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Democracy In Iraq

Guest Post from Big Tent Democrat

The sight of Christopher Hitchens' head spinning as he discovers Henry Kissinger's influence over our Iraq policy is certainly satisfying in a perverse way. I can not say that I am immune to it myself. But this bit from Hitchens' column is what got my attention:

It might also help explain a lot. During the Bremer period of governance in Baghdad, both the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis and the calling of elections were fatally postponed (perhaps when it was hastily discovered that a combined Kurdish and Shiite list could win a vote). It has proved difficult, if not impossible, to regain the political ground that was lost in that time. Shall we never be free of the malign effect of this little gargoyle and his ideas?

Hitchens gets it, as he has throughout, exactly backward. It was the rush to create an Iraqi government prior to a political settlement between the sunni, Shia and Kurd which has been a major engine to the chaos. While the Iraq Debacle was destined for failure no matter what, the rush to Iraqi elections was, in my opinion, the biggest post-war blunder of them all. I'll explain in extended.

In the Spring 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Biddle, a Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote:

. . . [I]f the debate in Washington is Vietnam redux, the war in Iraq is not. The current struggle is not a Maoist "people's war" of national liberation; it is a communal civil war with very different dynamics. Although it is being fought at low intensity for now, it could easily escalate if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices.

The big problem in Biddle's piece was this -- "if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices" - if, Mr. Biddle?

Biddle wrote:

Rapid democratization, meanwhile, could be positively harmful in Iraq. In a Maoist people's war, empowering the population via the ballot box undermines the insurgents' case that the regime is illegitimate and facilitates nonviolent resolution of the inequalities that fuel the conflict. In a communal civil war, however, rapid democratization can further polarize already antagonistic sectarian groups. In an immature polity with little history of compromise, demonizing traditional enemies is an easy -- and dangerous -- way to mobilize support from frightened voters. And as the political scientists Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder have shown, although mature democracies rarely go to war with other democracies, emerging democracies are unusually bellicose. Political reform is critical to resolving communal wars, but only if it comes at the right time, after some sort of stable communal compromise has begun to take root.

Of course this is right. But the horse was out of the barn already. Bremer "turned over" authority to Allawi in the summer of 2004. Elections were held in January 2005. An Iraqi Constitution was rammed through the "Iraq assembly" in the Fall of 2005. Elections were held in December 2005 "ratifying" that Constitution.

Now I am no genius, but I figured out this problem in January 2005. I knew that Election was simply a photo op. Why? Because Elections are to choose governments, not to celebrate the day. Were the people elected capable of governing Iraq? Without 150,000 U.S. soldiers? Or even with them? Some chose to celebrate the day. My focus was on the realities of governing a land in chaos, in the midst of civil war, with 150,000 U.S. soldiers the only force with the ability to provide security. And that was 2 years after the invasion.

About the Iraq constitution's ratification in late 2005, I thought the best result would have been a Sunni rejection of the Constitution that would have taken Iraq back to the drawing board. That result would have demonstrated to the Sunni that they indeed DO have a stake in the political process and some power to exert in that process.

The result demonstrated the exact opposite. Indeed, the passage of the Constitution made the "basic security problem in Iraq" worse -- what can Sunnis who argue for participation in the political process and abandonment of the insurgency have to offer in the way of evidence that Sunnis will have any power in that political process? Nothing. On the other hand, had the Sunni been able to reject the Constitution, they would have had a powerful argument for political participation and abandonment of the insurgency.

The result of the constitutional vote was the worst possible outcome - overwhelming Sunni rejection of the Constitution to no political effect. The divide predictably has worsened.

General Clark said:

BLITZER: General Clark, it would seem that whoever's responsible for this attack, this series of attacks today in Baghdad, trying to make a political statement coming on the heels -- coming on the eve, if you will, of tomorrow's expected signing of this interim constitution, trying to scare people. Is that your sense? CLARK: Yes. And continuing to show that, despite the presence of the Americans, there is a resistance. There is a resistance. I think our troops are doing a great job there battling it. But this is still a society that's very much at risk. There's a risk of real civil war in Iraq. And that's what we're playing with. And we knew that, or should have known that, when we went in to occupy the country.

Hitchens still has not figured it out. Purple fingers are not political solutions, no matter how much we wish it were so.

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  • Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#1)
    by soccerdad on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 12:27:21 PM EST
    I'm afraid you still dont get it. Bueh was never ever interested in establishing a democracy in Iraq. If you believe him, you are truly delusional. What Bush wanted was a client state headed up by an easily manipulated leader preferably after some sort of "election". Clearly he couldn't pull it off but it matters little to his plans. Now that the predicted chaos is here it will either 1. back to a dictator like government 2. division of Iraq which will solve nothing or 3. continue to sit back while the factions kill each other or leave the country. Over a million have left and 600k have been killed. The invasion of Iraq was simply to exert geopolitical power by establishing bases and controlling the energy resources. Energy=power. The US and Russia are now locked in a classic cold war like effort for political power throughout Eurasia. Continuing to discuss Iraq within the lies that Bush put forward at the beginning is a complete waste of time. Step back and see the forest. Iraq is but a tree.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#2)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 12:39:14 PM EST
    Soccerdad: Frankly, I think you are wrong. But explain to me what you think Bush was interested in? Surely not the present state of affairs? you say a puppet. I agree. Chalabi. But they discarded Chalabi quickly. And then wanted . . . something. As for this being a waste of time, I think not. Why do you think your manner of discussion is more productive? I would argue it is not. As you really aren;t going to get much traction with the American people with that line of attack. It may make YOU feel smart, but it does nothing helpful politically.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peaches on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 01:32:56 PM EST
    What was Bush interested in? That is something for the historians to argue over for years to come. However, SD is correct--anyone who believes that Bush was interested in Democracy in Iraq is really out of touch. Geopolitics is what it is all about. Oil/Energy/wealth/resources = power. The wealth is concentrated in few hands in the world. This leaves power in few hands. Only a small cabal can orchestrate world events such as an invasion of Iraq. I'm starting to believe some pretty crazy things about this cabal. What was it Emma Goldman said. If elections could have any impact or solve anything they would make them illegal. Bush and his cohorts may want elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. They might believe they can manipulate then as easily or even more easily than third world dicators. Afterall they have had a lot of practice in the US over the past two elections. Thats all I got to say right now

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#4)
    by desertswine on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 02:00:30 PM EST
    I must agree with S-dad. You can't spell Iraq without o-i-l in the middle. This is certainly geo-politics at its most inept. Evidence the different policies towards Iran and NKor, both nuclear threats. We will not invade NKor but I expect action against Iran in a matter of weeks.
    The invasion of Iraq was simply to exert geopolitical power by establishing bases and controlling the energy resources.
    Indeed.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#5)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 02:17:34 PM EST
    The democracy thing was bunk, everyone knows that, including Republicans. Sure, it would have been a nice bonus for them to have realized Bremer's vision of unfettered capitalism, but that was never the real impetus behind the takedown. Saddam was seen as a threat by Israel and Saudi Arabia, two countries with enormous political clout in United States governing circles. So we had to replace him with a client state. It's not like this sort of thing is something new. We have been doing it for various reasons for, oh, about 150 years now. Remember Panama? Noriega? Gulf War I? Shrub just picked up where the old man left off. 9/11 was the great enabler. Three thousand dead begets three thousand (U.S.) dead (and counting). And you can bet some folks have made a tidy little bundle off of it, looting the taxpayers while spilling the blood of the lower class suckers. And that is why, as soccerdad has said elsewhere, this thing is a success for the Bushies regardless of what a disaster it looks like in the newspapers. If we don't prosecute and jail those behind this...we deserve to be screwed, and harder, by the next generation of Bushes.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#6)
    by soccerdad on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 02:20:26 PM EST
    Its a waste of time simply because it distracts from the real reasons we are in Iraq, why we have bases throughout Eurasia, and why he will elect to attack Iran no matter how idiotic it looks to the rest of us. He has absolutely no concern for the people of Iraq. How many die is of no concern. And if all hell breaks loose when he attacks Iran they'll just pull the troops back to the 13 "enduring" bases and Baghdad and let the Air Force sort it out. So if the US or Israel attacks Iran you will be counting the dead Muslims in the millions. Why do you think relations are getting so nasty between Russia and georgia Its all geopolitics and now that Kissinger is involved ... read Klare's book and articles.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#7)
    by soccerdad on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 02:28:01 PM EST
    read this it starts to add some perspective as to the real games being played by these lunatics

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#8)
    by Sailor on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 03:20:34 PM EST
    1) bush went after saddam because he wanted to get the man who tried to shoot his paw, to show he was better than his paw (he's never passed beyond cowboy movies in his personal development.) 2) bush's black/white view of the world fit in perfectly with all the PNAC neo-cons his admin is filled with, (think Charlie McCarthy with a whole $hitload of bent-on-world-domination Edger Bergens clacking the mouth.) 3) It was so obvious to anyone paying attention that iraq and saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 I can't believe anyone fell for it. (Remember all the anti-war demonstrations where hundreds of thousands of Americans demonstrated against the war?) 4) Congress and the media were the main ones who fell for it, and they didn't report the demonstrations or the ginned up 'intelligence' on A1 like a real 4th estate should/would have. BTW, I agree with soccerdad, but in the context of the above.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#9)
    by Che's Lounge on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 05:04:57 PM EST
    Big Tent, SD is right on. Bush is not even interested in democracy HERE. What makes you think he is actually nation building in Iraq, or Afghanistan?

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#10)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Oct 11, 2006 at 09:12:14 PM EST
    Good grief, SD is so right on this one. Any discussion about democracy in Iraq, as even remotely connected to American actions there prior to, during and after invasion, is absurd and delusional at best. If that had been so, we would have immediately withdrawn after deposing Saddam. Our actions were just the opposite. To argue that "they" were not prepared for democracy, so we needed to impose it is oxymoronic to the definition of democracy, i.e. self-governance by the will of the people.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#11)
    by Dadler on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 07:23:02 AM EST
    Back to Hitchens. I remember in the run-up to this fiasco, what a pro-war dolt he was. I also remember, however, that in many interviews with him, when he was trying to be a hawk, he would start to sweat and get this very noticable tic in his cheek. I could sense then he didn't really believe what he was saying. But fear or ego or whatever it was got the better of him, and turned his rational mind to mush. Like it did to many.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 07:23:02 AM EST
    Add my name to the list of those who support SoccerDad's point of view. Look for the simplest explanation. Remember, it was the WMD threat long before the democracy pretext, not to mention Mohammad Atta meeting an Iraqi agent in Prague and Saddam being responsible for 9/11. Bush wanted a war and he got it. The U.S. invaded Iraq because it could. It's the psychopathic lack of concern for the outcome that is mind boggling. "Narcisstic jingoism" barely sums it up.

    Re: Democracy In Iraq (none / 0) (#13)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 09:00:40 AM EST
    While I agree completely with SD I believe it's also important to recognize the abiding drive of this administration to change the face of domestic politics. Can anyone honestly dispute the neo-conservative belief in perpetual war? Do they not truly see their ideal state as being closer to Sparta than to Athens? This is the only model I see that allows Mr Rumsfeld to be considered "successful" in his execution of the "war." For these people, the process of war for the masses is far more important than any sense of "winning." Hence, all of the talk of World War IV to last for the generations.