Democracy, Imperialism, and Iraq

Stanley Kurtz has a highly provocative piece in the Policy Review on how to reinstitute democracy in Iraq using the lessons learned from the English colonization of India.

As much as the concept of colonialism is looked at as being synonimous with racism, oppression, and tyranny, the kind of changes that must be made to safeguard the future of Iraq demand that we take a more hands-on approach. The real test is knowing the limits: when it is appropriate to exercise some judicious intervention and when to allow the process of democratization to develop on its own.

I see the Turkish model as being the one most conducive to real democratic reform. In Turkey, the military acts as a counterweight to anti-democratic forces. If a hard-line Islamist party were to gain power in Turkey, the military would step in to restore democracy. (This has happened as recently as 1980). While this may be a more drastic model than is needed, there need to be clear limits on the power of the government as well as a highly-tuned system of checks and balances on power.

Kurtz is also right to point out that education is critical to the sucess of democracy. The reason why American democracy has worked so well is that it is taught. If democracy is to flourish in Iraq, it must begin with the installation of democratic skills and values in the youngest generation of Iraqis.

None of these issues are insurmountable, but they will require time and effort. Unfortunately, the isolationist wing of the right may balk, and the left considers anything the Bush Administration does to be instantly immoral. However, if Bush can stick to his guns in peacetime as he did in war, the future of Iraq may become brighter than it has been in modern history.

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