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  • Building A Free Iraq: Lessons From Eastern Europe

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on June 9th, 2003 (All posts by )

    Radek Sikorski has a good short article drawing on the experience of Eastern Europe.

    Three major lessons emerge from the Central European experience. For regime change to result in liberal democratic order, a nation must remove the old regime from power, remember its crimes, and dismantle the social infrastructure that supported it. This will be hard for the citizens of Iraq, but not impossible.

    Sikorski argues that the old regime must be pretty ruthlessly rooted out. He also argues that the Iraqi diaspora must be encouraged to return. Their experience living in free societies will be critically important.

    It occurs to me that the same three things will be necessary before a viable Palestinian state can be formed. But we are not trying to do, or to encourage, any of them. The Arafat terrorist regime will remain in place, it will continue to lie about and glorify its terrorism, and the social infrastructure of intimidation will remain in place. Yet more evidence that Dubya’s road map thing ain’t gonna work. (David Warren looks to be right about that, unfortunately.)


    4 Responses to “Building A Free Iraq: Lessons From Eastern Europe”

    1. Richard A. Heddleson Says:

      A less distant application might be to ask if the three conditions were met in the Soviet Union.

    2. Bobby Otter Says:

      “…shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln

      It’s important to remember that the building of democracy in Eastern Europe came from the people of Eastern Europe. It was the Germans that tore down the Berlin Wall, not the US Marines. And it was the Czechs who led the “Velvet Revolution”, not the US Army.

      In Iraq, we came as ‘liberators’, whether American troops were desired or detested is debatable. But there is little evidence of the new democracy in Iraq coming from the people or by the people; which were essential elements in the creation of Eastern European democracies.

      This should be the fundamental lesson from Eastern Europe that democracy must come from the people. Having the US set up a government does not sound like a government of the people, by the people.

      There are also many other factors that make applying the lessons from Eastern Europe impossible. The economic state of the two areas are completely different, Iraqs economic state is nothing compared to the likes of Eastern Europe. There was an infrastructure that was stable, the electricity continued to work for instance.

      While it is important to learn from the success of the Eastern European democracies, it is hard to apply these lessons to Iraq. In many ways its like comparing apples and law mowers.

    3. Lexington Green Says:

      I don’t know if the lessons are that remote. The points Sikorski makes are directed at the occupying power and any successor regime — round up the worst of the people complicit in the regime, force the historical record out into the open and don’t let it be buried, and take advantage of the human capital you have available to start building a functioning society and institutions. Yeah, the Germans tore down the wall, but did they hate their regime anymore than the Iraqis hated Saddam? I can’t say that. Yeah the US Army drove into Iraq, but it was a slower and indirect application of US power which made the implosion of the Warsaw Pact possible. No NATO, no rearmament, no Soviet defeat in Afghanistan — no Velvet Revolution. So, Iraq is just the same thing on fast-forward.

    4. Bobby Otter Says:

      First of all, to my knowledge, the United States never occupied any of the former Soviet Bloc countries; they were from the beginning independent. While Im sure our generals and troops watched anxiously from Germany, they never, to my knowledge, rode into Warsaw or Prague.

      None the less, we have to remember that the Germans, Czechs, Poles and the rest of the Iron Curtain were more accepting of American influence and power. And also it was the likes of Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa who lead their countries, not someone appointed by the White House.

      While NATO and the above were an important factors in the fall of the Iron Curtain, there were movements inside of the Eastern European nations during this time: from Budapest in 1956 and then the Prague Spring of 1968. While these movements of course failed, there importance cannot be forgotten.

      Yes, the lessons from Eastern Europe are important, but I dont understand how they apply here. In Eastern Europe you had a movement from the people to rid the government in their country, and while there were outside factors, these outside factors did not result in the occupation of any of the Eastern European nations. In no way is Iraq the same thing on fast forward because at no point did we see any foreign occupation of the Eastern European nations after their independence.