Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Imposing democracy on Iraq

Like a lot of people I'm increasingly fearful about what's happening in Iraq. No matter how I look at it I can't see a happy outcome to the situation, irrespective of how justified the original invasion may, or may not, have been.

The fundamental problem it seems to me is that we are trying to impose a liberal democracy on a country which is deeply divided upon religious/ethnic grounds. And democracy depends entirely upon the willingness of the minority to be governed by the majority. "The tyranny of the majority" as it has been called. Up to now, democracy has worked fairly well in many Western countries because most people are either centre right or centre left. The differences aren't so great, nor are they unduly threatening.

Where there are differences, say in Northern Ireland for example, democracy becomes a lot more problematic. The minority is reluctant to be governed by what is perceived to be a hostile majority. Often with good reason. You have to have an extraordinarily positive take on human nature to trust your wellbeing to someone whose views are diametrically opposed to your own.

The split in Iraq is roughly 60% Shiite Muslim and 35% Sunni Muslim. Christians and others make up the balance. They were divided before the invasion, of course, but a brutal dictatorship held the country together. Militants on both sides, as well as the insurgents, are currently fomenting sectarian violence and driving the communities even further apart.

So what's the answer? I don't know, but I fear it isn't democracy, at least not the kind of liberal democracy we espouse in the West. Maybe partition is the answer. Maybe the country will break up. Both alternatives are horrendous to contemplate. You can just imagine the strife and the bloodshed as borders are redrawn and people "relocated". There don't appear to be any easy answers to this sorry saga. Even worse, it seems to me that we in the West are preparing the way for an orderly - or disorderly - retreat. Leaving the Iraqi people to fight it out, to clear up the mess we have created.

Meanwhile the carnage - mostly innocent victims - continues. No wonder I get depressed.


  1. I wouldn't worry about the present situation, Bill. It can't last.

    Carrier battle groups are steaming as we speak to the Straits of Hormuz, along with minesweepers and minelayers, and several smaller aircraft carriers. Mid-air refuelers are on full alert, all leaves cancelled, ready to scramble, a useless step unless one contemplates using long-range bombers. (The US has no long range bombers in Iraq.)

    Thing is, with only one loose-cannon nuclear nation, blame can be neatly assigned if a mysterious blast occurs, and suitable action taken. But with two such nations, this sort of deterrance becomes highly problematic, and Georgie doesn't like problems. He gets headaches, you see. His little beatle brow gets all furrowy and tense.

    It seems to me, ignorant observer that I am, that Mr Bush has a surprise in store for us, and the smart money's saying we'll see it before the elections. When it comes, and I think it will, we'll have a whole new set of equations to solve. Trick or treat, Dude.

  2. Oh dear, JTA, somehow what you've described doesn't really reassure me.

  3. The situation is worse than hideous. Partition would lead to a Yugoslavia type situation with ethnic cleansing etc ... But I can think of NOTHING that might work under the circumstances ...

    As for your definition of democracy - I'm not so sure. Under the present system you can have someone in power (eg a certain Mr G Bush) who received the votes of a MINORITY of those elgible to vote ...

    jta - you're really scaring me ...

  4. Anonymous2:12 pm

    Unfortunately, the situation there was created by us in the first place. Not forgetting our constant meddling in the region since we created Iraq.

    I hope jta is wrong......but it's certainly difficult to see a satisfactory solution, especially as the rate of civilian deaths appears to have risen since Saddam was removed - hardly seems like an improvement.

    Now I'm depressed too.............

  5. I hope I'm wrong, too, Confucious, for the sake of our children and their children. And, just in the past few days, some signs of hope have appeared , in the form of a rebellion on the right--apparently staring into the face of a major war has concentrated the minds of some of our conservative senators, and they're resisting. One wag suggested the best way to quell the violence is to restore Saddam to power.

    What Shrub will do remains to be seen. They haven't recalled the Navy.