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Some political progress in Iraq
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, August 26, 2007

Maybe the message is getting across in Iraq that patience is wearing thin here and they better begin to take advantage of the improving security situation to make progress politically:
Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish political leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key measures seen as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The agreement by the five leaders was one of the most significant political developments in Iraq for months and was quickly welcomed by the United States, which hopes such moves will ease sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.
Obviously, of course, the proof is in the pudding. Announcements are not laws and until the laws are passed, these remain only promises. That understood, the agreement is a very nice step toward national reconciliation.

Specifically:
Iraqi officials said the five leaders had agreed on draft legislation that would ease curbs on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.

Consensus was also reached on a law governing provincial powers as well as setting up a mechanism to release some detainees held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority being held are Sunnis.
But then, let's recall there's also this bit of reality to deal with:
The laws need to be passed by Iraq's fractious parliament, which has yet to receive any of the drafts.
And getting them through there may not be any easy task.

On another important front:
Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Maliki, told Reuters the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.

But a statement from Talabani's office said more discussions were needed on the draft oil law and constitutional reforms. Committees had also been formed to try to ensure a "balance" of Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds in government.

The oil law is seen as the most important in a package of measures stalled by political infighting in Maliki's government.
So it appears that it hasn't been all vacation for the Iraqis in August. Some apparent meetings of the minds came about, obviously necessary before they could go to parliament for debate and passage. But by any measure, this is a step forward. Whether it is a large or small step will now rest with the parliament, but the fact that it has gotten to that point is a "good thing" although I'm not sure it will be received as that in all the Congressional offices in Washington.
 
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I’m sure I’ll be accused of wanting to dash potential good news too quickly, but if you’ve studied third world politics you know that even passing a law doesn’t assure that it will be implemented and enforced as agreed. The proof comes not with the parliament passing it, but with the bureaucracies and the relevant parties doing what is necessary to make the law work. That said, any report of progress is a good thing. Still, forgive me if I remain skeptical.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Small steps, Erb. One at a time.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
You can say that about any country or even any problem. Yet just calling for small steps doesn’t address the issues. It sounds more like faith and hope than anything grounded in analysis and evidence. If anything, the last four and a half years show that faith and hope when it comes to Iraq are dubious foundations.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
that faith and hope when it comes to Iraq are dubious foundations.
Because Iraqi’s haven’t had an interim government, much less a Constitutional Convention or National Elections yet..OH WAIT!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
...but if you’ve studied third world politics you know that even passing a law doesn’t assure that it will be implemented and enforced as agreed.
Third world? How about first world? Our kabuki immigration enforcement immediately comes to mind.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Third world? How about first world? Our kabuki immigration enforcement immediately comes to mind.
Laws obviously don’t guarantee anything. But of course that isn’t the point of the post. The point of the post is they’ve gotten together and agreed upon a course of action and no matter how badly those who seem to hope for failure in Iraq want to blow it off, that development is a positive step and marks political progress.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Yeah, Joe, and that’s sure worked out well for them, hasn’t it? Continued violence/death, sabotage in the oil industry and infrastructure, massive corruption, sectarian differences, the US thinking of undercutting the elections to remove Maliki, Iranian backed militias...

Most third world countries hold elections. I think all have constitutions. Conventions are easy to hold. Those are meaningless if you don’t have stable rule of law, and effective bureaucracy, accountability of the leaders to the people and the law, and governmental legitimacy. Iraq is falling so short on all those counts that optimism for their future is like a gambler rolling the dice and hoping that odds against odds, somehow, this time, he’ll come up a winner.

Billy, good point — though more laws are enforced and corruption is less in the first world due to stable governments/rule of law. Most important though, is a political culture that creates conditions where people want stability and are willing to work through existing political structures, trusting that the deck isn’t stacked against them. That’s what you really need to get effective goverance and that is exceedingly rare in the third world. The European creation of a modern sovereign state simply hasn’t taken in the third world, and probably isn’t the appropriate political structure. Yet there doesn’t seem to be any alternative.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
You know, Erb, I took heart in your very first comment to this posting when you said
That said, any report of progress is a good thing.
And when I responded, agreeing with you
Small steps, Erb. One at a time.
You blew me off with
You can say that about any country or even any problem. Yet just calling for small steps doesn’t address the issues. It sounds more like faith and hope than anything grounded in analysis and evidence.
In previous threads, you spoke of the utter failure of the surge because of the lack of any political progress. Now, when confronted with some measure of political progress, you virtually blow it off. Well, I look at it this way. I’ll take my hope in a few small steps that may lead to something better than your obviously pre-determined bias that any progress at all is an illusion to be belittled and minimalized.
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
He’s been talking 9 to 10 years for quite some time. So have many people. This isn’t a crisis that is going to solve itself by September or election day. This is a long term project, just like Germany and Japan were. And I find it difficult to believe that this Representative is just now finding this out, or perhaps coming to understand that.
The word here is patience, amirite?
 
Written By: Sirkowski
URL: http://www.missdynamite
Well Dr Erb, all I can say is that a legitimate and elected government in Iraq stands a whole lot better chance of meeting the needs of Iraqi’s than a bunch of Iraqi strongmen...now that may not be so in your book, but that’s your problem.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
the US thinking of undercutting the elections to remove Maliki
How in a parliamentary system, Erb, can it be undercutting an election to urge a vote of no confidence? It would seem that is an affirmation of democracy, not its abnegation.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
a legitimate and elected government in Iraq stands a whole lot better chance of meeting the needs of Iraqi’s than a bunch of Iraqi strongmen
This may prove to be the opposite of reality.

In the end, in a decade or so, when Iraq is finally stabilized, do not be surprised that an iron fisted dictatorial government is in place.

Imagine forcing Iran, Egypt, and Israel into one country and trying to establish a stable democracy without allowing for the possibility of breaking it up into pieces. It’s either not going to happen, or it’s going to forced on the people with swift and grave consequences for opposition.

 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Captin imagine making Turkey, Taiwan or South Korea into democracies, and yet it has happened....

And if in a decade or so Iraq HAS stablilized why would there BE a dictatorship? "Hey things are going good now, let’s put Saddam back into power." Dictatorships are generally a response to INSTABILITY, not stability.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Oh and Captin, I think a lot of Iraqi’s especially after last week see a value in Iraq. MOST Shi’i view themselves as ARABS, so the idea that the Shi’i south is NATURELY disposed to leaning to Iran is not necessarily true. Most Shi’i are not interested in being a Farsi Protectorate. In the North the Kurds have seen Turkey AND Iran mass on their borders. The reality is if the US goes home it will go ALL THE WAY HOME, leaving the Kurds to the tender mercies of Iran, and Turkey, with the Sunni "state" intervening to scoop up oil revenue. In short they have a stake in Iraq continuing, too. And the Sunni see the value of Iraq, they can see three states leaves them dead last in terms of money and power. They see that a government that doesn’t work doesn’t protect them either. In short all three groups do ahve a lot to lose if iraq folds up and I think they realize it.

So it’s not like taking three seperate groups and making one state, because they were not independent entities prior to the current government, and all sides can see a cost associated with the failure of the current government.

I wouldn’t write Iraq off, totally.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well Dr Erb, all I can say is that a legitimate and elected government in Iraq stands a whole lot better chance of meeting the needs of Iraqi’s than a bunch of Iraqi strongmen...now that may not be so in your book, but that’s your problem.
False choice — it’s not a bunch of strongmen vs. a legitimate and elected government. It’s not like we have a menu of choices here, the reality is going to take care of itself. That is neither your problem nor mine, but a problem for the Iraqi people which I think we need to take seriously.

I admit my field of study biases me — I see in Iraq all the variables that usually point to instability, corruption, the inability to develop democratic institutions, and the lack of a political culture which can overcome divisions and function adequately. Those structural problems speak far louder to me than either the latest terror attacks or tactical military developments. Americans tend to think democracies are easier to create and maintain than the evidence suggests, and that they are somehow "natural" if only we could eliminate dictators and strongmen.

I still think the idea of partition may make sense, especially given your concerns about the Kurds. The US could keep troops in friendly Kurdistan to both assure and hold back the Turks — as well as send Iran a message that we’re closeby. A Shi’ite Arab state would not feel the need to rely on Iran to assure the Sunnis would not rise up and reassert control, and a lack of Sunni-Shi’ite division would make it more likely that the Arab-Persian split might keep the two apart. But do not underestimate the ties between Iraq and Iran’s political leaders! Finally, a Sunni state with support from other Sunni states in the region could become stable.

Remember to deal with the reality. One can always posits reasons for them to cooperate, and possible good outcomes. But so far, those who have posited such things have been disappointed.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Turkey, Taiwan or South Korea into democracies
You missed my point, first, we did not turn any of these countries into democracies, and second, my point was about taking three disparate nations and trying to make them into ONE democracy. In the long run, I don’t see that happening in one Iraq. Frankly, I don’t even think that is critical to our government anymore. We want a stable Iraq that is not hostile to the US, if it can be a democracy, that would be nice, but don’t for a moment that the form of government is not way down the list of priority list from stable and non-hostile to our interests.

And if in a decade or so Iraq HAS stablilized why would there BE a dictatorship? "Hey things are going good now, let’s put Saddam back into power." Dictatorships are generally a response to INSTABILITY, not stability.
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I admit my field of study biases me — I see in Iraq all the variables that usually point to instability, corruption, the inability to develop democratic institutions, and the lack of a political culture which can overcome divisions and function adequately
Turkey, Taiwan, South Korea q.v.

still think the idea of partition may make sense,
No it doesn’t...
The US could keep troops in friendly Kurdistan to both assure and hold back the Turks — as well as send Iran a message that we’re close by.

IF we come home we will come home, Murtha, Pelosi et al. there will be NO staying in Kurdistan. This is a story you may tell yourself, but it doesn’t hold water. As to Iran, all they need to do is pop off a few car bombs in Kurdistan and we’ll come home...it worked in the main portion of Iraq it’ll work there....hence when we come home we will come all the way home.
A Shi’ite Arab state would not feel the need to rely on Iran to assure the Sunnis would not rise up and reassert control
,

Yes they would because the Sunnis would be looking to REESTABLISH their traditional dominance over the nation.
and a lack of Sunni-Shi’ite division would make it more likely that the Arab-Persian split might keep the two apart.

The Sunni’s might FIRST turn to Mosul for oil revenue but they’d turn their gaze to the "south" and the oil of the Shi’i state and the Shi’i know it.
But do not underestimate the ties between Iraq and Iran’s political leaders!
I don’t but the Shi’i are monolithic. Al-Sadr is one, albeit the most prominent Shi’i politician/thug.
Finally, a Sunni state with support from other Sunni states in the region could become stable.
Stable and focused on revanche....

Iraq under your "plan" would devolve into a larger variant of Lebanon, as each faction sought international support for it’s fight, except the Kurds who get squashed by several nations surrounding them. The Kurds, Shi’i, and Sunni set to fighting, with the Iranians backing the Shi’i and the Saudi’s backing the Sunni, and everyone at war with the Kurds.

Partition is the equivalent of Sen. Kerry explaining that if we came home from SEA only a few thousand or so South Vietnamese officials would bear the cost of the communist takeover. It’s a story that sounds nice, nice enough to assuage any pangs of conscience that you might feel.
Turkey, Taiwan or South Korea into democracies
You missed my point, first, we did not turn any of these countries into democracies,
Uh yes we did...the protection of the US allowed those nations to move from the authoritarian model they had existed under into the current model they operate in. It was US and Western pressure and protection that provided the impetus and the space necessary for the transformations. You are correct in that the PEOPLE of all three nations and their militaries decided that democracy was the better choice. So yes, the people of all three made the nations free, but their decision was not the necessary and sufficient cause of their transformations.
We want a stable Iraq that is not hostile to the US, if it can be a democracy, that would be nice, but don’t for a moment that the form of government is not way down the list of priority list from stable and non-hostile to our interests.
Funny that’s not what the US government says. I believe, until the Administration changes, the current government says that the status quo in the Middle East has not produced peace, prosperity or stable governments. Now, the Progressives, if they win, ARE big fans of "stability." They USED to be fans of Liberty, but today they like stability. Auschwitz was stable, so was Romania, for a while, but they sure weren’t very nice. So let’s hope all you folks that want stability fail in your plans for it.



 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Oops, missed the comment...
And if in a decade or so Iraq HAS stablilized why would there BE a dictatorship? "Hey things are going good now, let’s put Saddam back into power." Dictatorships are generally a response to INSTABILITY, not stability.
I don’t mean that Iraq will become a stable democracy and then choose dictatorship, I think Iraq will continue to be an unstable democracy and there will eventually a strongman type leader, who is hopefully less insane than Hussien, but will still bring stability.

I just don’t see the Iraqi people forgetting their long, long, history of sectarian animosity, and even when some try, others will make it impossible.
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
If we don’t try we won’t know will we or they Captin, it’s worth the effort...Iraq/Iran/Saudi Arabia the whole area has been rife with instability, IN SPITE of Authoritarian governments. So let’s see if we can’t create something akin to the BRD in the Middle East, the dagger in the heart of the WTO was the prosperous and free Germany across the border. In the same way a free and prosperous Iraq is a threat, in differing ways to Saudi Arabia (free and multi-ethnic and religion) and Iran (Free AND Prosperous) and Syria (Ditto Iran). Because all the authoritarian governments have sponsored and caused war and terrorism, at home and in their neighbors. The region from Libya/Egypt to Iran/Iraq/Arabian Peninsula has been rife with coups, rebellions, terrorism, state-sponsored external terrorism, civil wars, support for civil wars, and interstate conflict for the last 50 years
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I just don’t see the Iraqi people forgetting their long, long, history of sectarian animosity, and even when some try, others will make it impossible.
Sectarian animosity is a problem, sure. But a lot people just "didn’t see" how a semi-feudal, god-emperor-worshiping society in Japan could become a functioning, modern, industrial economy. And then later lot of them just "didn’t see" how they could ever buy a car from their former enemies in Germany and Japan. The author of the best selling economics textbook of all time just "didn’t see" how we would ever win out over the Soviet Union, predicting that they would catch us on GNP by the end of the 1980s.

So I don’t put a lot of weight on the "just don’t see" argument.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Joe, South Korea and Taiwan were special Cold War cases. Moreover China (Taiwan) and Korea each have their own identity, and culturally were able — after years of authoritarian rule (30 - 40) move towards democracy. Yet they are the minority, and it took them a long time. You can add a few other "NICs" to that mix, but if you go to places as divided as Iraq, or with the post-Ottoman political culture, as well as Africa, there is a lot less to be optimistic about. Or another way: you can point to two cases where there was success after decades. I can not only point out why they are an anomoly, but could list dozens of countries that have not been successful. Iraq has more in common with those not successful; a lot more in common.

As for a presesnce in Kurdistan, Murtha and Pelosi obviously aren’t in charge of American foreign policy, and who knows what they or others would say should it come down to a friendly Kurdistan wanting us to have a base or two there. I suspect there would be bipartisan support for such a position.

The partition is NOT like Lebanon — keeping Iraq united is more like Lebanon. Lebanon has diverse ethnic and religious groups, and that’s the problem. The reality is there are no good options in Iraq, and it doesn’t look at all likely that it will blossom into a democracy any time soon. Stability first — make sure fewer people are killed and injured — then work on rule of law, accountability, and over time democracy. I think ethnic conflict will thwart that effort, hence I’m leaning more and more towards partition.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
So I don’t put a lot of weight on the "just don’t see" argument.


I just don’t see how socialism can work.

I just don’t see how we can end gun violence.

Go ahead, apply your logic.

I am open to being wrong, I will be surprised if I am, but let’s be clear, I thought this was a bad idea from the start because I felt that the risk of failure was very high, and the ROI was very low. I am in no particular rush to withdraw all of our troops, and as long as I think the military believes it is accomplishing something, I am open to continuing the engagement. But I am under no obligation to lie to myself, or you about my expectations.

Perhaps if I was asked to take Tony Snow’s job, I might be able to convince myself to to do both.

Am I failing to "support the troops" by giving you my honest opinion?

Cap
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Actually, Japan’s history is a bit more complex; they were modernizing and copying Prussia, and had an attempt at democracy in the 1920s. The role of the Emperor had been ambiguous in the past as well. But Japan was an industrial society mimicking Europe, not colonized, with a homogenuous population. They were a modern world power by the 1930s. However, their transition to democracy was nonetheless rather slow. A single party state uniting business, finance and government interested dominated for decades (and hasn’t been completely broken).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
There is a WORLD of difference between the LDP of the 1950-1990’s and the PRE-WAR Japan, Erb....and pre-war Japan wasn’t too democratic. Modelling oneself on Prussia does not make you anything too close to democratic. And Japan in the 1930’s was a major INUSTRIALIZING power, not a major industrial power, to be fair.

What makes you ready for democracy, btw, Erb and Captin, being white? I mean was Britain ready for democracy? When....1618, 1649, 1688, 1704, 1722, 1776, when? And how does one get ready for democracy, if not by being democratic? When did Turkey become ready for democracy? Or South Korea, both of whom had a history of military intervention in their politics and a history of civilan corruption and authoritarianism.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Japan tried democracy in the early twenties, and had been modernizing. It’s structure after WWII had a lot in common with the business-finance-government connections before the war, minus the militarism.

Democracy is difficult to construct and maintain. Britain was the first state to really start to build a democratic political culture. France had fits and starts (the first one failed, the second one voted for dictatorship, the third collapsed in acrimony, as did the fourth). Germany and Italy had attempts at democracy turn to fascism. Democracy needs a political culture that accepts compromise, tolerates dissent, builds rule of law, and accountability. It takes time, and ours, for instance, had slavery and women unable to vote for a long stretch. The Ottoman political culture was not conducive to democracy, as we can see now, and African states had their political structures destroyed by colonialism. That is a reality that doesn’t get changed easily.

Most Americans don’t understand that because they think via false analogy that the way we do things and think is natural, and others would simply do it if bad guys and dictators were eliminated. We don’t understand how difficult this kind of system is to build and maintain, and how easily it collapses, especially with ethnic conflict, corruption, and a history of violence — things Iraq has in spades.

That’s something you shouldn’t just toss aside as irrelevant because you want to believe differently. Most countries aren’t ready for a democratic system, though in all reforms can be made to start the path in that direction. Again, that’s reality — just like the fact global poverty, war, and abuse won’t be eliminated any time soon, neither will political repression. That’s reality, and no amount of idealism and hope can overcome it. All we can hope to do is, as SSHiell says, make small steps, and know that it’ll be generations before some places are able to overcome the past and develop their political culture to create a sustainable democracy. Turkey’s never had a truly stable democracy (numerous military interventions, and the current division is troubling), and it’s taken a long time to even get to where they are — and they were the seat of the Ottoman Empire, meaning they were far more advanced than the outlying areas. South Korea had decades of authoritarian, often ruthless rule, and lacked ethnic divisions, and had considerable American help and societal peace.

Look at Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, and many other states for counter examples. Wishful thinking isn’t enough. I want Iraq to improve and succeed, but this isn’t a political game where you simply try to persuade others to believe you, this is a real case where we have to be very realistic and hard nosed, and not get fooled by our own arguments.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Still Erb you didn’t mention how it was Britain became democratic....so was it ready for it in 1618, 1649, 1688, when did it become "ready?"

And Japan did not really try "Democracy" in the 1920’s, after several coups attempts and several assassinations a militaristic system emerged.
Turkey’s never had a truly stable democracy (numerous military interventions, and the current division is troubling), and it’s taken a long time to even get to where they are — and they were the seat of the Ottoman Empire, meaning they were far more advanced than the outlying areas. South Korea had decades of authoritarian, often ruthless rule, and lacked ethnic divisions, and had considerable American help and societal peace.
Yet both are now functioning democracies....and the military lasted intervened over 2 decadesd ago, so somehow sometime they transitioned...

I’m disturbed by the divisions in this country between a coastal elite that no longer believes in its own nation and basically lives as "internal exiles" weithin a society they are alienated from...it disturbs me, so much that...will I’ll be disturbed...societies are always divided sometimes quite violently...was the US ready for democracy in 1861?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Britain had a slow progression to democracy, probably at some point in the 18th century it moved towards real democracy, but only when the House of Lords gave power to Commons (early 20th century) was Britain really a democracy. It wasn’t ready before then. Same with the US, having to slowly change to end slavery, give women the right to vote, etc. These are the two biggest successes, building on a process that started back in 1215 to move towards democracy.

We’ll see on Turkey. The EU is worried about the stability and viability of that democracy given recent events and societal splits. Ataturk did show the importance of leadership, but really, as center of the Ottoman empire it had an advance over others in the region and had been considered a power.

But not only do you ignore all the states that haven’t been able to have democracy due to corruption, ethnic divisions, and a political culture of violence, but the few cases you mention all are examples of states with exceptional circumstances, who were able to develop a democracy — although Turkey’s is still wobbly, and Ataturk was a dictator a long time, then slowly competition was allowed, the military intervened, etc. Is Turkey now really ready to be a democracy? It’s real tests are ahead.

But you seem to be grasping at straws, saying "it’s possible." Well, yes, over time, and given circumstances conducive to developing a political culture that can sustain a democracy. Iraq lacks the benefits Turkey, Japan and South Korea had, and has more in common with Nigeria and states with ethnic divisions, massive corruption, and a violent political culture with no true, common sense of identity. You are ignoring those issues, like you’re putting your hands over your ears and saying "Turkey did it, Britain did it, it can be done." The reality is that the conditions in which its likely to succeed are tough to achieve, and Iraq is far from there. Democracy isn’t easy, it’s hard to create and maintain, it relies more on a political culture sustaining it than laws and governmental institutions, and Americans almost always underestimate the difficulty for creating democracy given how "naturally" it seems to operate here. Please think about these points seriously. This is too important to just be a political ’debate game.’
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
like you’re putting your hands over your ears and saying "Turkey did it, Britain did it, it can be done." The reality is that the conditions in which its likely to succeed are tough to achieve, and Iraq is far from there.

Yes I am, and you’re resposnding by saying, Nigeria didn’t achieve it so neither can Iraq?
This is too important to just be a political ’debate game.’
Well No Duh Doc....Oh I’m sorry I thought this was all about scoring rhetorical points, I’m glad you informed me that it was about an important real world situation...Just pull that pretensious bus over to the side of the road, there Bucko.

So EXACTLY what makes Iraq more like Nigeria and less like South Korea? Or Britain for that matter or the United States well into the 20th Century. Otherwise I think the response is to say you are merely placing your hands over your eyes and ears saying, "Nigeria failed and so will Iraq."
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Iraq has: a) a divided society with religious cleavages that have created sectarian violence on the order of over a thousand dead a month; b) has massive corruption, ahead of even Nigeria and Russia; c) has the ’curse of resource wealth,’ where elites are driven to try to control that wealth to gain its benefits, and have it grease corruption (Sierra Leone was diamonds, Iraq and Nigeria its oil); d) lack a natural identity, having been part of a colonial empire; e) inherited from the Ottoman empire a political culture built on authoritarianism and anti-modernism; f) have a post-Ottoman heritage focused on authoritarianism, violence, and ethnic division; g) lack rule of law and bureaucratic accountability; h) are penetrated by influence from outside powers like the US and Iran who try to control its destiny; and i) are in a region full of violence and division.

Nigeria was given independence by Britain in 1960. It was given a constitution designed for its conditions, a bureaucracy trained by the British, and had elections and a transition period designed to make it a jewel of Africa, with oil wealth and an educated elite. But without a stable political culture understanding what it takes to make democracy function, corruption, ethnic differences, and an incompetent government/bureaucracy led Nigeria into civil war within seven years. Since then it’s had brutal dictatorships, and now is on its third attempt at democracy, but one that is not doing well (and probably only surviving because there is enough oil wealth to keep people relatively in line). This are tough issues to overcome for Iraq. It is possible, but we have to be VERY patient — as in generational change, not a few years — and recognize that we can’t expect other societies to think like us when their cultural and historical context is very different.

You’ve been ignoring these points, and when you bring up Korea or Turkey, you give no reason why they mean anything to this discussion. I’ve been giving you real reasons why based on theories of economic and political development, one has to be pessimistic and cynical about Iraqi chances. That doesn’t mean we give up, but it might require we take a much longer term view, and recognize the pitfalls — these are not problems that can be solved through military means, especially given the limits in American military involvement at this point. Basra is a good example of what one can expect given conditions in Iraq, and they were for awhile an example of what was considered success.

Reality defies illusions. Look at all the illusions pre-war: greeted as liberators, oil revenues pay for reconstruction, Iraq quickly a model democracy for the region, pressure on Syria and Iran to change with American bases in Iraq helping us influence the region...those illusions were shattered by the insurgency and political differences that has turned Iraq into one of the most dangerous and deadly places on the planet. Learn the lessons of those failed illusions, learn that what we think should happen — and what we can build scenarios for believing it will happen — won’t happen if the conditions on the ground and in the political culture do not allow it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm

 
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