Cautious Optimism on Iraq

Reuel Marc Gerecht evaluates Iraq’s constitutional prospects in an August 8 WSJ op-ed:

The secularization of religious discussions in Iraq is already very far advanced–just compare the Iraqi clerical discussion of constitutional government at the time of Iran’s 1905-1911 Constitutional Revolution with the debate today and you will quickly see how successfully Western ideas, first and foremost democracy, have redefined or submerged older Islamic ideals hostile to representative government. The democratic government Iraqis are trying to build will have much more real-world appeal and traction in today’s Middle East than the very liberal democracy that many Americans in the occupation’s Coalition Provisional Authority and in Washington wanted to build in 2003.

The Arabs imported fascism — a significant component of Baathism, pan-Arabism and today’s Islamic fundamentalist imperialism — from the West. Why should we assume they are incapable of importing democracy?

Gerecht’s column is worth reading in full.

(via Clive Davis)

10 thoughts on “Cautious Optimism on Iraq”

  1. One may look to early America for lessons in what to expect in the practical application of law in a nascent democracy. I believe that only adult, white, land-holding males were entitled to vote. For a time, women were not only barred from voting, they were barred from owning land or entering into contracts. In a sense, they had the legal standing of a child. This was not merely a matter of tradition but was reinforced with selected Biblical passages as being the Will of God.

    Societies rarely experience radical changes in attitude in short time frames. They tend to evolve in small steps over long periods. Iraq will be no different.

  2. I’m sorry, how can one compare 230 years ago and now w/instant communications?

    That’s the way it was then, at until 1970 in (Switzerland or Sweden w/women not voting) but they’re paying attention to what’s going on in Morocco.

  3. Ah, art followed by thought – thanks for both Jonathan.

    This was especially heartening in a week in which we so often seemed to lose sight of what we are fighting for (and fighting against).

    Do these commentators remember the Articles of Confederation–that “perpetual union”? Do they understand the time & effort Publius spent? Did they think Pearl Harbor was bombed one day and Nagasaki the next? Sometimes I suspect they have never been pregnant, written a book, started a business, stuck out a partnership or a marriage – all those things that, you know, take time. And you think starting a country should be done on the fly, immediately, or it’s a failure? Great, you’re just the person I want holding my hand if I ever need chemo.

  4. Jon, what RMG says is all well and good fifty or a hundred years from now when hopefully the whole Middle East will be democratic (let’s also remember, please, that those were the well-intentioned but failed visions of Wilson and FDR in what seems a persistent and continuous line in America’s foreign policy). As I see it, the main problem is very different and wasn’t solved –it may have been compounded– by the Iraq war. What to do with WMD-armed terrorists supported by a nuclear-armed Iran today and in the foreseeable future? I hope we didn’t lose our chance to answer that one. And no, I don’t have the answer either, but the administration should have tackled all that at the time.

  5. “I hope we didn’t lose our chance to answer that one.” Val, it’s answered. Our ability to do anything in Iran has been neutralized by the political and military cost of the current war. The Iranians know it. They have more freedom now to do what they want unhindered than they have had at any time since 1979. That is a high price we have paid for “democratizing” Iraq. Time will tell whether it was a good trade-off.

  6. All of you know more about history & especially military history than I, but aren’t we better off with the Iraq of the present and the Afghanistan of the present on both sides of Iran than we would be otherwise.

  7. What Ginny said. In addition, wasn’t Iraq an attempt to address the ‘root cause’ of the spread of extremism in the ME?

    The plan was to present a workable, modern alternative to either tyranny or the caliphate. It’s still playing out and is still in its’ earliest stages. Our part will soon be done but that doesn’t mean the process is over.

  8. I don’t see how we had any leverage with Iran before invading Iraq. I seriously doubt we could have undergone any effective operation without having dealt with Iraq first. If anything, I bet our position is strengthening.

  9. Wow, Iraqi women are in the first stages of accomplishing that which took American women some 120 years to accomplish. I admire their part in drafing their own Constitution. It’s enouraging.
    Then again, it took some 13 years just to complete our Constitution and without female representation.

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