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Forget About Reforming Iraq -- or the Arab World

Reader comment on item: After Saddam? Remaking the Mideast

Submitted by Ralph Winstanley (United States), Feb 11, 2003 at 11:08

Daniel:

It is unrealistic to hope that we can reform Iraq. Iraq is a fractured society held together by a brutal gangster regime whose main weapon is terror. It is that way now and it was that way when I was there in the late sixties.

Consider:

-- The Kurds. What is any democratic Iraqi regime going to do with them? What they want is independence of Arab domination. When Baghdad is weak, they get it. When Baghdad is strong, the Kurds are repressed.

-- The shiite minority (majority?) will never be satisfied with a Sunni dominated government.

-- There is no -- repeat, no -- democratic tradition to build upon. Only an authoritarian regime can hold that place together. The process is brutal in the extreme. Yet a breakup of Iraq is hardly a desirable outcome from our point of view. The opposition that we will put in there are opportunists who will steal as much as possible before the next coup ousts them.

-- Any future Iraqi regime will dream of annexing Kuwait. If our vigilance relaxes, it will happen.

The best we can hope for a quick victory with few civilian casualties. A succesful military blitz will probably have a salutary short-term effect on the region, as Fuad Ajami suggests. Exercises of raw power usually do. But let us not be carried away by our military predominance into impossible dreams of remaking the world. We certainly will have to maintain a strong presence in the area to assure reasonably good behavior in whatever regime we install, but a fairly rapid withdrawal, at least from Iraqi internal affairs, is to be desired. Look at our floundering in Afghanistan now. "Nation building" is a Pentagon concept that doesn't work. We don't have the knowledge, the patience, or the resources to consider an effort to make over another country let alone a whole region in our image.

Ralph Winstanley
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