Tacitus raises some very intelligent questions about the plan to handover sovereignty in Iraq. He fears that the move was mainly influenced by the Shi’a who wish to see an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq and the recent expansion of terrorism in the country.

He does link to a copy of the transition agreement, which does allay some fears, but he’s onto something here. Samuel Huntington wrote a book called The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century in which he laid down a few basic rules for a successful democratic transition based on the sucesses and failures of the last two “waves” of democratization worldwide. Huntington’s book is absolutely critical reading for anyone who wants to understand democratization theory. One of the rules Huntington finds necessary for a democratic transition is this:

Seize and keep control of the initiative in the democratization process. Only lead from strength and never introduce democratization measures in response to obvious pressure from more extreme radical opposition groups. (Samuel P. Huntington, “How Countries Democratize,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 106, No. 4. (Winter, 1991-1992), pg. 601)

Tactitus makes the implied argument that the Bush Administration just violated this rule, and he may well be right. I agree with the general goal of restoring sovereignty to the Iraqi people at the earliest possible juncture, but if the price of Iraqi sovereignty outweighs the benefits then it is simply not a tenable policy. Even if one accepts the idea that sovereignty should be restored, making the announcement at that time that it was made only cements the idea that the Bush Administration was not being proactive but reacting to the demands of the terrorists.

Doing so only grants the terrorists a level of legitimacy that they should never be allowed to have either directly or tacitly. One cannot hope to fight terrorism while acknowledging the ability for terrorism to manipulate the political process. The only acceptable response to terrorism is immediate and strong retaliation. Negotiating with terrorists is a fool’s game, and only legitimizes the practice and encourages more of it.

While I agree with the decision for the most part, the timing seems rather suspect. Doing the right thing at the wrong time can often be counterproductive or even dangerous, and it is a justifiable fear that the Bush Administration may have done the right thing at pricisely the worst time to do it.

3 thoughts on “Transitions

  1. We could probably draw in some Snyder and Mansfield into this one, too. The forced transition has to be managed with extreme care, much more so than a domestically-driven one, lest antireform nationalism or patriotic militantism becomes the popular course among the people. Though they considered mostly (as Huntington did) nonforced transitions, they did make an interesting observation:

    “On average, the percentage increase in the probability of war was smallest for countries making transitions from autocracy to anocracy and greatest for countries making the dramatic leap from autocracy to democracy. More democratic transitions toward democracy therefore seem more likely to promote wars than do less profound changes of this sort.”

    One of the main factors that influenced the likelihood of transitional failure or aggressive behavior was the absence of an executive, though I don’t consider that to be an endorsement of the idea of putting Chalabi in charge.

  2. And a question of context on that Huntington quote: SPH was referring to the Third Wave, which was mostly brought about by INTERNAL reforms within the structure of an existing government, or by the introduction of self-rule in the postcommunist states. I’m fairly certain he never covers the idea of democratization through occupation.

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