69 million page views

"Democratically-minded strongman"

Reader comment on item: Is an Iraqi Strongman Emerging?

Submitted by Chris Atwood (United States), May 5, 2004 at 10:55

Dr. Pipes' desire for a "democratically-minded strongman" reminds me of an exchange that Michael Borodin, the top Soviet adviser in China in the 1920s, had with a junior Soviet observer. After having been nurtured and built up for years by the Soviet mission in China as its non-Communist but anti-Western "democratically-minded" pro-Soviet strongman, Chiang Kai-Shek in 1927 suddenly turned on his Soviet advisers and Communist acolytes, killing thousands of Communists, expelling all Soviet advisers and diplomats and operating a categorically anti-Soviet foreign policy for the next decade. As Borodin was speaking bitterly to his entourage about the treachery of all Chinese generals, a junior Soviet adviser mentioned one up-and-coming commander, and asked if he wasn't the exception--he seemed so good and democratically-minded. Borodin morosely replied:

"They're all good--when they're young."

The point of course is a strongman who starts off democratically minded isn't going to stay "democratically-minded" for long, particularly if he is a Sunni Arab in Iraq. The generals he is talking about are supported by revanchists in Falluja--could they possibly get support from the Shi'ites or the Kurds? And since they can't, will they rule them any differently than Saddam did? The cynically realistic fact is: democracy in Iraq means Shi'ite power first and foremost. Democracy means overthrowing Sunni Arab rule and transferring power to the Shi'ite Arabs. If you support that overthrow you are (in the Iraqi context) "democratically-minded"; if you don't, you will hate elections, a free press, and religious freedom, like a vampire hates garlic.

Every regime built on a foundation of 10% of the population that has no real resources or outstanding social capital in a severely divided society is going to be a gangster regime and a source of instability. Not only that, a Sunni-Arab based regime in Iraq cannot help but pursue pan-Arab adventurism, in the hopes of winning abroad the support they can't get at home, and in particular in boosting the (false but ideologically necessary) idea that Iraq is just another Arab nation in a homogenous Sunni Arab world. Just as minority rule in South Africa could never accept a black African continent so too, minority rule in Iraq must embrace the culture of Sunni Arab supremacy.

Saddams aren't born, they're made. And what makes them is Sunni Arab minority rule.
Submitting....

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".

Comment on this item

Mark my comment as a response to "Democratically-minded strongman" by Chris Atwood

Email me if someone replies to my comment

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".

See recent outstanding comments.

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2022 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)