Friday, March 12, 2010

Monumental Success of Neocons on Iraq

This essay, from Steven Cook at Foreign Policy, is a real disappointment. See, "What the Neocons Got Right":

Let me start out by saying that I do not believe the neocons got Iraq right. It may turn out right or it may not. It's too early to tell. So far, the March 7 elections look pretty good as the counting gets under way, despite 36 deaths. Analysts will likely point to the hard, messy coalition bargaining that is sure to come as evidence that Iraq is moving in the right direction. After all, Iraqis are processing their grievances through democratic institutions, which says a lot about how far the country has come since the dark days of 2006 to 2007. Perhaps it's my skeptical nature, but I am not ready to declare victory. We have seen too many "corners turned" and "watershed moments" in Iraq for me to be confident that anyone inside or outside the U.S. government actually understands Iraq.

The effort by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government to bar certain politicians from politics was one prominent warning sign that Iraq might actually be moving toward the "Arab mean" -- Middle Eastern leaders have been reverting to this tactic since Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser invented it in the early 1950s. More profoundly, there seems to be an undeniable logic to Iraqi politics that concentrates power in Baghdad, which does not bode well for democratic development. It remains an open question whether the U.S. military's almost seven-year mission in Iraq has undermined the unwritten codes, norms, and rules of behavior that governed Iraqi politics for the better part of a century before Operation Iraqi Freedom. We'll just have to wait and see.
I guess it needs to be said, but if events in Iraq haven't proved neocons right, then there's really no point in making the assessment at all. But notice what Cook is saying: The al-Maliki government is another Nasserite regime? And the concentration of power in Baghdad -- which is of course the seat of power in Iraq -- bodes ill for democracy? Maybe Foreign Policy should have commissioned someone else to write this essay. What's happening in Iraq is exactly the stuff of a vibrant democracy, and the popular participation and repudiation of terror confirm the finest expectations of neoconservative idealism. Last week's election was the culmination of years of change -- essentially revolutionary change -- that's nothing short of miraculous. As the Wall Street Journal points out:
It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq's national elections. Bombs and missiles, al Qaeda threats and war fatigue failed to deter millions of Iraqis of all sects and regions from exercising a right that is rare in the Arab world. Even the U.N.'s man in Baghdad called the vote "a triumph."

On Sunday, 61% of eligible voters came out in Anbar Province, a former extremist stronghold that includes the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi. In the last national elections five years ago, 3,375 people—or 2%—voted in Anbar. The other Sunni-dominated provinces that boycotted in 2005 saw similar numbers: over 70% turnout in Diyala and Salaheddin and 67% in Nineveh, all higher than the national average of 62%. American Presidential elections rarely have such turnout.
But see also, Richard Grenell, "Iraq: An Example for the Region":
Although Iraq still sees sectarian violence and terrorist bombings all too much, there is no question that the country has made monumental change to its political system and in a relatively short time.

This week's free and fair elections are yet another example of a young democracy taking hold in a country where just a few years ago real elections and campaigning were unthinkable.

No country in the Middle East gives its people more freedoms than Iraq does today. NGO's are being created weekly; a civil society has emerged to challenge the government's decisions, demand transparency, represent minorities and bring attention to people and issues that were ignored in the past.

Iraq has a free press that is unrivalled in the Arab world, unobstructed access to the Internet and a military that is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the heart of the world's most unstable territory.

While Iraq's very young democracy is messy, incomplete and imperfect, it is currently the envy of the Arab world.
RELATED: GSGF, "Getting it Right."


courtneyme109 said...

There is plenty for neocons to add to CFR's Ottoman Expert's bit @ FoPo - specifically in regards to a wonderful neoconic view of American Exceptionalism (that America will go anywhere and do anything she wants, for starters) - this article is significant.

It's the start of the crack in the dam

History has yet to be written for the long view of the day after 911 era, when it is, the neocons may very well be accepted as doing the exact right things

ex DLB said...

While Iraq's very young democracy is messy, incomplete and imperfect, it is currently the envy of the Arab world.

Yeah, name a few Arab countries that want us to do to them what we did to Iraq and then have 150,000 troops stationed there 7 years later. I'm sure the Arabs all appreciate the patronization of people like you and Grennell.

Tapline said...

DD, As usual great post. God knows what the future of Iraq will be like....A look at Turkey could be a sign??? We all know that nation tried for years to become part of the European Union but were put down every time... Attiturk tried.....stay well....

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Unbelievable how short-sighted critics are. They've been mouthing-off the language of failure for 7 years, every step of the way, looking at every milestone as a glass half empty.

This will take decades, and there will be more future setbacks and growing pains involved. It's a process; and it's not helped along by so much pessimism and cheerleading for Iraq to fail, just to prove in their minds, Bush was wrong.