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I respectfully disagree

Reader comment on item: A Strongman for Iraq?

Submitted by Bill Brent (United States), Apr 28, 2003 at 17:53

Dr. Pipes,

With all due respect (and I do have a tremendous amount of respect for the efforts you've made since 9/11 to reveal the dangers of militant Islam) I am in profound disagreement with your assessment that Iraq needs an Iraqi strongman. Let me make a few points.

First, I don't believe the Iraqis have enough of a tradition in individual freedom, religious tolerance and gender equality to produce a strongman who would lead them toward a society based on these principles. Any Iraqi put into that position would be seen by the Iraqis, as well as the rest of the Arab World (and most western intellectuals) as a pawn of the United States; a turn of events that would foment more, not less, anti-American sentiment on the Arab street, in Europe, and at home. I fear it would be a continuation of past failed policies of supporting dictators and "strongmen" who only paid lip service to democratic principles.

Second, it is not democracy the Iraqis need, it is constitutional guarantees of free speech, free association, free trade, property rights and gender equality that cannot be voted away by the majority; or, as you put it, "the infrastructure of a civil society - such as freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, the rule of law, minority rights and an independent judiciary..."

Third, it is the United States who needs to create and enforce this infrastructure. The United States spokesman in the region, Jay Garner, should state unequivocally that these universal principles apply to all people and are not based in culture. (It is important for the Iraqis to hear and understand exactly where we stand.) Iraq US forces to stay there for however long it takes for them to get used to this structure and be willing to support it on their own. Any "anti-imperialist backlash of sabotage and terrorism" aimed at undermining this infrastructure should be extinguished immediately and with overwhelming force, regardless of opinions in the Arab street.

Finally, in a sense, I agree with you. Iraq needs a strongman who will move the country toward a more civil society that doesn't threaten us or its neighbors. I simply hold that that strongman needs to be the United States. If we act with moral conviction and certainty, positive world opinion will follow.

Respectfully,
Bill Brent
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Daniel Pipes replies:

I think we agree much more than we disagree.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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