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March 23, 2004

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Katherine's really fine reporting is also getting impressive airplay across the internet.

Excellent job!

Von wrote:

We promised the Iraqi people that we would make Iraq a democracy. A shining beacon on a Mesopotamian hill, remember?

No, we did not. We (meaning our government) promised to try to help the Iraqis and Afghanis establish a constitution and have free elections but that does mean that we guaranteed them a particular outcome.

Just as our republican form of government gives each citizen a stake and obligation in the (constitutional) decisions of the government whether we agree with it or not – the Afghan and Iraqi people will soon have a similar stake and obligation in their own government.

To paraphrase one of our republic’s founders “we may have given them a republic but it is up to them to keep it.”

Islamic-democracy is an oxymoron!

It is highly doubtful that democracy and pluralism will take hold, much less flourish, in Iraq or any other Islamic nation. Even the Turks don't really have a democracy. And if it were not for the military they would have sharia in short order.

We and the rest of the world could spend blood and treasure until the "last day" and we would not usher democracy into an Islamic nation. If Muslims reject many of the tenets of Islam such as sharia as well as the misanthropic surahs then perhaps there is hope. But, of course, then it would no longer be Islam—a "complete way of life."

I would bet that Iraq will end up with an Islamic theocracy a la Iran. (I would love to lose that bet.)

The path that the Bushies, because of their ignorance about Islam and the middle east, have taken us on is a dead end—a very expensive dead-end, for which our children and their children will pay in both blood and treasure.

The only hope is that the ignorant Islamic masses will become educated in the ways of modernity and want to come into the 21st century on their own. Don't bet on it because Iraqis, like most Arabs, expect the democratic process to happen like magic, without any effort on their part. "Why," they ask, "can't the U.S. make everything happen, when they can send a man to the moon?"—never questioning that the issue is one of Islamic terrorists destroying that which was just re-built. It took Europe and Japan decades to develop into functioning, prosperous democracies. It will take Islamic nations millennia.

If the world lasts that long.

Lumico


"To paraphrase one of our republic’s founders “we may have given them a republic but it is up to them to keep it.”"

But we should have known the likelihood of success before we got in. If it turns out that current Iraqi society is incapable of maintaining a republic, every drop of blood that was spilled in that effort was a waste. This may be another case in which we were Chalabi's overly-credulous kingmakers.

Thorley, I'm pretty sure you've argued in other threads here that the overthrow of Saddam was in America's best interests. But in the post above, you imply that it was a gift we gave them out of the goodness of our hearts, and that if the experiment fails, it's the Iraqi people's problem and not ours. Do you really think that the failure of democracy in Iraq would be anything other than a bad thing for American interests?

Hey Von, you're one of the judges in the bet between Timmy, Ken White, and me, no? You should be...

A fine sentiment - but one has to know when to cut one's losses. I don't think the US CAN win this one. Declare victory and go home, it's already fucked up beyond any chance of pulling it out.

It angers me that we say "coalition casualties are dropping off", when in fact we mean "coalition casualties which matter are falling off". The Iraqi security forces and police are part of the coalition now, too. In many ways, they are much more voluntarily members of the coalition than those service members from countries which sent troops into Iraq against the will of their people. Every Iraqi policeman and serviceman volunteered to become a servant of the US military, to be trained by the US military, to be armed by the US military, and to take orders from the US military. When an Iraqi policeman dies, it is because of and for the US military.

Our president ought to show them a little respect. Instead of acting like their casualties don't matter, they should be factored into our coalition casualty counts. By my estimate, about 200 are dying a month now.

I agree, TMorgan. Have you seen the recruiting billboards for the Iraqi police? I've got a link to a picture and description of one at my blog and wonder -- if you lived in a place the size and population of California, where over 325 police had been killed in the past several months, and where the police had been corrupt for years before that...how eager would you be to sign up?

Sleeping With One Eye Open by Mark Strand.

Even the Turks don't really have a democracy. And if it were not for the military they would have sharia in short order.

I don't think that's accurate, Lumico. It's true, of course, that the Turkish military has been the guarantor of Turkish seclarism for quite some time. But, because of those interventions, it has forced the Islam-oriented parties into the unusual position of arguing for more, rather than less democracy.

Now, there are suspicions among many seclarists and moderates that the Islamic parties are using their plea for democracy as a ruse to advance a more radical agenda.* But they are undertaking real reforms, and it's more difficult to unring a bell than one would think.

Thorley

No, we did not. We (meaning our government) promised to try to help the Iraqis and Afghanis establish a constitution and have free elections but that does mean that we guaranteed them a particular outcome.

Bush said the following (second link, near the end of his speech):

This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation. (Applause.) The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. (Applause.)

Now, the phrase "shining beacon on a Mesopotamian hill" is mine -- and if you don't like it, fine. But we did promise a functioning democracy in Iraq. And there can be no democracy without the rule of law.

Edward

Hey Von, you're one of the judges in the bet between Timmy, Ken White, and me, no? You should be...

I am. With Navy Davy and one other person, I think.

von

*There's actually some evidence that these suspicions are incorrect -- for instance, Turkey's Islamic parties have pursued a policy of greater integration with Europe and EU membership. Hardly a wise course of action, if they intended to eventually impose Sharia law.

"But we should have known the likelihood of success before we got in. If it turns out that current Iraqi society is incapable of maintaining a republic, every drop of blood that was spilled in that effort was a waste."

To those on the right--make it work so that it wasn't a waste.

To those on the left--get over how much you hate Bush and commit to making it work so that it wasn't a waste.

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