RE: Worlds leaders PRAISE Iraqi elections
Elections Are Not Democracy
The United States has essentially stopped trying to build a democratic order in Iraq, and is simply trying to gain stability and legitimacyBy Fareed Zakaria
Feb. 7 issue - By the time you read this, you will know how the elections in Iraq have gone. No matter what the violence, the elections are an important step forward, for Iraq and for the Middle East. But it is also true, alas, that no matter how the voting turns out, the prospects for genuine democracy in Iraq are increasingly grim. Unless there is a major change in course, Iraq is on track to become another corrupt, oil-rich quasi-democracy, like Russia and Nigeria.
In April 2003, around the time Baghdad fell, I published a book that described the path to liberal democracy. In it, I pointed out that there had been elections in several countries around the worldĂ˘â‚¬â€ťmost prominently RussiaĂ˘â‚¬â€ťthat put governments in place that then abused their authority and undermined basic human rights. I called such regimes illiberal democracies. In NEWSWEEK that month, I outlined the three conditions Iraq had to fulfill to avoid this fate. It is currently doing badly at all three.
First, you need to avoid major ethnic or religious strife. In almost any "divided" society, elections can exacerbate group tensions unless there is a strong effort to make a deal between the groups, getting all to buy into the new order. "The one precondition for democracy to work is a consensus among major ethnic, regional, or religious groups," says Larry Diamond, one of the leading experts on democratization. This has not happened. Instead the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds are increasingly wary of one another and are thinking along purely sectarian lines. This "groupism" also overemphasizes the religious voices in these communities, and gives rise to a less secular, less liberal kind of politics.
Second, create a non-oil-based economy and government. When a government has easy access to money, it doesn't need to create a real economy. In fact, it doesn't need its citizens because it doesn't tax them. The result is a royal court, distant and detached from its society.
Iraq's oil revenues were supposed to be managed well, going into a specially earmarked development fund rather than used to finance general government activities. The Coalition Provisional Authority steered this process reasonably well, though its auditors gave it a less-than-glowing review. Since the transfer of power to the Iraqi provisional government, Iraq's oil revenues have been managed in an opaque manner, with scarce information. "There is little doubt that Iraq is now using its oil wealth for general revenues," says Isam al Khafaji, who worked for the CPA briefly and now runs Iraq Revenue Watch for the Open Society Institute. "Plus, the Iraqi government now has two sources of easy money. If the oil revenues aren't enough, there's Uncle Sam. The United States is spending its money extremely unwisely in Iraq."
This is a complaint one hears over and over again. America is spending billions of dollars in Iraq and getting very little for it in terms of improvements on the ground, let alone the good will of the people. "Most of the money is being spent for reasons of political patronage, not creating the basis for a real economy," says al Khafaji. Most of it is spent on Americans, no matter what the cost. The rest goes to favored Iraqis. "We have studied this and I can say with certainty that not a single Iraqi contractor has received his contract through a bidding process that was open and transparent."
The rule of law is the final, crucial condition. Without it, little else can work. Paul Bremer did an extremely good job building institutional safeguards for the new Iraq, creating a public-integrity commission, an election commission, a human-rights commission, inspectors general in each bureaucratic government department. Some of these have survived, but most have been shelved, corrupted, or marginalized. The courts are in better shape but could well follow the same sad fate of these other building blocks of liberal democracy. Iraq's police are routinely accused of torture and abuse of authority.
U.S. forces went into Iraq with no coherent strategy to run an occupied countryĂ˘â‚¬â€ťor defeat an insurgency.
Much of the reason for this decline is, of course, the security situation. The United States has essentially stopped trying to build a democratic order in Iraq and is simply trying to fight the insurgency and gain some stability and legitimacy. In doing so, if that exacerbates group tensions, corruption, cronyism, and creates an overly centralized regime, so be it. Lawrence Kaplan, a neoconservative writer passionately in favor of the war, who coauthored "The War Over Iraq: Saddam's Tyranny and America's Mission" with William Kristol, has just returned from Iraq and written a deeply gloomy essay in the current The New Republic. His conclusion: "The war for a liberal Iraq is destroying the dream of a liberal Iraq."
Iraq will still be a country that is substantially better off than it was under Saddam Hussein. There is real pluralism and openness in the societyĂ˘â‚¬â€ťmore so than in most of the Middle East. Russia and Nigeria aren't terrible regimes. But it was not what many of us had hoped for. Perhaps some of these negative trends can be reversed. Perhaps the Shia majority will use their power wisely. But Iraqi democracy is now at the mercy of that majority, who we must hope will listen to their better angels. That is not a sign of success. "If men were angels," James Madison once wrote, "no government would be necessary."
Ă‚Â© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address