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Homegrown strongman wanted... apply inside

Reader comment on item: A Strongman for Iraq?

Submitted by Khaldoun Khelil (United States), Apr 28, 2003 at 19:48

Though your "Appointed by America" approach to Iraqi democracy has a tempting appeal, I'll have to disagree with you on this one Dr. Pipes. Ataturk was a nationalist minded military man who grew out of the tumoil of Turkey and used the scapegoat of religion to mold modern Turkey... not to mention Turkey today is still plagued by secret police and the world's most infamous jail system. Your other example.. Chiang Kai-shek, is even more problematic.. he only started leaning toward democracy after being forced to flee mainland China by a communist revolution... he was no longer in a position to lord over his subjects as he so famously had in China proper.

As a secondary note, both these men were homegrown... any strongman we place would invariably be an exile, someone bereft of the internal connections necessary for authoritarian rule. And any homegrown strongman we would find would invariably be a Ba'ath party member; tainted by the former regime he'd make very little headway in transforming iraq. Not to mention that either type of strongman would be seen as a western stooge and would encounter constant opposition against his legitimacy.

Unfortunately you're utterly correct about the development of institutions that promote democracy, a free press, cosmopolitan universities and the such. The foundations for these institutions exist, inside Iraq and in the expatriate Iraqi community. But the true basis of any government is legitimacy and we're going to have a hard time installing any kind of government the majority of the Iraqi people would see as their own.

While running the day to day operations of the country, we need to step back and provide a forum for the Iraqis to discuss and argue about their own future; they should police themselves, and judge themselves, and criticize themselves... out of these institutions the leaders will emerge.
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