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A campaign promise is a promise made to get elected. Few are really kept; some should not be. Others cannot be--even when honored. Iraq may be a latter case in point. A US troop draw down has begun slowly. Whether it ends on time or not, it is not likely to leave a government that can survive for long as a democracy. There are many reasons. True, the Iraqi people want democracy, except that:

  • Iraq has no democratic tradition;
  • the people most capable at running the country are Baathists, hardly willing to embrace democracy;
  • rivalries among the Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish are centuries old with numerous old scores unsettled;
  • the traditions of the region are a history of religious governance interrupted regularly by kingdoms or dictatorships. Sharia Law is always there--even in relatively secular states. Turkey is the only land of Islam that has managed a truly democratic government for any extended period of time--thanks to the armed forces. All this hardly bodes well for democracy in Iraq;
  • democracy cannot thrive without a strong economic infrastructure, which was never rebuilt after the invasion--by ignorance, indifference incompetence, or willful design--take your pick;
  • essential services still do not work--six years later;
  • more than 2.3 million displaced Iraqis have fled local genocides for neighboring countries; they must be resettled peacefully or troubles will fester and mount;
  • al Qa'ida, albeit subdued, still lives.

A further problem is that many of Hussein's earlier policies and methods are now being re-instated by the present government. Combined, these are formidable barriers indeed. We have a few comments.

It is true that Baghdad is relatively safe, and the countryside is safer than it was. It is also true that regulations have become insufferable--the myriad little things each day are deadening initiative and morale. Against all logic and international pressure to wait until August, the government is calling for early elections to bolster its survival chances.

We have a bit of optimism on the religious side. The Shias are mellowing from their strict Sharia laws instituted in Southern Iraq after the invasion. Neither is the South a hot bed of jihad. They and the Sunnis became valuable partners in curtailing al Qa'ida and damping down violence. That boost in fortunes was led by General Petraeus who found the global jihadists receptive while the local militants were not.

In the broader war on terror, it is important to recognize the distinction between these two groups. (War is the wrong word as the connotation is often military. The basic conflict is over ideas and resources. Islam is not ready for modernism.) Militants prefer war to diplomacy; jihadists will negotiate. (Jihad means struggle; that is more inclusive than war. It can include war, of course.) That change in policy in Iraq must be continued in Afghanistan and Palestine. We expect it will be as it is Obama's natural style.

One can only conclude from all this is that democracy will have to wait until the infrastructure develops and enables democratic traditions to come into being. Come Aug. 10, 2010, all combat troops are to be withdrawn, leaving only advisers to help with training missions. They will be spread thin; they will be vulnerable--targets for what militants remain.

However that works out, America is too seriously over-extended to consider remaining much longer. We hate the thought, but from here it now looks like the present Iraqi government, or one that replaces it, may find too little internal support to last long. A Hussein-style dictatorship--to contain the ancient animosities among the remaining extremists--may be what Iraq adopts omnce we are gone.

That bin Laden still lives is a huge disappointment. He seems to have secured a safe haven in the Swat valley of Pakistan. But there is a silver lining in that. Overall he has lost credibility and support in the nations of Islam.

The coming of the Internet has opened the eyes of all having access. It is popular everywhere there is access. It is painfully obvious to all that the disparities among the three great monotheisms are huge, the radical Islamists in particular are behind the times. As Fareed Zacharia (Newsweek, 9 Mar 2009) and others point out, the local people are capable of limiting the powers of radicals. Parts of Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan have shown us that.

To end this gloomy page on a hopeful note:

Is it not worth a shot to give the people a chance in Iraq?.

After this page was posted there were reports that the government was reaching out to the Sunnis, apparently with some success.


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