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Tribal Democracy: Why "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was not worth it

Reader comment on item: Is the Bush Administration Reconsidering Its Rush to Democratization?

Submitted by Justin H. (United States), Jan 14, 2006 at 10:41

In looking back at the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, I find that I agree with some of Dr. Pipe's conclusions. The United States should not seek to bring democracy to countries such as Egypt and Syria. In my opinion, it should instead support the secular regimes in both (yes, in spite of what is going on in Lebanon; with Syria the best measure is a carrot-and-stick solution-one possible reward being a comprehensive peace with Israel in addition to the Golan Heights, which Israel claimed in the 1967 war and annexed in 1981). The Mubarak regime, meanwhile, is an important ally. Without Bashar or Mubarak, both Egypt and Syria could fall under radical Sunni governments (WHICH MAY WELL SUPPORT AL-QAEDA).

With a radical Shiite-led coalition in Iraq, the last thing we need is a collection of radical Sunni regimes (which, I believe, is even worse, considering that the majority of suicide bombers these days are radical Sunnis, in particular Salafists and Wahhabis who subscribe to what some call "Bin-Ladenism" and have as much hatred for Shiite muslims as they do for us Christians and Jews). As I have written and argued time and again, America must learn from the failure of Operation "Iraqi Freedom".

As a moderate-to-liberal Democrat, I have NEVER supported the Iraq War (although I did support the toppling of Afghanistan's Taliban in 2001). I do not intend to give Saddam Hussein a slap on the wrist. He was a terrible villain and a tyrant. He was, not, however, a terrorist threat to the United States. Just ask former CIA Agents Robert Baer and Ray McGovern. The closest that Saddam ever came to acquiring a nuclear weapon was probably in the early 1980s, before Israel destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Ozirak on June 7, 1981. As of the writing, Saddam's trial has essentially ground to a standstill. The world opinion concerning the United States has only just begun to recover. Finally, over 2,200 American men and women have died for the creation of what is likely to become an Islamic theocracy.

The neoconservative argument that freedom and democracy can be brought to Iraq has little, if any evidence to support it. Dr. Pipes may disagree with me (and again, I respect Dr. Pipes greatly and disagreement is welcome), but I believe that Islam is NOT the primary reason (although it can be a contributing factor), citing the examples of Senegal, Mali, Malaysia and Turkey. Senegal, for instance, is a free country. However, the ideal of Islamic democracy has yet to develop. That is not to say that it is an impossible goal. In fact, the words of many liberal ulema and Islamic scholars such as Iranian Grand Ayatollah Yusuf Saanei lead me to believe that under the correct circumstances, Islam can be synthesized into the legal code of a democratic, free society. Unfortunately, that is impossible under totalitarian (Iranian-style) leadership. Still, the possiblity of a Moqtada al-Sadr led government in Iraq should terrify everyone concerned.

The primary problem with Iraq, however, is not Islam, but rather tribalism. That is something that military prowess and technology can never transform. Iraq is not "the new Iran", but rather the "new Lebanon". Iraq is not a nation. Rather, it is a collection of many different nations. Here Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomen; Sunni, Shiite, Christian, etc. live in divided communities. Ethnic and religious fault lines are pervasive throughout Iraq, and even within each group, there are tensions. I bore witness to this while watching CNN on the morning of December 4, 2005. Iyad Allawi, a former Baathist and secular Shiite was campaigning in Najaf, among the holiest sites in Shii Islam, when gunmen opened fire on him. It also seems that each political party has its own paramilitary force (for example, the Badr Corps, which represents the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq-SCIRI). Thus, within the coming months, we are going to see this dilemma play out, in which a Shiite-run central government is unable to control its own people. Why? Because each group will be loyal to its own party, tribal leader, or warlord, rather than to the central government. This is why countries such as Iraq and Syria cannot be democratic. Because they are not democratic, they can only be held together by a dictator such as Saddam, Bashar al-Asad's father Hafez, Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser, or Libya's Mummar al-Qaddafi. Without a powerful dictator, the only viable outcome for countries such as Iraq is civil war; in short, another Lebanon.
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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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