December 16, 2003

Tough Going

Also at The Weekly Standard, is this excellent essay by Reuel Marc Gerecht, titled "A Difficult Marriage". In it he makes clear how very complicated the political landscape is in today's Iraq, how tenuous the current "stability" really is, and how very diificult it is going to be to maintain that stability through the establishment of a functional democracy. Gerecht says that "when planning for success, it's always a good idea to imagine failure." He goes on to describe what an Iraqi dictatorship would look like. Assuming an eventual victory for the Shiite majority, Gerecht says that such a victory could "fracture" Iraq, and that it "could well be ugly."

Not as ugly, however, as the consequences for the U.S.:

The failure of the democratic experiment in Iraq would, however, have much worse consequences for the United States. George Bush has staked his presidency on Iraq. Indeed, the United States' standing in the Middle East and in the world depends on the transformation of American power into an Iraqi democracy....

Failure in Iraq would surely produce a new bout of timidity in America's foreign policy elite. One can already see in Washington and New York, among both Republicans and Democrats, a strong desire to return to a pre-9/11 world, where the fear of terrorism and rogue states did not define America's international relations and roil transatlantic ties. The French and the Germans, and perhaps the Brits, too (with the possible exception of Prime Minister Tony Blair), desperately want the Americans to act less "Promethean," to let democracy spread to the Arabs in the fullness of time, to treat terrorism, as the Clinton administration did, as a police problem, and to view again the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation as the fulcrum of the Middle East. It's easy to imagine Peace-Now Democrats and Wall Street-realist Republicans, chastened by Iraq, galloping backwards in time.

This piece is long, but is about as descriptive and detailed an account of the factions and influences bearing on the political future of Iraq that I have seen. Well worth checking out.

Posted by dan at December 16, 2003 10:55 PM