The Warrior Scholar

This is a blog about current events - a way to provide a constructive outlet for some of the thoughts I have on the issues of the day. It's also a way to generate some discussion and to get my ideas out into the world. Enjoy!

Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

I'm a doctoral candidate in Virginia, with a love of history and politics. My dog is a great companion, and my family always keeps me in good spirits.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Iraq, Democracy, and Islam.

I have been observing that there is some hand-wringing about the future of Iraq. One argument that I have heard is that while the United States is claiming to provide both freedom and democracy to Iraq, the reality is going to be that there can only be freedom OR democracy - not both. The essence of the argument is that Iraq is still not free because of the US and coalition troops that are there - that the Allawi government is actually just a puppet of the Bush Administration. Sen. Kerry made this argument when he publicly repudiated the new Iraqi government during Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's visit to the United Nations and to the White House last week. The general concept is that since "freedom" and "democracy" were delivered by force of arms by the United States and the coalition countries (all 34 of them!), that the Iraqi government has no hope of becoming a legitimate form of government. Unfortunately, this argument is simply not supported by the evidence. Let's look at history for evidence first.

The first example was during World War II. Germany was ruled by the Nazis (who were duly elected), and the Japanese by military dictators (who were supported by a duly elected parliament). Was our war to eliminate fascist tyranny and replace it with democracy wrong? The implication is that because these dangerous military dictatorships threatened us, and the American people decided that the only path to security was by eliminating the said threatening government, then the current German and Japanese governments are illegitimate. Using the logic of the critics today, we should re-install the Nazis and the Japanese militarists because we "deprived them of their rights." I don't think that is the right path to take! What happened to the liberal position that we should "free the oppressed" and "make the world a better place"? Removing the tyranny of Saddam freed 25 million people at the geopolitical center of the Middle East - what more could a liberal supporter of human rights want?

Sovereignty has been given to the Iraqis this summer, but we are still required to help assist in security. We did the same thing for the Germans, the Japanese, and other sovereign nations where we took up the slack from a security perspective so they could focus on reforming their societies both for their good and for ours. It is clear that the democratic form of government is both more peaceful and more prosperous than any other form of government, period. See Russett and Oneal's Triangulating Peace for the empirical supporting data. Are people suffering under totalitarian regimes "free to make their own choices"? Saddam and the Ba'athists brooked no dissent in Iraq (ref: crushing the Shia after the 1991 war when the tried to overthrow Saddam), so charges that Saddam was popularly supported just don't bear up well under scrutiny. Now, the Iraqi people are free to choose their future - and no defender of Saddam's old order can refute that! Oh - there was a group of insurgents that delivered freedom at the point of a bayonet, and required one of the great powers to assist them or they would have been crushed. That would be George Washington and his band of warriors...maybe we should have turned down the offer from the French to help...

I've seen some pundits claim that democracy and the Islamic culture are incompatible...which is simply wrong. Of the ten largest Islamic nations in the world, all are now either fully democratic or are moving in that direction. Indonesia (the largest Islamic nation), just had national elections last week and elected a new president. Pakistan, as the next largest Islamic nation, has alternated between democracy and military dictatorship - but not theocracy. Bangladesh, as the third largest Islamic nation, is a democracy; as is India is both the largest democracy in the world and has the fourth largest Muslim population. Turkey is mostly Muslim, yet has had a secular democracy since the 1920s. Iran has two governments - a functioning parliamentary democracy and a non-functioning theocracy that is suppressing it. Even in Iran, democracy is not seen as incompatible with the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. Egypt is a democracy (with some notable problems), and Nigeria and China fill out the top ten Muslim nations based on population. Nigeria has a kleptocracy, and the Chinese have been successful in maintaining their Communist government. However - in none of the top ten cases has it been demonstrated that democracy and Islam are incompatible over three quarters of a billion people! If one desires anecdotal evidence of the desires of the "average Iraqi", here's a viewpoint:

There are some that claim that because of all the problems in our society, that it is sheer lunacy for Americans to desire to export our ideas of governance. Is it arrogance? Arrogance is defined as making, or having the disposition to make, exorbitant claims of rank or estimation. Let's look at that. We live in the most prosperous, most free, and most successful country on the planet. We added the equivalent GDP equal to Argentina last year to ours, and no other industrial country can come close to the prosperity in our land. Our political system has proven to be the most successful and durable political system in the last 228 years - and the logical alternative is??? We provide security and economic growth for over a billion people on the planet which contains three-quarters of the totality of the earth's economy. Ergo - it isn't an exorbitant claim of rank or estimation - it is a fact and should be considered a matter of pride for Americans.

So, what for the future? Iraq will have its elections in January, establishing a fully legitimate (even to its critics) indigenous government in Iraq. The United States and its allies will be in Iraq for the next five to ten years helping stabilize the situation...and if Syria doesn't get its act together and stop supporting the Ba'athists in Iraq, maybe the American army will end up redeploying out of Iraq through Damascus! The "grand experiment of democracy", first started in the United States and now beginning its journey in Iraq, will over time deepen its roots in Iraqi society and play a major part in transforming the Middle East from a totalitarian economic backwater to a much brighter future.


Blogger FloridaMOM said...

Your perspectives are so informative. Publish, publish, publish.

9:46 AM  

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