Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
The New York Times has an article detailing how July 2006 has been the most violent month of the war in Iraq. Sectarian violence has increased to the point that more than one hundred civilians loose their life each day in Iraq. We loose an average of two soldiers a day. Five hundred and eighteen soldiers were injured in July. The IED, improvised explosive devises, are the deadliest means of attack employed by the insurgency. Of the 2,625 explosive devises encountered in July, 1,666 exploded and 959 were found before they detonated. But at the end of this disturbing report by the New York Times was a statement by a military affairs expert that in the event that the democratically elected government of Iraq doesn’t survive, “Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy…you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.”
Democracy---Remember Iraq was supposed to become the model of Democracy. It was supposed to be the first domino, the domino that was to set off a chain of events to spread democracy throughout the Middle East. Iraq would be an inspiration to the rest of the world; a new democracy with a self-supporting oil industry, with its people free of security and economic concerns. Is Iraq an inspiration to anyone? Do its citizens feel safer, freer, than they did under Saddam? There is no way that you can convince anyone that democracy will make the world a safer place when the citizens have to worry daily for their own safety and security. With Iraq facing its worse violence ever and the only other democracy in the Middle East, Lebanon, having faced thirty-four days of bombing, what message is the Middle East learning about democracy? Is our failed foreign policy serving as a warning that democracy might be dangerous to your safety and security?
In President Bush’s August 13, 2005 radio address he said, “Iraqi’s are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And we’re helping the Iraqi’s succeed.” But as failed states expert Marina Ottaway has said, “The political system that the United States has helped set up in Iraq…is a house of cards.” So as we watch this house of cards come tumbling down, do we dare ask where we went wrong? In 2003, the United Nation found that Iraqi’s would accept free elections under UN control and the replacement of US troops with UN troops from neutral nations. Would Iraq be a freer and safer place today if we had turned Iraq over to the UN after the fall of Saddam? Or is it as former neo-conservative, Francis Fukuyama said, “ Before the Iraq war, it was clear that if we were going to do Iraq properly, we would need a minimum commitment of five to ten years. It was evident from the beginning that the Bush administration wasn’t preparing the American people for that kind of mission. In fact, it was obvious that the Bush people were trying to do Iraq on the cheap. They thought they could get in and out in less than a year.” Is it our “Wal-Mart” culture, always looking for a bargain that led us to think we could do this war on the cheap?
Could we have set up a different kind of democracy? Lebanon might have seen the perfect model before the Israeli bombing. The non-violent Cedar Revolution ended Syria’s occupation of the country and was followed promptly by free elections. Michael Totten explained that, “the Lebanese political system is nearly incapable of producing dictatorship. The three main sects in this country—Christian, Sunni, and Shiite—do not share the same political ideas and values. They do, however, share power, since each group is a minority. By tradition, the president is always a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, the speaker of the parliament a Shiite. Parliament decides who fills the top three government posts, and members of Parliament are elected by the people of Lebanon. Each sect’s parliamentary bloc keeps the others in check. The result is a weak state and de-facto libertarianism…its culture is liberal and tolerant, even anarchic and libertarian. The state barely exists.” But as we are all painfully aware, the result of this weak government, that co-existed peacefully, is that it allowed for Hezbollah to set up a shadow government that provided to the south the services the government didn’t, water, trash pickup, hospitals, schools, and a stateless military. Israel felt threaten by this stateless military, and when if choose to rain down upon Lebanon bombs for thirty-four days, the weak government and military could do nothing to protect its citizens.
While we can install the mechanics of a democratic society, elections, parties, legislatures, the values are hard for the citizens to embrace when they fear for their safety and security. The values necessary for democracy to develop, social tolerance, valuing political liberties, popular participation in the democratic process, and a trust of the governmental institutions, are all necessary for democracy to flourish. The increasing violence makes all of this impossible. Security for the citizens must be top priority before any kind of government can succeed. If we only knew what we know today about Iraq, before we went. If the Bush administration had gone to Congress and said we are going to invade Iraq and spread democracy, it will cost us more than $307,522,250,000, more than 2604 troops will be killed, 19,323 wounded, and 44, 621 Iraqi civilians will be killed; and after all that we may consider another form of government in order to have a stable government. Would Congress have voted for that?