Democracy in Iraq Research Paper

in Iraq: Opportunities and Possibilities

Most of the world scholars are pessimistic about the possibility of Iraq to build both stable and democratic regime. Democratic values will not survive in Iraq because Iraq does not have the necessary prerequisites for building and maintaining stable democratic system. The intervention of American forces into Iraq and military operations were led with two objectives: to destroy Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and to bring democracy to people. While, the weapons of mass destruction may not be ever found, the possibility of the second objective accomplishment is doubtful. Some of the scholars (pro-American mostly) believe that Iraq is in transition to build the new democratic form of government meaning that people are provided with freedom to choose their leader through open elections, separation of powers, supportive civil society, and effective institutions. However, the question is whether it is possible to impose the democracy upon Iraq through the military force?

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The efforts of American military intervention to export democracy are very likely to fail because of internal factors (socio-economic, political, cultural, and historical). The process of democratizing Iraq should involve three steps: the removal of the authoritarian regime (already done), the installation of democratic regime (partially done), and long-term sustainability of the democratic regime (is not done). The prospects for democratizing Iraq are directly tie to the success of the American intervention in overthrowing the old regime and installing the new democratic form of government. It can be the case that the democratic sustainability will be developed through subsequent American involvement in reconstruction during the formal transition phrase (improvement of socio-economic conditions, for example).

As Paul Starr has noted, “even if we are able to set up a model of democracy in the near term, we have no way to ensure its survival unless we police Iraq for years to come” (2004, 3). Even if United States controls the democratization of Iraq, there is a very little chance that this supervision will be enough to transform the national political culture. Some of the scholars oppose such severe intervention of United States into all spheres of political, economic, and social life of Iraq. For example, Moises Naim believes the Iraq democratization is the “American-led expedition sets sail to boldly “cure” the Middle East from its grave maladies. Yet, while the world is doubtless better off without another huge, ill-conceived venture in the Middle East, forswearing hope and help for profound, positive, and more rapid change in the region is as dangerous and mistaken as trying to deliver democracy from the barrel of a gun” (2004, 97).

Democracy establishment in shackled not with cultural and religious factors, as it might appear. Different cultures throughout the world have adopted democracy even when democratic principles very rejected. All people desire to live in freedom and democracy is not entirely foreign to Islam as well. Iran and Turkey, for example, have elected assemblies and limited term of service for president. Islamic people live in democracies without any injury to their religious or ethnic identity. Indonesia, with the largest Muslim population, has made the successful transition to democracy in 1998. Nevertheless, it cannot be doubted that democracy in Iraq will take its own form and its failure or success cannot be judged by Western standards.

Currently, Iraq is in transitional stage from one regime to another and it can shape the new democracy and explain whether it is likely to consolidate. The question is whether the current mode of transition to democracy in Iraq will have any influence on sustainability of democracy. Regime transition is Iraq is occurring through military interfere4nce and it can be categorized as replacement rather than transition. The opposition groups are taking lead in bringing the regime change and overthrowing the authoritarian government. Moreover, Hussein government collapsed under the American military power, not due to the internal opposition.

Thus, in Iraq the internal opposition groups did not exist during the struggle to produce the fall of old regime, as well as they were not involved in the fall itself. The clean break up with the old regime and democratization are possible if the prior elites are completely uninvolved in the process. Larry Diamond, the adviser to CPA in 2004 appointed by Condoleezza Rica, has noted, that “democracy is not possible in Iraq in the next few years, but maybe we can avoid the civil war” (Twair 2006, 53). Thus, the question is even further shifted from the opportunity of democratizing Iraq to avoiding civil war within the country.

However, foreign intervention helps not only to lay the foundation for democracy in Iraq; it comes with the large sum of funds for reconstruction and expert advice in setting up the new regime. Approximately 80 countries have pledged US$33 billion to help rebuild Iraq. The United States work closely with Iraqis to draft a new constitution and establish governmental institutions; the United Nations work closely with the United States in moving Iraq towards democratic elections.

Nevertheless, the purpose of military intervention and presence in Iraq is seen as democratizing not by all. “In essence, the United States went into Iraq with clear, if unstated, goals: controlling Iraq’s oil, privatizing the economy, establishing a permanent military presence, and dominating Iraq’s foreign and defense policies” (Mahajan 2003, 24). American administration sets the policies for Iraq and create the government which will implement them. In this way, Americans will be able to control Iraq internally. From this standpoint, democracy and stability in Iraq will be achieved only if Iraqis are deprived of their national identity.

Leaving aside the oil reserve question and other economic interests of military intervention to Iraq, the targeted authoritarian regime was internally strong and could only be toppled with foreign military force. Under the ruling of Saddam Hussein, Iraq had low level of political society independence, low power of law, low society autonomy, and was characterized as the totalitarian regime. Democratic opposition, rule of law and civil liberties are lacking, the defeat in war is the only potentially successful path to democratization. But is it truly democratization?

As Grigg has noted, Iraq is likely to become more corrupted than Saudi Arabia and it is difficult to believe that others nations in the region are going to look at what Iraq becomes (2005, 20). Building democratic Middle East is not possible from this perspective because democracy will not be supported by other nations such as Saudi Arabia. Regardless of kind of regime emerging in Iraq, it is clear that American administration will not allow Middle East regimes to democratize on their own and these nations including Iraq) are prepared to compel regime change by military force where possible.

Democracy is consistently used as the synonym of freedom, while the idea of liberty has grown brazen. “By using the power of the U.S. government to ignite the fires of democratic revolution, the Bush administration is fighting terrorism using methods pioneered by the political forefathers of modern terrorists” (Grigg 2005, 20). It can be expected that the person similar to Ayatollah Khomeini will rise to power in Iraq in the result of the Bush democratization. In the current world, physical force in the main instrument of political discourse and the role of the absolute leader supersedes the role of the political institutions. “There is no grassroots demand for democracy among Arabs and Muslims, and any attempt to impose it is bound to encounter stiff resistance and to arouse the proverbial street to the new height of anti-Americanism” (Karsh 2003, 24).

If Arab societies are given the right guidance and support, they need to prove amenable to democracy – holding Iraqis to a lower political standard can be not only a recipe for inaction but also the subtle form of racism (Karsh 2003, 26). The creation of the federal system is the required institution condition for eventual democratization of Iraq. The shift in the general political outlook it also vital – Iraq’s legacy of violence stems from the failure to internalize principles and guiding norms of the modern state. As long as this failure persists, very little progress can be achieved in democratization process.

United States was not prepared for the building democracy in Iraq; however, the failure is not caused by the lack of experience. Numerous military officials from Pentagon have planned and carried out the after-war mission. There were many lesson learned from the previous conflicts in delivering foreign aid. The State Department, the United Nations and other non-government organization were ready to advise Bush administration (Chandrasekaran 2006, 37). The specially created healthcare team studies every prescription medicine used by Health Ministry in Iraq; American attorney revised Iraq’s laws governing everything from patents to industrial issues. Military commanders wanted to find the effective leaders with Iraqi community, to empower them and subsequently leave the country. Military approach proved to be imperfect because Iraq had the decrepit infrastructure. It was almost impossible to find the local leaders who were not corrupt.

Iraq looks more like anarchy rather than democracy today. “Ironically, Bush administration accepted the antiwar argument that Iraq was too secular a country to foster a populist, religious-based antipathy to U.S. interests” (Basham 2003, 46). For the last 30 years, Iraq was the reflection of Hussein’s regime preference for institutional suffocation over the religious fanaticism. Hussein belonged to Iraq’s minority Muslim sect, the Sunnis, the faith of which was formulated by Iran’s Islamic leadership. It is very likely that Bush will be disappointed with the result of his effort to establish democracy and the democratic journey will be slow and treacherous.

Notably, most of the people in Iraq agree that democracy is better than any other form of government. Nevertheless, it is not enough to ensure the long-term survival of democratic institutions. The liberal democracy requires the framework of political norms, values, and foundation of civil society. Leading politicians note that the individual’s political behaviour supports more stable democracy (Basham 2003, 46). For example, the high living standard contributes to the emergence of the new democratic political class. Thus, Iraq will become more democratic with the increased living standards. The political culture influences democracy more than democracy influences political culture. Political culture is not about elections, constitutions, or legislation, but it is rather about the cultural values and economic conditions.

Iraqis, on the contrary, view politics as spiritually polluting. Religion and politics are not supposed to be mixed. Popular elections are necessary because they give the right to every individual to choose his representative to serve in government, the Basic Law should also be approved by the national referendum. “It is incumbent upon all believers that their utmost commitment to demand this” (Gerecht 2005, 40). Even though the above quote does not refer directly to Islam and there is no allusion to the duties of people to God, it puts Iraqis people into position of being the final arbiters of politics.

Iraq today is the localized version of Algerian civil was of 1990s (Loyola 2006, 26). This civil war has touched every part of Iraq’s land and will continue for years without threatening the collapse of the government. Iraq never had the formal unified leadership and it will never have. According to the report “The U.S. in Iraq: Confronting Policy Alternatives”, the goals of American presence in Iraq today is to establish the lasting order in Iraq to protect U.S. economic and security interests in the region (2006, 433). The second goal is to ensure long-term American presence in Iraq and establish relationship with government in order to monitor security threats. The third goal is to demonstrate to rogue states that American will not give them the opportunity to threaten its interests with terrorist tactics. Notably, all of these three goals are focused on U.S. interests, not Iraq’s interests or democratization.

Further, the report outline the policies American government plans to use to achieve these goals. First, increase American troop strength in Iraq. Second, establish support from Iraqi population through rebuilding infrastructure. Third, work with Iraqi officials to see that American companies get top priority to oversee rebuilding initiatives. Fourth, build up Iraq’s oil industry to pay for reconstruction efforts and ensure the stable flow of oil to global markets (“The U.S. in Iraq: Confronting Policy Alternatives” 2006, 433). It is clear that American government cares more not about democratization of Iraq, but about the American economic and political interests in the first place.

The belief that Americans fought the war with Iraq with the aim to free Iraqi people of Saddam Hussein’s brutality and to establish democracy (“Iraq Today: The Challenge of Securing the Peace” 2003, 300) is no longer perceived seriously by the global community. American government saw itself as the only strong leader in the world able to create the stable, prosperous democracy in Iraq. Nevertheless, the U.S. has assumed full responsibility for deciding what kind of government should be established in Iraq, and is currently viewed as imperial occupier. Moreover, by going into war with Iraq without support of UN, United States have isolated themselves from the international community.

Of course, the first elections and some moves towards democratization would not happen without U.S. intervention. Not everything is working out, American mission has mostly failed and it is unclear what the purposes of Iraq’s invasion were. Nevertheless, it is clear that Iraq’s democracy, if even established, will be very different from the western perception of democracy. It will be the mix of national religion, history and cultural values. Moreover, the political stability, economic growth and sustainability of democracy in Iraq are doubtful.


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