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A strongman will very likely end up as a new Saddam

Reader comment on item: Is an Iraqi Strongman Emerging?

Submitted by Vijay Dandapani (United States), May 4, 2004 at 17:03

The (albeit reluctant) prescription of a strongman for Iraq is a poor panacea for the ills that dog Iraq. As an option, it has many perceived benefits - a central figure for the civilized world to make agreements with, suppression of ethnic strife and, hopefully, the pursuit of enlightened economic and social policies. Nevertheless, post war history across the world has shown that command authorities almost always begin with exalted promises to all that quickly degenerate into a power grab with little or no accountability to the peoples they set out to (benevolently) govern. Worse, particularly in the Islamic world, it engenders a simmering hostility to the West. Witness public sentiment, to the extent it can be meaningfully gauged, in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc. An overwhelming majority in these countries view the world's number one terrorist, Bin Laden favorably and the US as a malevolent force.

We may well enjoy a reasonable quietude in our relationships with the benevolent despots of these lands and, in the case of Saudi Arabia, actually harness their resources to our benefit. But the long term consequences of such "alliances" are all too well known in the post 9/11 era.

The answer is not to develop jelly knees in the aftermath of an undisputedly bloody period that some in the media would have us believe is a quagmire but to persist with the efforts to engender change in the Middle East and in the larger Islamic world. Iraqis today may criticize and, indeed, exaggerate the actions of the US without fear of being tortured and killed. Had any Iraqi deigned to criticize the many abuses that took place during the Saddam era he or she would doubtless have met with a swift and terminal response. That there is debate on these and other issues represents material and signifcant progress.

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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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