Democratizing Iraq

Thomas Friedman rips into the President’s Iraqi reconstruction plan – but unlike the Democrats he puts some real alternative policies unto the table. In general I don’t think the situation is quite as dire as Friedman describes it, but I still think his points are worthy of consideration.

He starts off by first stating that allowing Turkish troops into Iraq was a mistake. Indeed having the Turks and the Kurds in close quarters is a recipe for disaster – however Friedman presents that argument that the Turks aren’t like by the Sunnis and Shi’ites either.

Instead, Friedman argues that disbanding the Iraqi Army was a major mistake. By doing so the coalition essentially threw out the baby with the Ba’athists. The Army was never loyal to Saddam except at gunpoint, and there was no need to start from scratch. On this point, Friedman may well be right. Veterans of the Army should not be considered off-limits to rejoin – and going through all the trouble to create a new Army when the old would have still sufficed may have been a burden we could have avoided. A general call-up of the old Iraqi Army would reduce the burden on our troops and allow the Iraqis to be more effective in helping their own security situation. This may be a policy that the Bush Administration should seriously consider.

Friedman argues that de-Ba’athification has gone too far and left Iraqi without a Sunni voice and without many of the more educated center who had no choice but to join the Ba’ath Party but had little loyalty to Hussein. Certainly it is fair to remove those who actively collaborated with the regime, but Friedman may be right in pointing out that by removing so many well-educated civil servants from power the coalition has weakened Iraqi society.

Friedman finishes with this note:

Bottom line: We still haven’t established a moderate political center in Iraq ready to openly embrace the progressive U.S. agenda for Iraq and openly defend it. That center is potentially there, but because, so far, we have failed to provide a secure enough environment, or a framework for Iraqis to have the national dialogue they need to build a better Iraq, it has not emerged. We need to fix this situation fast. Instead of applauding without thinking, Republicans should be telling that to the president.

Indeed, Friedman isn’t being a fearmonger here. He’s not resorting to the subtle racism that the Iraqi people can never accept democracy or freedom, but he’s suggesting that more can and should be done to assist Iraq in the difficult transition to democracy. His suggestions are worth examining in detail.

3 thoughts on “Democratizing Iraq

  1. Friedman is following the right track: we’re there now, let’s do this right. I think he should be focusing more on the Iraqi Governing Council, though, since there’s a major problem with a simple solution there. The Council has no legitimacy, either in Iraq or abroad. We should subtly encourage a second body to form, ostensibly free of American influence but understanding of the fact that we will not tolerate an Islamic fundamentalist or repressive government following our occupation. Make the IGC secondary, since nobody follows its leaders, anyway. Get elections going, but separate from the IGC, or else they’ll be taken as illegitimate. THEN work on a Constitution; you can’t impose something like that on a people.

    Oh, and if you want to bring up ” not resorting to the subtle racism that the Iraqi people can never accept democracy or freedom, ” let’s also talk about the “White Man’s burden” stance of those supporting the occupation because those Iraqis would never be able to see the advantages of democracy without our help. It’s very Kipling-esque of us to think the region will not have democracy except at the end of a Howitzer barrell, and it’s very Orwellian of you, Jay, to ignore that aspect of the debate while decrying “subtle racism.”

  2. The argument is that they can’t see the advantages of democracy – it’s clear that they can. The argument is that after decades of oppression they can’t repair their infrastructure, establish civil society, and build a stable country without outside help.

    To say that the Iraqi people could have overthrown Hussein themselves is an argument that is unsupportable. Furthermore, even if it were true, the costs of doing so with be hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost and throwing the entire country into complete chaos. The only way to remove Hussein was to do it from without.

    As for the ICG, that is a temporary body. When Iraq is ready for national elections the Iraqi people can replace it with whatever government they so choose – however, until the security situation is fixed and there has been time to develop more Iraqi civil society there cannot be a free and democratic context for elections. Without that bedrock of democracy any election would be won by the person with the most arms rather than the best ideas.

  3. “The argument is that they can’t see the advantages of democracy – it’s clear that they can.”

    And your argument is that they can’t see the advantages of democracy without US intervention, which they can. The Left isn’t the group pushing for neocolonialism based on democratic values–we’re the ones pushing for US policy based on democratic values. Specifically, we’d like a little bit of SELF GOVERNANCE to take hold. When did the Right Wing in America abandon the idea of self-governing states? When did you turn your back on self-determination?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.