Critics of the democratic project in Iraq also claim that, because it is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional state, the country is doomed to despotism, civil war, or disintegration. But the same could be said of virtually all Middle Eastern states, most of which are neither multi-ethnic nor multi-confessional. More important, all Iraqis, regardless of their ethnic, linguistic, and sectarian differences, share a sense of national identityuruqa (Iraqi-ness)that has developed over the past eight decades. A unified, federal state may still come to grief in Iraqhistory is not written in advancebut even should a divorce become inevitable at some point, a democratic Iraq would be in a better position to manage it.It's nice to see a knowledgable and independent source of appraisal and analysis of the consolidation of the Iraqi democracy. Thanks go to the guys at Power Line Blog for the reference.
What all of this demonstrates is that, contrary to received opinion, Operation Iraqi Freedom was not an attempt to impose democracy by force. Rather, it was an effort to use force to remove impediments to democratization, primarily by deposing a tyrant who had utterly suppressed a well-established aspect of the countrys identity. It may take years before we know for certain whether or not post-liberation Iraq has definitely chosen democracy. But one thing is certain: without the use of force to remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future.
Assessing the progress of that democratic project is no simple matter. But, by any reasonable standard, Iraqis have made extraordinary strides. In a series of municipal polls and two general elections in the past three years, up to 70 percent of eligible Iraqis have voted. This new orientation is supported by more than 60 political parties and organizations, the first genuinely free-trade unions in the Arab world, a growing number of professional associations acting independently of the state, and more than 400 nongovernmental organizations representing diverse segments of civil society. A new constitution, written by Iraqis representing the full spectrum of political, ethnic, and religious sensibilities was overwhelmingly approved by the electorate in a referendum last October.
Iraqs new democratic reality is also reflected in the vocabulary of politics used at every level of society. Many new words -- accountability, transparency, pluralism, dissent --have entered political discourse in Iraq for the first time. More remarkably, perhaps, all parties and personalities currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and fair elections.
These democratic achievements are especially impressive when set side by side with the declared aims of the enemies of the new Iraq, who have put up a determined fight against it. Since the countrys liberation, the jihadists and residual Baathists have killed an estimated 23,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, in scores of random attacks and suicide operations. Indirectly, they have caused the death of thousands more, by sabotaging water and electricity services and by provoking sectarian revenge attacks.
But they have failed to translate their talent for mayhem and murder into political success. Their campaign has not succeeded in appreciably slowing down, let alone stopping, the countrys democratization. Indeed, at each step along the way, the jihadists and Baathists have seen their self-declared objectives thwarted.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The Myth of the Iraqi Quagmire: Amir Taheri in Commentary Magazine on Iraq's Progress
The June issue of Commentary Magazine has a compelling piece by a Amir Taheri, an Iraqi writer and former journalist, on the political and strategic reality on the ground in Iraq. Here's a key passage:
Posted by Donald Douglas at 3:44 PM