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Right war, botched occupation
by Michael Rubin
U.S. troops entered Iraq, President Bush promised freedom and
democracy. But rather than establish a stable democracy, today
terrorists and militias tear the country apart. After billions spent
and the sacrifice of almost 3,000 U.S. troops, it is right to ask
whether democracy in Iraq was not a fool's dream.
It was not.
President Truman faced similar questions about Korea. Critics
accused him of embroiling America in open-ended war, ignoring his
generals and losing touch with reality. They said democracy was
alien to Korean culture. Time proved them wrong. Any juxtaposition
of nuclear North Korea with democratic South Korea shows the value
of Truman's policy.
Bush was right to liberate Iraq. Saddam Hussein had started two
wars, used chemical weapons and subsidized suicide bombers. He
claimed to have weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions had
collapsed; containment failed.
With military action inevitable, the White House was right to pursue
democracy. Cynical realism created Saddam. Iraqis who fled their
country, meanwhile, had no problem accepting democracy; Iraq's
problem was both its rule of law and its dictator's
went wrong? Iraq's transformation was undercut by naive faith, not
in democracy but rather in diplomacy. Instead of securing Iraq's
borders, the Bush administration accepted Syrian and Iranian pledges
of non-interference. They believed the canard that Iraq's neighbors
sought a stable, secure Iraq. Both countries exploited U.S. trust.
Then, to win United Nations support, the White House defined itself
as an occupying power. Overnight, liberation became occupation, and
Iraqi democrats became collaborators. To appease Paris and Berlin,
the Bush administration justified insurgent rhetoric.
Iraqis embraced democracy, but the wrong kind. U.N. experts sold the
White House an election system based on party slates rather than on
districts. Any system in which politicians are more accountable to
party leaders than constituents, though, encourages ethnic
nationalism and sectarian populism. Add militias to the mix, and the
result is explosive.
Iraqis greeted U.S. troops as liberators, but the Bush
administration fumbled the occupation. Blaming democracy does not
address the cause of strife; rather, it absolves policymakers for
poor decisions and implementation. Too much is at stake, not only
for Iraq but also for U.S. national security, if policymakers learn
the wrong lessons.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise