December 21, 2004
Edwin Black's column in the Plain Dealer yesterday is a must-read for anyone who still believes American-style democracy will work flawlessly (or at least stably) in Iraq. The problem with Iraqi elections and democray is simple: the assumption that American-style democracy will prevail is bunk, because Iraqi-style democracy will actually come about. The problem here, is that Iraq-style democracy is nothing more than glorified theocracy. Unlike in the USA, Canada, and Europe where most of the population is secular, or at least unwilling to mix church and state, in the middle east, Religion trumps everything, including government and politcs. Unlike in America where political parties are divided on issues like big government v. small government and regulated v. laizee faire economics, Iraqi political parties are nothing more than religious denominations.
Shiite Muslims, who make up about 60% of the population, have been out of power ever since Saddam Huisein (a Sunni Muslim) took power years ago. And for those who thought Iraqi's were happy about Saddam being out of power, they're partially right... except only because now the Shiites are finally going to be able to run the country and seek vengence on the Sunnis and Kurds who share different religious beliefs than them. So assuming that the elections go smoothly, Shiites will coast right into power. Given the structure of Iraq's democracy, Shiites will control both the executive and legislative branches, and by large margins. Therefore, Sunni and Kurdish Iraqis will do everything they possibly can to keep the Shiites out of power, firing up another round of ethnic tensions and more violence.
And what about America's diplomatic ties to the middle east? Currently Iran is the only Shiite theocracy, and we all know how well our relations are with that piece of the 'axis of evil'. Why would anyone be led to believe that once Iraq turns into a Shiite theocracy they'll have any intention of cooperating with us over their newly formed theocratic neighbors? And then its important to ask... does a Shiite theocracy really gaurantee Middle Eastern stability? Most cite the fact that two democracies have never fought a war against each other, and that if every state in the world was a democracy we could put an end to all wars. I suppose that is why democracies are so obsessed with proliferating WMDs, and why countries like Iran feel pressure to jump on board as well.
The United States has been around for less than 300 years, not even close to the 7000 year history of Iraq. If Iraq was really able or willing to create a stable democracy, you'd think they would have been able to do so without Washington there to hold their hand. As Edwin Black puts it... "elections do not make democracies; democracies make elections."