The Futility of Spreading Democracy

The idea behind invading Iraq, we were told by our President and his followers, was not only to remove the threat of Saddam Hussein. It was to gain a foothold for freedom in the Middle East by establishing a democracy there. Obviously this is happening slowly, if at all, primarily because Iraq consists of groups of people who really have no desire to get along with each other. Mark Bowden says it very well in OpinionJournal this morning.

We Americans consistently underestimate the deep hatreds that divide people. Our political system is designed to wrestle peacefully with the divisions of race, class, ethnicity, religion and competing ideological or geographical interests, and has generally worked as intended--the Civil War being the one glaring exception. Generations have struggled to live up to ideals of tolerance and diversity. When we look out at the world, we tend to see millions longing to get past the blood feuds, to be, in short, more like us. George Bush and the neocon intellectuals who led us into Iraq are just the latest in a long line of evangelical Americanists. No matter how many times history slaps us in the face, the dream persists. [more]

This is right on target. The nation we now call Iraq was created
by the British after World War I with little regard for the ethnic or cultural unity of the inhabitants. Saddam and his predecessors were able to keep it united and orderly by means of brutal dictatorship. With that hammer now gone, the cats and dogs have been unleashed to fight it out. And they are.

This idea of establishing a peaceful democracy in Iraq isn't totally futile. It may well happen, in some manner, at some point, but not anytime soon. Bowden concludes his article:
Maybe we need to better appreciate that our nation remains an exception. I believe that in the long run people on this planet will embrace democracy and diversity, but we are not there yet. I still nurse hope that Iraqis will abandon blood feuds for compromise and a democratic future, but it appears to be a longer shot today than three years ago, and it was a bad bet then. Mr. Bush has staked his legacy on it.

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