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Yes, but . . . .

Reader comment on item: The Freedom Crusade, Revisited

Submitted by John Edward Philips (Japan), Jan 15, 2006 at 08:44

The Japanese don't have an executive presidency or separation of powers. They did borrow their primary school system from us, but not their universities or other school systems, much less their post office or other government institutions.

I think the mistaken idea that we imposed democracy on Japan is behind this dangerous misadventure in Iraq. The Japanese developed democracy on their own. Their Constitution didn't provide for civilian control over the military, and once that was established they were OK. One other Ministry (the Home Ministry, which was actually borrowed from the British) was abolished, but the reforms of the Occupation, except for land reform and possibly female suffrage, were minimal compared to the Meiji reforms that abolished feudalism, set up the modern government, and culminated in Taisho Democracy in the 1920s. Japan had labor unions, political parties and other institutions of democracy before their military took over in the 1930s. When we gave them their government back they knew very well how to run it. Iraq had none of that under the Ba'ath dictatorship.They are learning how to operate a democratic republic from scratch. That's not easy.

Your point that "full democracy requires decades of preparation, rehearsals and mistakes" is very valid, even for the US, where we went through a bloody civil war and many more struggles. But the only way to learn democracy is by doing it, and making the mistakes on your own. Imposed democracy is an interesting oxymoron. Benevolent dictatorship might be nice, but how do you keep the dictatorship benevolent without popular control through elections?

Now, as you point out, the US is "handing the whole country over to Iran without reason" which should have been foreseen all along. There was no reason to invade Iraq, no national interest in this war, and in fact it has made things more dangerous for us. Worst of all, it let Usama bin Ladin get away with attacking the United States and has helped his recruiting everywhere. One of the last secular regimes in the Middle East is being replaced with Islamic government.

Where do we go from here? I wish I knew. I only know that imposing a dictator in Baghdad will be unacceptable to both the American and Iraqi people. I don't see any good outcome now, so we have to choose the lesser evil. Our worst nightmare from Carter through Reagan, Bush I and Clinton, an Iraq allied with Iran, seems about to take place, thanks to Bush II. It may be the least evil option available to us. As for the Iraqis, I don't know what they will do with their government now. As Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said when someone asked him what kind of government the Constitutional Convention had written "A republic, if you can keep it." I hope the Iraqis keep theirs and that it turns out better than the Iranian one has so far.

Be careful what you wish for, like regime change in Iraq. You might get it.
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