Update Re: Postwar Occupation – I’m Less Worried Lately

In this post, I expressed my fear that General Powell and the apparatchiks in the State Department were going to push for a too-limited effort to emplace a more liberal and democratic government in post-War Iraq. Various straws in the wind make me less worried, and the consensus seems to be that the reestablishment of some “stable” authoritarian apparatus is not in the cards.

Michael Barone, in this column assesses the likely next steps following the conquest of Iraq, and opines

The course of military action is never completely predictable, and horrors may lie ahead. But few in Washington doubt that we can occupy Iraq within a few weeks’ time. Then comes the difficult task of moving Iraq toward a government that is democratic, peaceful, and respectful of the rule of law. Fortunately, smart officials in both the Defense and State departments have been doing serious work planning for that eventuality for over a year now.

Examples of this planning are discussed in this article entitled “Full U.S. Control Planned for Iraq”:

The Bush administration plans to take complete, unilateral control of a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, with an interim administration headed by a yet-to-be named American civilian who would direct the reconstruction of the country and the creation of a “representative” Iraqi government, according to a now-finalized blueprint described by U.S. officials and other sources.

The article notes that Iraqi opposition leaders were informed ” that the United States will not recognize an Iraqi provisional government being discussed by some expatriate groups.” This may be the reason for the initial outcry from Iraqi expats. I think Chalabi wanted to be an Iraqi de Gaulle, taking power behind American tanks. We apparently are not going to play that. Rather, “some 20 to 25 Iraqis would assist U.S. authorities in a U.S.-appointed ‘consultative council,’ with no governing responsibility.” Also, the article makes clear, there will be a process of “de-Baathification.” See also Paul Wolfowitz’s speech to Iraqi Americans in Michigan: “We have one of the most powerful military forces ever assembled” now on the borders of Iraq. “If we commit those forces, we’re not going to commit them for anything less than a free and democratic Iraq.”

Nicholas Lemann’s article, which I saw in the New Yorker, is available in two parts here and here. Lemann quotes at length from an interview with Douglas Feith, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy. Feith talks about bringing “institutions of democracy to Iraq”

“I use the term ‘institutions of democracy’ carefully. I don’t like to talk just about ‘democracy,’ because that connotes that there’s a particular system that works for everybody, and I’m too much a respecter of Burke to assert that.” He paused and said, “But the notion that when you have governmental institutions that are free, and allow for a greater degree of political and economic freedom, and people are protected from tyranny by having multiple institutions in their society that have power-the principle of checks and balances-it leaves open a tremendous amount of room for how societies organize their governments, and their societies in general. The notion of checks and balances as a safeguard against tyranny is something that I think can have applicability all around the world. It’s not peculiar to a particular culture.

“Then, you have the phenomenon that this greater freedom that came to Latin America, that came to various parts of Asia, largely missed the Middle East. And there is all kinds of writing on the subject, on whether there is anything inherently incompatible between either Muslim culture, or Arab culture, and this kind of freer government. This Administration does not believe there is an inherent incompatibility. And if Iraq had a government like that, and if that government could create some of those institutions of democracy, that might be inspirational for people throughout the Middle East to try to increase the amount of freedom that they have, and they would benefit both politically and economically by doing so.”

Feith goes on to assert that this process would spread, less out of U.S. compulsion, but because:

“There are people throughout the Middle East who have interests in promoting greater freedom,” he went on. “You have various people in various countries who have an interest in improving their country. And if there were to be a model of political success along these lines in the Middle East, in Iraq, one can imagine it would be impressive and influential. If somebody elsewhere in the Middle East looks at this and says, ‘If the Iraqis can have these benefits, perhaps we can get some of these benefits for our own people,’ I think that’s really more the mechanism.”

(Trent Trelenko had previously linked to this Lemann article.)

Perhaps most reassuring was the President’s recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute:

The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.

Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before — in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.

There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of Iraq — with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people — is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.

That all sounds like a “maximalist” approach I have been hoping for. Bush, the gambler, the risk-taker, is swinging for the fences.

Finally, as if to make sure our false friends, the bigots in Saudi Arabia, will be “maximally” offended, comes news that the person chosen to “run Baghdad after the defeat of Saddam Hussein” is one Barbara Bodine. She is described as “the senior civilian on the Pentagon task force that is charged with reconstructing Iraq.” She sounds like a tough cookie. She has actually been a terrorist hostage. The story was in the Chicago Sun Times, but I can’t find it online. I’ll update this post if I can find a link.

UPDATEThis news story references Ms. Bodine, though it is not the one I referred to above.