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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The future of democracy in the Middle East lies with religious Muslims. That's the premise of What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building by Noah Feldman

Feldman was sent by the Bush administration in 2003 to help the Iraqis create a constitution. Uniquely qualified, despite his liberal Democrat background, he could speak and write Arabic fluently. He also had an abiding belief in the inherent compatibility of Islam and democracy. In an earlier book, After Jihad, he had made the case that Muslims desire democracy and they should therfore be giving the chance to govern themselves. He also believes the United States and Europe have been mistaken in supporting authoritarian governments. Let's not forget the CIA was involved in the overthrow of a nascent democracy in Iran in 1953 that resulted in the Shah coming to power, ultimately resulting in the hostage crisis under Jimmy Carter. Islamic terrorists have "long been motivated by their grievances against the authoritarian states in which they live." We in the West have always sacrificed our ostensible values for short-term allies.

The basic first step of any occupying power is to provide security and in that the U.S. has failed rather miserably. Not having enough troops on the ground to prevent looting following the invasion, the U.S., Feldman suggests, showed that they were not in charge. The result has been anarchy. Feldman remains optimistic. I, less so. Unfortunately, we have broken the pot; now we have to pay for it.
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