The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, March 17, 2003  

Establishing a Democratic Iraq in One Year or Less
"Never Have So Few Thought So Little About So Much"

Still more evidence we are living in the age of unseriousness can be found in the weekend's reports about Iraq. To cite just one, "U.S. Plans Rapid Transfer of Power," by Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times (March 15, 2003):

The Bush administration has agreed on a strategy for administering postwar Iraq that borrows key elements from its experience in Afghanistan and emphasizes a rapid transfer of authority to Iraqi leaders, a senior administration official said Friday.

The official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said the decision had been made to limit U.S. military governance to as short a time as possible and avoid the kind of occupation that Gen. Douglas MacArthur presided over in Japan following World War II.

"We don't want to have a MacArthur-run country for a four- or five-year period," the official said. "We want to get the administration turned over to an Iraqi administration as soon as possible."

After entering Iraq, perhaps even before the fighting is over, the United States would sponsor a conference of Iraqis from all the country's ethnic groups and regions who would choose an interim government -- much as Afghans met in Bonn, Germany, in late 2001 and chose Hamid Karzai to serve as interim leader. Karzai was elected Afghan president last summer.

National security advisor Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with Arab journalists earlier in the day, described the new strategy in general terms.

"Just as we did in Afghanistan, the United States and the coalition will stay as long as we're needed," she said. "But we have no desire to stay very long at all."…

The interim administration would draw up a constitution and develop a plan for choosing a permanent government. The officials said they would recommend that the new authority build democracy "from the ground up" by organizing local elections first and choosing a permanent leadership later.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Gen. MacArthur's lengthy occupation of Japan, flawed though it may have been in many respects, both from the perspective of Japan and the U.S., ultimately prove successful? Highly successful, in fact? Japan, once a greater threat to the U.S. and the rest of the world than Saddam Hussein's Iraq is now or could ever have hoped to become, today is a loyal, democratic, capitalist ally.

And hasn't the recent history of Afghanistan, that which has played out since the U.S. withdrew following its not entirely successful war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, proved eminently unsuccessful?

Why, then, is the Bush administration eager to replicate a policy that hasn't achieved even the most basic of its stated goals?

Stranger still, for years the administration and its allies in the punditocracy and among policy intellectuals repeatedly have asserted that Arabs specifically, and Muslims generally, have demonstrated a complete inability to form democratic governments, often going so far as to suggest Arabs and Muslims are inherently incapable of such governance or that their religion and culture are antithetical to democracy.

Such talk is insouciant nonsense, we are now to believe, for the war on Iraq, we have been told, will be a quick and easy precursor to the dawning a new democratic age throughout the Middle East: the Democracy Domino Effect, it has been called, a theory the Los Angeles Times on Friday reported even the State Department's best experts consider preposterous (or at the very least, "non credible").

The Bush administration is conducting U.S. foreign policy on a wing and a prayer: We'll get in, get out, democracy will bloom, then it's on to Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, et al., and all will be well and good in the world. Just trust us.

Welcome to the Age of Unseriousness. Never have so few thought so little about so much.

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