Fareed Zakaria has an absolutely brilliant piece in Newsweek on how the United States should implement democracy in Iraq.
Washington officials often say that American democracy is not necessarily the model for Iraq. Perhaps, but the central philosophy behind the American Constitution, a fear of concentrated power, is as relevant today as it was in 1789. "In framing a government," wrote James Madison in Federalist No. 51, "you must first enable —the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." Order, then liberty. In Iraq today, first establish a stable security environment and create the institutions of limited government—a constitution with a bill of rights, an independent judiciary, a sound central bank. Then and only then, move to full-fledged democracy.
Zakaria’s piece should be standard reading for everyone involved in rebuilding Iraq. It is simply too optimistic to hope for a full-fledged democracy to spring up overnight. That isn’t a realistic goal. However, if the United States is willing to see things out for the long term, they can build the foundations for a stable democracy.
Such a transition may take undemocratic means at first, but unless the foundation for democracy is strong, elections mean little. Democracy does not produce civil society, civil society produces democracy. Iraq is a nation in which the right to vote technically exists, but there is no concept of civil society. There is no real party system other than the Ba’ath Party. There is no free press, and no free speech. There is no concept of the separation of government power. All of these things are critical to the development of a stable democratic environment.
None of these roadblocks are fatal, but the United States must exercise patience and a desire to stay in Iraq for the long run. Those who question the Bush Administration’s ability or willingness to stick to this plan over the long run have a point – Bush ran in 2000 on the theme that nation building was not an important priority for world peace. The wages of success will be a peaceful Iraq and a much more stable world. The price of failure could be too high to be imagined.