Originally posted by LittleBill on Sunday, February 18, 2007
John Arquilla, a frequent contributor to Insight, is a defense analyst in Monterey. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, he says What Iraq Needs Is a Few Good Dictators. Excerpts:
The near-religious belief in policy circles that only a functioning Iraqi democracy can ward off chaos completely misses the point that more-dictatorial rule would have a greater chance of success. The only hope for restoring security is a strong set of hands at the controls. Not another Saddam Hussein, but more likely a few military leaders, one from each of Iraq's three main ethnic and religious groups.
A slavish devotion to the "democracy project," the centerpiece of both neoconservative and liberal thought in foreign policy today, prevents this "authoritarian option" from even being considered. And our bullheadedness has brought American foreign policy a long way down the path to ruin in Iraq.
The key problem with the too-rapid shift to democratic governance there has been the lack of cultural preparation for pluralism. Iraqis simply have no democratic traditions, because they live in a country carved out of the shattered fragments of the Ottoman Empire after World War I ended almost 90 years ago. Thereafter, Iraq was mostly ruled by a succession of autocrats until the American invasion in 2003.
Many have pointed to the success of turning Germany into a responsible democracy in 1945 as an example of what can be done in Iraq. But this is a false analogy. From its unification in the 19th century, modern Germany had considerable democratic experience, both as a constitutional monarchy under the kaisers and during the period of the Weimar Republic. Nazism was an aberration, not the norm, and Germans quickly reverted to their democratic trajectory once the nightmare years were over. The Iraqi case is simply not comparable.
The other big problem with forcing democracy on Iraq is that it foments conflict among opposing groups. The minority Sunnis are fated to be outvoted again and again when it comes to having a voice in a democratic Iraq, or to sharing the resource wealth of the land. From their perspective, democracy is the path to becoming dispossessed, and violent resistance is their only logical recourse.
Sadly, there is nothing in the new Iraqi constitution like the Connecticut Compromise leading up to the U.S. Constitution that protected the rights of small states (by giving them the same number of senators as big states) at the dawn of our own republic. The American Founding Fathers knew the dangers of factions, and sought to minimize them. In Iraq, our vision of democratic "proportional representation" has only encouraged the large factions to throw their weight around.
So, Iraq needs authoritarian rule right now. And probably for many years to come. By creating a three-man junta -- one Shiite, one Sunni and one Kurd -- all the societal bases can be covered, making sure that each group's interests are weighed. Clearly, the junta would have to make decisions on a consensus basis to ensure that one member couldn't be steamrolled by the other two.
They should be military men, because their primary function will be to put an end to the continuing civil war. Generals will have the best chance of motivating the Iraqi military to save their country by restoring order. No further American training is necessary. All the Iraqis need is a profound sense of mission.
However, a small number of American forces could remain for a while, as insurance against the junta coming apart and to deter any field forces from "going rogue." U.S. troops could probably also help in going after al Qaeda operatives who try to slip into Iraq.
The bottom line is that this authoritarian option would soon see order restored, as the Sunnis would have been brought into active partnership, enjoying their share of national resources, along with the Shiites and Kurds. And Iraqi troops themselves would put an end to the ethnic cleansing going on in so many places across the country.
All this will likely require some finesse from time to time. For example, the junta would probably want to send in predominantly Shiite units to mixed Baghdad neighborhoods to protect imperiled Sunnis. This would be a powerful signal of national purpose and unity.
But this kind of maneuvering is a lot easier to pull off than the far-too-complex and confusing concepts that have bedeviled American counterinsurgent efforts during the past three years.
What remains is to consider whether President Bush and the new Democratic congressional leadership might consider jettisoning the idea of continuing to foist "democracy now" on Iraq. At first blush, it seems that neither side could possibly be persuaded to empower a junta in place of elected leaders.
Bush has made it clear that spreading democracy is his principal strategic aim in the war on terrorism. He believes that our form of government is least likely to be permissive of terrorism. He also believes that this kind of political freedom is, in his own words, "a gift from the almighty."
. . . . .
But it must be done, or Iraq will continue to burn. Perhaps a good way to think about this problem is to envision it in terms of ultimate rather than immediate results. That is, dictatorship in Iraq now may well create the stability necessary to nurture a durable democracy in the future.
This was Ronald Reagan's line of reasoning when he pursued "constructive engagement" with authoritarian regimes. His goal was the spread of democracy, but he knew that it could not come in the same way or at the same time to all.
And Reagan's approach proved wildly successful. Two decades after his presidency, Latin America is almost entirely democratic, where it had once been full of dictatorships. Asia has also seen a sharp growth in democracy, with only a few juntas (such as in Burma) holding out.
Among Muslim countries, Turkey is a prime example of steady liberalization, within the context of continued emphasis on security requirements. Much the same can be said of Iran, where the junta is religious rather than military, but a similar amount of democratic change has occurred. And more is coming, if we play our cards right and lose the axis-of-evil rhetoric.
Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, American foreign policy is already on this constructive engagement track vis-à-vis a number of Muslim countries. For all our talk about spreading democracy, we are in no hurry to see it come to Pakistan, for example, where free elections might bring radical Islamists to power and give them control of nuclear weapons.
Similarly, elections in Saudi Arabia might see a rabidly anti-American government put in place in a land with its finger on the pulse of the global oil economy. We are grateful for authoritarian rule in this great sheikhdom, and there is no sense of urgency about the need for democracy now in Riyadh.
So why the fevered rush to political pluralism in Iraq, a country with virtually no democratic cultural roots? This is especially ill-advised when forcing representative rule on a highly divided land will only cause more conflict.
Now is the time to reflect on the fundamental flaws I have highlighted in our "democracy project." And to replace our mindless devotion to bringing immediate elections to war-torn lands with a more thoughtful emphasis on order and security first.
If we can open ourselves to this authoritarian option in Iraq, there is still a good chance to bring a stable, equitable peace to a land whose sufferings we have unwittingly done so much to cause.
A very excellent find, Lil'Bill! Point on with the last series of my posts. And, I'll add something to today's post to it, also. What I like best is:
"They should be military men, because their primary function will be to put an end to the continuing civil war. Generals will have the best chance of motivating the Iraqi military to save their country by restoring order. No further American training is necessary. All the Iraqis need is a profound sense of mission."
This goes to what I've been thinking, if not expressing that well: the primadonas in the so-called Iraqi parliament do not represent the future of Iraq - half or more of them are living in Europe. The future leaders will be found from within the militias. Secondly, there is no reason for us to hang around for the purposes of teaching Iraqis how to shoot (and to pay them to show up to be taught). There's plenty of on-the-job learning about firearms that's been going on for the past four years. There's no shortage of fighters. Motivation is what's been lacking and our leaving will straighten that out.
Following Petty Larseny's link to a Rumsfeld-Woodward interview, I read Rummy speaking about occupation as a double-edged sword:
"And I always felt that foreign troops are an anomaly in a country, that eventually they're unnatural and not welcomed really. I think I used the characterization of a broken bone. If you don't set it, everything grows around the brake and you end up with that abnormality."
That's the problem, isn't it? Bush's legacy will not tolerate leaving an 'abnormality' behind in Iraq. To him, leaving behind unresolved civil strife (worse case scenario) or separate sectarian militia strong men (best case scenario) would be an intolerable mutation of 'his mission'. That is why he thinks we must 'stay the course'.