions of the boundaries of the provinces in a federal Iraq, as well as finding the right form of government to manage Iraq's distinctive ethno-religious mix. But the French and Germans should take note: getting quick but wrong answers to these questions would be much worse than taking some time to get the right answers. And, of course, even a flawless electoral system would be useless if the elected government were unable to keep the peace and the lights on.

    That is why solving the security problems � by rebuilding the Iraqi police and army � must for now be the coalition's highest priority. It will cost a great deal of money, and create a risk that the reconstituted Iraqi armed forces might some day make their own grab for power � something the military has done repeatedly in Iraq's history. But this gamble must be taken, because if the security situation is not brought under control, it could destroy the political track.

    If the Iraqis, with international help, can keep the peace, they will achieve democracy. Otherwise, America's pragmatic and moral duty to help Iraq become a free nation will be almost impossible to fulfill.

    Noah Feldman, author of ``After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy,'' is professor of law at New York University and was a constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
  3. William Joyce

    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

    Jan 23, 2004
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    Gee, jon, funny a guy named "Feldman" would take such a rosy view. I can't imagine what's going on there, can you?

    "But bringing representative self-government to a place steeped in religious, tribal and ethnic rivalries - a place with no national tradition of political participation or trust toward one's fellow countrymen, and little experience in tolerance toward minorities - is going to be a high-wire act worthy of the Flying Wallendas."

    Yeah, it's also what we have right here in the U.S., courtesy of the same group of Semites. Thanks, guys.
  4. Annie

    Annie Diamond Member

    Nov 22, 2003
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    After that little anti-Semetic screed and the quantity of your 'research' into racial inferiority, what 'groups' do you like?
  5. spillmind

    spillmind Member

    Sep 1, 2003
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    Palo Alto, Ca.
    once again, a plug for the pre-emptive strike turned into a backpedal.


    how was this NOT OBVIOUS? they just plugged it to sell the 'war'.

    anyone else seeing a recurring theme yet?
  6. eric

    eric Guest

    You are my hero !:rolleyes:

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