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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Good News That No One Is Telling About Iraq

A map of the Middle East shows two countries untouched by uprisings against the established regime: Israel and Iraq. (another exception is Turkey, an Islamic country but not in the Middle East). Israel is no surprise. It is a democracy. If its citizens are upset with the government, they devote their energy to the political process. The fact that Iraq has been spared a general popular uprising is proof that it has arrived as a democracy. I have heard no reports of Iraqi authorities mustering troops and riot police to quell a general uprising.

Despite the huge imperfections of Iraqi democracy, Iraqis understand that they must channel their discontent into supporting political figures and parties that they feel represent their interests. They understand that they must resolve their grievances through the political process, not through revolution.

There is another untold story about Iraq. Studies of newly formed democracies (primarily in areas that were once part of the Soviet empire) reveal that true democracies have been created only in those nations that did not allow the former bureaucracy and party elite to continue their jobs. Only after a lustrification (Latin originally meaning religious purification) were they allowed to reenter the mainstream and hold public office. In countries where lustrification did not occur, the old elite became the new elite and prevented a democracy from being created.

In the light of this history, the much-criticized decision to cleanse the state and military of Baath party elite was correct.

Quite often obvious things like this escape notice. I think that silence on this story goes beyond the practice of not reporting what is going right. In the case of Iraq, there has been a great reluctance on the part of the democratic party and the press to accept positive news about Iraq. We must also accept the fact that democracies, both old and new, are messy and often chaotic. It is only in times like these, when we clearly see the consequences of authoritarianism and dictatorship and the peoples’ hatred of them, that we can see democracy’s advantages in proper perspective.

1 comment:

  1. Initially I was also thinking along these lines, but it turned out that Iraq is no longer safe from the turmoil. There are reports on the demonstrations happening in various province capitals, from Shi'i South to Northern Kurdistan. Thus, so far we can say that Iraq is different in that protests are local and not aimed at the central government. If this pattern is not changed, it will attest to the degree of effective administrative decentralization of the country (which itself is commendable).

    Also, there are other Arab countries not facing protests (yet?), primarily oil monarchies, including Quatar where Al-Jazeera is based.