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Democracy in Iraq - Why settle for less?

10/23/2003

The United States promised to create democracy in Iraq. The models for this were the democratic regimes installed in Japan and Germany after World War II. This was to be the crowning achievement of the Iraq war. If they succeed, the US will have given a real gift to the Muslim and Arab world as well as to the Middle East, a show case for Muslim and Arab democracy. However, as the weeks and months go by, the goal seems more and more elusive. At minimum, it seems that making democracy work in Iraq will cost the American taxpayer about $80 billion a year for an unspecified period. An Iraqi banker estimates that the USA will spend $300 billion in total before leaving Iraq. More important, perhaps, the coalition will suffer an unknown number of casualties in Iraq, especially as some experts predict that the terror will get worse, as Al-Qaeda and other groups organize to take on the occupation.

The occupation of Germany and Japan lasted several years, and it is not clear that the US, even with UN support, has the stomach for an operation that lasts that long. Public opinion polls show that support for the war is gradually eroding. What would happen to public opinion if, as happened in Lebanon, anti-US forces carried out a suicide attack that killed hundreds of coalition soldiers at once?
Part of the mayhem in Iraq is being caused by forces loyal to Saddam, but it seems that an increasing amount of damage is being caused by nationalists and by Al-Qaeda units that are infiltrating into Iraq from Syria and elsewhere, according to Lawrence Smallman reporting in Al Jazeera on October 22. Paul Bremer, Iraq's occupation administrator said, "Starting in July, we saw them begin to regroup and come back in. There's no question we have scores of Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida terrorists here. And we have problems, particularly at the Syrian border of people still coming into the country.

Salman al-Jumaili, a doctor of political science at Baghdad University, told Al-Jazeera, "You will find that the vast majority of them are Islamists - I mean Sunni and Shia Muslims - who are fighting for the sole purpose of pushing America out of Iraq." He estimates there are about 25 daily attacks, though most are not reported overseas, and he believes the number will increase. "If America does not leave, then I expect to see a huge wave of resistance approaching. The White House can deal with one death here, and two there, but very soon... much sooner than they think...it will be 10 dead soldiers here, and 20 there," al-Jumaili said, and others agree.

If that is the case, then America will find it hard to stay the course in Iraq even with the additional support that the UN has voted for the American occupation in Security Council Resolution 1511. Thus It would be well to agree on what American wants to achieve at this high price, and what can be achieved. What do we mean by "Democracy?" Is it good for the USA? Can it be achieved by occupation? Can another solution be found at a "cheaper" price?

By "democracy," we do not mean a state that serves American interests, but rather a state with freedom of the press, freedom of speech and a free press, with a healthy multi-party system. Assuming that it is possible to induce this miracle during an American occupation, it can take place only if there is a considerable effort at education for democracy, as well as training of soldiers who will be loyal to the democratic cause. So far only about 700 Iraqi soldiers have been trained. Several Iraqis, Iyad Allawi, the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council, want to mobilize the old Iraqi army to keep order and beat the insurgents. However, it is not clear that this army would be an asset or a greater threat to democracy than the guerilla forces, especially if soldiers have not been reindoctrinated in any way. It is a bit like mobilizing the Wehrmacht to keep order in occupied Germany.

Assuming that the US can repeat the miracle of Japan and induce democracy where none existed before, there is still no guarantee that a democratic Iraq will remain democratic after US troops leave, or that its policies will be congenial to the USA. For example, if a democratic majority elects an Islamist regime that then changes the constitution, will the US then reoccupy Iraq? If a democratic Iraq decides that like France, it requires a nuclear force de frappe, what will the US do? Of course, there are plenty of undemocratic regimes in the Middle East that have policies that aren't convenient for the USA.
Not surprisingly, given the price and the risks involved in achieving democracy in Iraq, there are those who want the US to abandon the promise of democracy and to settle for any old regime that will be friendly to the USA and keep Iraq together. Most likely, that would be a military dictatorship of some sort. As the complexities of restoring order in Iraq become increasingly apparent, voices that call upon the USA to settle for less than democracy in Iraq become increasingly insistent. The paradox is that the longer the US stays and continues the occupation in the present form, the more reason they will give Iraqis to hate the occupation and the USA, and the more difficult it will be to form a democratic regime that is not hostile to the USA.

However, leaving Iraq before it has a democratic government is not a satisfactory option. There are two groups who are very anxious for democracy to fail in Iraq. The first are the repressive governments, who are not interested in the "bad example" that Iraq could be for their own people. For them, democracy is very dangerous because it could be infectious. The second group are the cynics who insist that the USA invaded Iraq to control Iraqi oil or serve Israeli interests, and who also insist that there is no democracy in most of the Middle East because the USA prevents it. If the USA fails to deliver on its promise of a democratic Iraq, it will strengthen the hands of both groups and it will be viewed as a signal failure for American policy. Moreover, if the US leaves Iraq after setting up a pro-American mukhabarrat (police state) regime like that of Iran under the Shah or a similar undemocratic regime, Iraq will very unstable. It is very likely this regime will require extensive US protection of some kind, and even so, a revolution by disgruntled Iraqis or a coup could easily return a Saddam-type regime or bring about an Islamic republic as in Iran. After all, the British supported regime of Nuri-as-Said is what gave birth to the current situation in Iraq. A democratic Iraq is not a guarantee of future stability, but an undemocratic regime is a pretty certain guarantee of instability that will lead to a dangerous and virulently anti-US regime.

In an article in the Washington Post of October 20, Fred Hiatt points out that Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya has added another factor to be considered. Iraq was no longer a dictatorship according to him, but rather a sort of chaotic Mafia state. He says, "I admit I did not understand the full extent of the rot. A totalitarian state had metamorphosed into a full-fledged criminal state."
Pauline H. Baker, president of the Fund for Peace in Washington, agrees. According to her, "It will take a minimum of two years to get through the basics of reconstituting the institutional foundations of the state."

Indeed, the recent OIC conference in Malaysia was dissuaded from introducing a resolution urging a quick end to the American occupation, by the delegate of the Iraqi provisional government. He explained that a US pull-out would spell disaster for Iraq, which still has virtually no government insitutions - no police force and no army, and no state organization that could take on the tremendous task of reconstruction.

Two years may be a very optimistic estimate, but if Makiya and Baker are right, then the same time must be spent to establish any sort of state, not just a democracy. If so, there may be no short-cut in any case, and no advantage to compromising on the goal of democracy.

Ami Isseroff

Related

An Indecent Proposal


Sources

washingtonpost.com
Criminal States
By Fred Hiatt
Monday, October 20, 2003; Page A23
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50920-2003Oct19.html

Kanan Makiya probably understood pre-invasion Iraq as
well as anyone living outside the country. In 1989 he
wrote, as an exile and under a pseudonym, the
required-reading analysis of Saddam Hussein's
dictatorship, a chilling book called "Republic of
Fear."

But the Iraqi-born academic, who has returned to live
in the Baghdad house expropriated from his father, now
says he miscalculated how much Iraq had changed in the
decade-plus since he wrote his book. "I admit I did
not understand the full extent of the rot," he says.
"A totalitarian state had metamorphosed into a
full-fledged criminal state."

Makiya's observation bears on the challenge the United
States now faces in Iraq and on the debate over prewar
intelligence failures. But it has significance beyond
Iraq, too, as we think about repressive governments in
North Korea, Burma, Belarus, Cuba and elsewhere. What
does it mean for a totalitarian state to become a
mafia enterprise? What provokes such an evolution? And
what implication does it have for the chances of
recovery?

Bush administration officials have acknowledged their
surprise at the utter and instant collapse of Iraq's
state structures as U.S. troops entered Baghdad. It
wasn't only the Republican Guard that melted away, but
the police force and entire civilian bureaucracies as
well.

Pauline H. Baker, president of the Fund for Peace in
Washington, said this surprise "constitutes the
gravest strategic miscalculation of the war." The
administration mistakenly "equated strongman rule with
a strong state," she says. Her organization is
completing a report on "Iraq as a failed state." A key
conclusion is that a "fast-track strategy" of
rebuilding will not work.

"It will take a minimum of two years to get through
the basics of reconstituting the institutional
foundations of the state, but it can be done if we
move away from the model of regime change and start a
transition that openly admits that we need to rebuild
the state," Baker says.

Baker is undoubtedly right about the miscalculation,
but even in retrospect it doesn't seem so dumb to
equate strongman rule with a strong state. What
happened inside the Republic of Fear?

Makiya says he now believes that Iraq's loss in the
first Gulf War was a turning point. A discredited
state ideology was never replaced. No-fly zones put
much of the nation's territory and resources
off-limits to the regime. Apparatchiks, seeing its
weakness and doubting its permanence, naturally began
to look after themselves.

It was only in the 1990s, Makiya says, that the
dictator began branding deserters on the forehead or
lopping off their ears or other body parts; before
that deserters had been shot. It was only then also
that the regime, which had always pretended to a
nationalist or pan-Arab ideology, began openly
insulting Shiite or Kurdish practices. These were in
fact signs of weakness, though not always thus
interpreted at the time.

Makiya sees the attacks on U.S. soldiers now as a
natural extension of the old regime's thuggery. "These
criminals robbed the bank, quite literally, and melted
away into the populace," he says. Now they pay for
hits.

Does the fundamental miscalculation about the Iraq
state mean war was unnecessary? Not in Makiya's view.
"Iraq was a catastrophe just waiting to explode," he
says. He believes it has a chance now to become a
democratic "success story" that would shake up, in a
positive way, the entire region.

But the challenges are heightened, he says, by the
extent to which Saddam Hussein's regime before the war
had become a criminal racket. Budget documents
uncovered since the occupation, he says, show that the
government was spending billions on its own protection
and only millions -- virtually nothing -- on schools
or health care for the population.

While the regime prospered through black-market
manipulation and other criminal activities, Makiya
says, economic sanctions were impoverishing and
humiliating ordinary people. Spending hours in line to
obtain a few eggs left no energy for anything else.
Teachers who went virtually unpaid had no choice but
to sell exam answers. "A very good school system was
corroded by this," he says.

Sanctions may "weaken the ability of the state to
project power across borders, but they also may
strengthen the ruling clique against its own people,"
Makiya concludes. They may hasten a regime's downfall,
but also its criminalization and the corrosive effect.

It's yet another reminder of the inadequacy of our
tools for confronting regimes that both threaten their
neighbors and oppress their own people.

fredhiatt@washpost.com

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Iraqi resistance looks set to intensify

By Lawrence Smallman in Baghdad
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/9307B518-D7A0-4156-966C-249064A81615.htm
Wednesday 22 October 2003, 17:36 Makka Time, 14:36 GMT

Spin doctors are well aware it is easier to sell a simple lie than tell a complex, often
uncomfortable, truth.

That is why the United States dismisses armed resistance to its occupation of Iraq as "terrorism -
pure and simple".

Since the start of the US-led occupation of Iraq in April, Washington has been at pains to
characterise attacks against its forces as the work of Saddam loyalists.

As recently as June, Paul Bremer, Iraq's occupation administrator, told a Congressional subcommittee
the resistance was coming from remnants of the Baath party and the Republican Guard.

But since then he has changed his tune and this week he sounded his first note of alarm over the
presence of Islamist groups.

Bremer admission

"Starting in July, we saw them begin to regroup and come back in. There's no question we have scores
of Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida terrorists here. And we have problems, particularly at the Syrian
border of people still coming into the country," he said.

Iraqi analysts such as Salman al-Jumaili, doctor of political science at Baghdad University, agree.

Al-Jumali has studied the backgrounds of resistance fighters killed in combat.

"You will find that the vast majority of them are Islamists - I mean Sunni and Shia Muslims - who
are fighting for the sole purpose of pushing America out of Iraq," he told Aljazeera net.

The doctor estimates there are about 25 attacks every day, although only two or three usually make
it onto the international news broadcasts.

Islamic and nationalist resistance

His analysis of Iraqi casualties and fatalities has led him to the conclusion that "Saddam
loyalists" do not feature in any major resistance role at all.


It is more appropriate, he says, to describe resistance in Iraq as Islamic and nationalist in nature
rather than Baathist.

"It is important to mention nationalist resistance - among the dead we have found Turkomans and
Iraqi Christians as well as Muslims."

The US' failure to rehabilitate Saddam Hussein's army is at the root of the problem, he says.

"America's great gift to the resistance movement was to disband the 350,000-man Iraqi Army.

Iraqi army

"Now you have well over a quarter of a million men who know how to use weapons sitting at home with
no job and nothing to do - who are faced daily with Americans entering their homes, searching their
properties and treating them as animals.

"So an ex-soldier or civilian who is religious can find a movement that supports his views, a man
that wants to defend his country can join, a man who wants revenge for injustice can take part and
of course even the man who simply needs money can join in - some groups can boast hundreds of
members."

Although Iraqi Islamist fighters form the great majority of the resistance, no particular group
predominates.

There are literally dozens of militias with no central planning or coordination, although there is
some evidence to suggest a few Islamist groups have began to coalesce in recent weeks.

"There are many differences between the different groups, even between different Islamist resistance
forces, but the unifying cause for the struggle is the American occupation."

Resistance growing


"If America does not leave, then I expect to see a huge wave of resistance approaching. The White
House can deal with one death here, and two there, but very soon... much sooner than they think...
it will be 10 dead soldiers here, and 20 there."

Qahtan al-Khafaji, a doctor of strategic studies at the college for political science, says the
resistance is showing every sign of strengthening.

"Islamic resistance continues to grow among both the Shia and the Sunnis as it becomes clear that
the US is not here to rebuild this country. It's six months now, and nearly all feel the situation
has got worse from all perspectives - particularly socially and economically."

"Look at the port of Um Qasr - it has become a private American company. It imports weapons and
military equipment, not food or building materials.

"Look at Baghdad airport; it is used as a prison for the '55 most wanted' rather than being rebuilt
to open up Iraq to the rest of the world.

'War on terror'

"Look at how the $87 billion passed by the US Senate only recently is going to be spent - $67
billion for fighting and $20 billion for reconstruction. Doesn't this say what the US is here for -
to dig in, to remain - not to rebuild?"

On the other hand, Al-Khafaji believes the US administration needs a certain amount of resistance to
justify the continued occupation.

"They have a global war on terror, as they call it. They can't pin down al-Qaida, but the longer
they stay in Iraq, the more international jihadis they are sucking in from Iran, Saudi, Syria,
Jordan, Yemen etc who may have links to international Islamist movements.

"This is what the Americans want - it is the only thing they can use to justify remaining in a
country they occupied illegally.

"If there was no resistance, what excuse could the US use not to hand over control to the Iraqi
people immediately?"


Al-Qaida phenomenon

Al-Khafaji is convinced Iraq is fast becoming the preferred destination for international
organisations wanting a chance to fight the country that supports Israel and has occupied the whole
of the Arab Gulf.

"Al-Qaida may still be a minority phenomenon in Iraq, but it is likely to become increasingly
significant."

Meanwhile, Muthanna Harith al-Dari, a doctor of Islamic sciences at Baghdad University agrees with
the prognosis.

Americans forces must leave, or they face being the architects of their own downfall, he says.

"US authorities must transfer power to Iraqis immediately. They should not hang around to ensure a
puppet government is installed that will protect their interests. It is as simple as that."

Neo-colonialism

He accuses Washington of a thinly-veiled attempt to neo-colonise Iraq.

"At the moment, it is all too obvious that the Americans are only attempting to secure places that
are in their own immediate interests. Oil pipelines, certain embassies, the port and airports,
ministries - they have not rebuilt anything as yet or provided a level of security that even begins
to compare to pre-war Iraq.

"In Britain's Independent newspaper last week, one article pointed out that only five people died in
violent crime in Iraq in March 2003. This month, 50 have died in Baghdad alone."

The sooner Iraqi police patrol Iraqi streets and Iraqi soldiers protect towns and borders, the
quicker armed resistance will disappear, reckons al-Dari, since there would be nothing to resist.

"The US could end the fighting tomorrow by withdrawing its army and taking it back home. They came
to destroy WMD and later they said to remove Saddam Hussein. One, it seems, was never here, the
other won't be coming back. The task they gave themselves is finished."


Aljazeera


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