Saturday, May 22, 2004

A "Democratically Minded" Dictator? What Has Daniel Pipes Been Smoking?

Can a dictator be "democratically minded," as Daniel Pipes suggests? The Deserter is living proof that a democratically elected President can be totalitarian, but is the converse true? And who might fill the role of the "democratically minded" dictator of which Pipes speaks? Might his initials be A.C.?

This history suggests that the coalition's grand aspirations for Iraq will not succeed. However constructive its intentions to build democracy, the coalition cannot win the confidence of Muslim Iraq nor win acceptance as its overlord. Even spending $18 billion in one year on economic development does not improve matters. I therefore counsel the occupying forces quickly to leave Iraqi cities and then, when feasible, to leave Iraq as a whole. They should seek out what I have been calling for since a year ago: a democratically minded Iraqi strongman, someone who will work with the coalition forces, provide decent government, and move eventually toward a more open political system. Daniel Pipes, April 14th

Even if the administration had avoided these mistakes and made all moves correctly, it is still possible Iraq would be very messy. But this concession points to an intellectual mistake made prior to the occupation: an underestimation in general of the difficulty of implanting democracy in alien soil, and an overestimation in particular of the sophistication of what is fundamentally still a tribal society and one devastated by decades of tyranny... [The war] was broadly supported by the Right as a war of national interest. The primary purpose of the war was always to protect U.S. national security, by removing a destabilizing and radical influence in the strategically crucial Persian Gulf and eliminating a potential threat to the United States....Success in post-war Iraq therefore is necessary primarily to serve U.S. interests, secondarily to assist Iraqis. National Review, May 3rd edition

Our goal has been to build a united, pluralistic, democratic Iraq in which the factions negotiate their differences the way we do in the West...It is a noble goal. It would be a great achievement for the Middle East. But, from the perspective of one year, it may be, in the short run, a bridge too far. It may happen in the future, when Iraq has had time to develop the habits of democracy and rebuild civil society, razed to the ground by Hussein. Charles Krauthammer, April 16

The old bait and switch. No WMDs? No AQ ties? Then it is democracy we are fighting for, democracy for Iraqis. The wingnuts swallowed this transparent lie whole.

I urged the wingnuts to be skeptical of our stated intentions, given that we had a record of propping-up brutal, authoritarian despots in the middle east.

I cautioned that the very same people who today claim to champion democracy for Iraqis - Dickless, Rummy, Condi, et al - are the very same people who supported Saddam in the '80's and looked the other way while Saddam slaughtered Shiites in the aftermath of Gulf War I. Still, the wingnuts were credulous.

I asked the wingnuts what we would do if a democratic Iraq turned out to be an anti-American Iraq? How strong would our commitment to democracy be then? Well, the charade is over, courtesy of Messrs. Pipes, Kristol and Krauthammer. It turns out our commitment to democracy in Iraq is rather tenuous. It was a useful 'pub talking point, but now that the Iraqis and the U.N. and the world are asking to see real action, now that it has been conclusively demonstrated that the expatriate con-man and embezzler Chalabi is perceived by Iraqis to be, well, a con-man and an embezzler, the neocons have lost faith in a democratic Iraq.

Having failed to foist Chalabi on the Iraqi people, the neocons decided that perhaps democracy in Iraq wasn't such a good idea after all. The same guys who've been wrong about everything have now decided they were wrong about democracy in Iraq. Funny how this epiphany coincided with the political demise in Iraq of Chalabi, a man simultaneously a stooge of the neocons and one for whom the neocons have stooged. New neocon estimates for the advent of democracy range from "someday" to "never."

So here we are again, getting ready to prop-up another Shah. The same failed policy we've pursued in Iran and Saudi Arabia and throughout the middle east for the last 50 years. The same failed policy that has fed Islamic rage against the U.S. since the CIA overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh of Iran in 1953.


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