Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The chaos in Iraq is actually promoting a real democracy

How’s that for an argument?

Yes, you read right: Because the Americans "had no real plan" for the occupation, or everything went hay-wire and not according to plan, there is a better chance for real democracy to take hold.

Regime change only happens after a fight. Governments outside of democracies usually won’t give up power without violence or a threat of violence. And if someone is willing to die for a change of government, it means they really want it and will fight for its existence: Freedom isn’t free.

It is an accepted truism that “revolution must come from within.” And democracy is a very finicky system. It needs to be constantly kept in check and to be constantly protected from falling apart. And it will usually only be protected, if people have fought very hard to build that democracy.

Although I supported the US war against Iraq, I wasn’t so sure about turning Iraq into a democracy. To me it seemed too simplistic, and it goes against all the principles of what a democracy is.

However, I thought it would be criminal for the US to go into Iraq, screw up their system of government, however corrupt and horrific it was, just to turn around and say: “okay, guys, here’s your country back…good luck putting it all together.” It was clear that the US was going to have to help in some way.

The important factor in creating a democratic Iraq is the Iraqi citizens taking responsibility. They have to want it and work for it. They have to stand up against those who threaten the creation of a democracy. The US can not be in Iraq forever. The US military presence in Iraq, should be seen as a crutch. It is helping Iraq get back on its feet again, but Iraq needs to flex its political muscles and get strong enough to stand on its own. Otherwise, as soon as the US pulls out of Iraq, the democracy would just crumble.

As an example: the success of the German occupation and resulting Federal Republic of Germany was actually partly credited to the chronic understaffing of capable civil affairs officers. If one looks at the actual “plans” the US had for post-war Germany, they failed miserably in many areas, but succeeded in their final goal of turning Germany into a peaceful and democratic country. However, this was despite many American efforts, and not because of them. America actually wanted to “Americanize” Germany in many ways. Because of the lack of enough officers and US personnel to govern, a lot of responsibility was given to Germans town committees. These committees really became the backbone of the democracy which then flourished in the war torn country, which was thus truly a German homegrown democracy and not an American implanted democracy. The American occupation in Germany was a completely different situation than what is now occurring in Iraq, however one can be encouraged by its success, despite very different American plans.

Most Iraqis have been excluded from the political process for the last 30 years or so, so there is a complete lack of politicians. [Okay, no jokes here about that being a good thing.] Now Iraqis are learning to and getting to take part in the political process again.

The Iraqi Expat has a good post explaining his view of the effects of 45 years of history on the Iraqi mentality:

Now think about all that, the turbulence of 60s, the elimination of the politicians from the 60s onward, the uneducated low-class that became the masters, the low life criminals that became common, the immorality that were taught and the imprisonment that made the people unaware of how people live outside Iraq's borders; all that takes time to repair, it is damaging and it is slowing the realization of freedom and democracy, but it will not stop it. [...]

The security in Iraq is not that good, to say the least. There are daily kidnappings, shootings, bombings, etc. Some people call it the Wild West. The US and other coalition forces are doing their part in trying to establish peace. Some say they are not doing enough, there has to be more American soldiers there. But I disagree. I think that if the US provides too much security, what reason do the Iraqis have to fight? And how are the Iraqi security forces going to learn? This is a trial by fire situation.

A year ago, the Iraqi police and National Guard were notorious for their disorganization and fear in the face of danger, but gradually we are seeing more progress. They are standing up to criminals, instead of running away. They are becoming more disciplined; they are becoming more like their American counterparts. The January elections were also a turning point, where Iraqis proved to themselves and the world that they were willing to fight for their political freedom, and they weren’t going to be terrorized into submission anymore.

There are many maxims to military life, and here are two: “There is no such thing as a perfect plan”, and “Field experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.” And I think they both apply very well to the situation in Iraq. There can’t be a perfect plan for the US mission in Iraq, and the Iraqis can’t gather experience in a democracy until that democracy is actually created through a democratic process.

It is violent in Iraq right now, but most revolutions are. And for the US to help too much in providing security and guidelines would be detrimental to Iraq’s future. Once Iraq has established democracy and security, the rest of the world can have confidence in the Iraqis, because it will have also been their efforts that created the democracy, and not just the US’.


Blogger Chris said...

I've been traveling again. I need to catch up with some of my reading and posting.

Excellent argument. But I am a tad bit confused. I wasn't aware that we invaded to spread democracy. I thought we were there to destroy WMD, install the Iraqi National Congress and to not occupy Iraq. Nation building has never been a goal. Or has it?

I think you make a good point that our lack of planning or lack of whatever might result in a better chance for democracy to take hold. But- now stay with me here- that's like saying that not having a plan was actually our plan, which might be true. But it's also a lousy excuse for Iraq to be in the shape that it is.

I still can't help but think that if our goal was to spread democracy, which now appears that it is, that we would have secured Iraq within days of over throwing Saddam. And I still can't help but think that if were are going to discuss Iraq, and all that entails, then we must talk about WMD and how Bush got it wrong.

I have no problems talking about the things Bush got right and the things Bush got lucky with, but we can't ignore the huge things he got wrong either.

Plan or no plan, Bush is riding by the seat of his pants here. I just think our service men and women deserve better.

4:43 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

The reason the US invaded Iraq was to remove Saddam from power, and the urgency was there because intelligence sources said he had WMD. However, staying around to help pick up the pieces was always a goal.

This is an excerpt of a speech made by Bush on October 7, 2002:
“America believes that all people are entitled to hope and human rights, to the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery; prosperity to squalor; self-government to the rule of terror and torture. America is a friend to the people of Iraq. Our demands are directed only at the regime that enslaves them and threatens us. When these demands are met, the first and greatest benefit will come to Iraqi men, women and children. The oppression of Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomans, Shi'a, Sunnis and others will be lifted. The long captivity of Iraq will end, and an era of new hope will begin.
Iraq is a land rich in culture, resources, and talent. Freed from the weight of oppression, Iraq's people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time. If military action is necessary, the United States and our allies will help the Iraqi people rebuild their economy, and create the institutions of liberty in a unified Iraq at peace with its neighbors.”

Technically coalition forces no longer “occupy” Iraq, and haven’t done so since the government handover last June. If the Iraqi government told them to leave, they would have to. The chances of that happening right now are pretty much zilch, though. But in the future, once their new constitution is ratified and the country’s own security forces are up to the task, the Iraqi government may and (hopefully will) exercise that very right.

I didn’t really understand what you meant with this: “I still can't help but think that if our goal was to spread democracy, which now appears that it is, that we would have secured Iraq within days of over throwing Saddam.”

Yeah, martial law is a great way to spread democracy.

Do you mean, you think it was possible to secure the whole country in a few days? Interesting, I am sure the Pentagon would love to give you a job, if you could outline the plans for that.

I don’t think there was any plan that lasted longer than the first hours of the invasion. And now they are playing by ear.

And I think that Bush isn’t as stupid as some think, but what is happening in Iraq right now, wasn’t planned…it was just hoped. Everyone hoped that the Iraqis would take the initiative, which at first didn’t happen. But every day now, there are more and more examples of Iraqis wanting to take back their country.

I think our service men and women always deserve better than the crap they have to deal with, but the fact is, you are always going to find something distasteful in a battle. And things that would make them safer, would counteract their attempts in completing the mission.

Oh, and there are no WMD and Bush got it all wrong. There. ;-)

3:35 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Yes we invaded to remove Saddam. No he was not a threat. No he didn't have WMD. Yes Bush gave wonderful speeches about democracy and freedom and liberty and made it all sound so Wilson-like even before the invasion.

The fact is, two years later and we still haven't accomplished something we were told would be a cakewalk by your expert planners at the pentagon- which I am more than qualified to work at, probably more so than most who do :) But thanks anyway.

I could all day give excerpts from Bush speeches about mission accomplished, grave and growing threats, slam-dunk WMD, fake links to al quaeda, torture memos and terrorists that never existed in Iraq. But I won't. Cause it's pointless. And so are speeches where Bush makes pre-emptive war sound so wonderful.

You know, I'm not against war. I have so many friends and family members in the military. I did ROTC in my undergrad to pay for my bachelor's. My dad is a Vietnam vet. I have 3 best friends from high school in Iraq now. I have 11 friends from ROTC in Iraq now. And none of that really matters one bit. But I'm not stupid either.

I never said anything about martial law. But when invading a country, your invasion force is martial law, plain and simple. We were not prepared for anything that happened after the tumbling of the statue of Saddam. That was a huge mistake and has cost thousands of lives. You think it's no big deal and part of the "no plan, plan," in which it's impossible to plan anything because it changes as soon as the boots hit the ground.

I'm sorry, but we didn't invade saying "we'll just see what happens and plan from there." We had a plan, and the plan was wrong. And because we were wrong, everything is in worse shape than it need be.

Now saying all that, does that make me a Liberal? Does that make me anti-war? Anti-military? Anti-American? Not at all. For some people dissent just furiates them.

Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 and there were no WMD :)

6:23 PM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

My first reaction when reading your response is from my inner ValleyGirl: I just want to show you a big fat W with my hands and say "whatever."

You are right about taking examples of speeches, basically anyone can find anything to back of your's just that you constantly say this war wasn't ever about bringing democracy to Iraq, so I just wanted to say there was definite mention of's just that everyone chose to hear the ringing urgency of the WMD phone.

I believe that you would be much better qualified than some to work at the Pentagon.

I also think that you are focused on wanting Bush and everyone to admit that things went ape-sh*t. Things do go ape sh*t in war...ever heard of Market Garden and (gee, I am too lazy to think up any other battles that went screwy)? Okay...there, I admitted it. Now what? It doesn't mean that you have to turn it into a Waterloo.

What I don't understand, is why you think things could be so much better than they are in Iraq. Yes, granted they could have implemented a few things, like immediately taking over the Republican Army and turning it into the new security force for Iraq. Also they could have retained a lot of the former Baathist officials. There were a lot of things they could have done, but perhaps those things would have brought order and control, but would they have brought around a popular movement for democracy?

Plus...I never remember anyone saying it was going to be a cakewalk...never. If you can find me one instance of someone in the White House saying this was going to be a piece of cake, I'll applaud you. But never ever did anyone say it was going to be easy. This is some collective memory of something that never happened. And people repeat it, as if it were fact. But it's simply not true and never happened.

Hmmm...Saddam may have had nothing to do with the planning of 9/11, but that doesn't mean he wasn't funding al-Qaida. And hope springs eternal with the WMD...;-)

7:05 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Sorry about the tone of the first comment. After re-reading it, I realized it was a little harsh.

The truth is, what I'm focused on is Bush having some accountability. He doesn't answer to anyone. He has held 20 press conferences!!! That is ridiculous. Iraq is still a mess, and it's because Bush rushed to war. I don't think Clinton would have been given the same treatment had he done what Bush has. That's where I stand.

I work in a political job. I am an advisor to many elected Democrats and a few Republicans. I have to be careful what I say and do on these blogs, because I can lose my job. We've had people on my staff fired for having blogs. That's why I'm vague a lot.

However, I will say this: I sat as an advisor to a US Senator on the sub-committe for the 9/11 Commission. For a solid year it was my job to monitor the Commission and report back to the US Senate the Commissions progress. After the Commission released its Report, I was then responsible for debriefing the Senate of its findings.

The 9/11 Report investigated the Iraq link to Bin Laden. The only warranted link was a meeting between Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer that took place in Turkey. That meeting was never proven during the investigation. I believe the meeting took place, however, the evidence is circumstancial at best. The money trail in which supposedly Saddam funded Bin Laden was proven entirely false.

Now Saddam did fund Hezzbolah in Lebanon, but so did Iran and Saudi Arabia. There is no doubt that Saddam was a terrorist, and I agree with that. The Report concluded that no serious link between Iraq and Bin Laden existed, including financing.

The Report did find substantial links between Iran and Bin Laden as well as Syria, including funding, supplies, harboring and daily contact.

Those are the official findings of the US government.

To say that Iraq funded bin Laden is a stretch and so far not proveable. It's probably as inaccurate as me always refering to the "cakewalk" plan.

8:03 PM  

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