January 31, 2005

"Elections don’t make democracies."

I've been reading Riverbend's blog for at least a year, and over the last 4 months her posting has been sporadic due to electricity and phone problems (and the general malaise that seems to come from living in a war). In a recent post she directed readers to another Iraqi who seems to be doing fine in the bandwidth department. Imad Khadduri over at Free Iraq chooses cynicism over malaise, posting links to jihadist websites and dark political cartoons. Not all of his links are so sketchy though.

Frontpage Interview's guest today is Edwin Black, the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of IBM and the Holocaust, The Transfer Agreement, and War Against the Weak. His latest book is Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq's 7,000-Year History of War, Profit, and Conflict. (excerpts of interview follow)
Black: The people of Iraq do not want democracy. They have a 7,000-year head start on the West. If the people of Iraq wanted democracy, they don't need a permission slip from New York or London... I assure you, when the people of this region hear the word "democracy" they hear a code word for "you people want to take our oil."

FP: What can the United States start doing to increase its own legitimacy and win the war of ideas in the Middle East?

Black: Nothing. It is not our policy in Iraq the people resent, it is our very presence. It does not matter how many bridges we rebuild or schoolhouses we repaint... The reality is: we will never succeed in the Middle East until we get off of oil.

FP: You may be right, there are so many depressing and impossible realities here. But surely we can't just sit back and not try to instill some kind of democratization in that region. And surely there are many Iraqis who want nothing to do with dictatorship and want freedom. Despite the obstacles, we have to try to bring democracy to Iraq and the rest of the region. It is a key strategy in our war with radical Islamism. History teaches that the way to fight our totalitarian enemies best is to try to spread liberty and democracy as much as we can. No? If not, what alternatives are there?

Black: We will never succeed in Iraq. No one has ever succeeded in Iraq. Not all people on earth are destined for Starbucks and the American societal makeover... The people must yearn to be free. Elections don't make democracies. Democracies make elections. Compare the situation in Iraq with that in the Ukraine where the masses gathered in the squares day after day in the snow and the rain to rally for proper elections... We can help. We do help. But we cannot impose democracy from afar...

FP: ... Are you suggesting that we withdraw?... The key here is that we are not in Iraq now to just save Iraq; we are there because we are in a war with radical Islam. And we have no choice but to win. Do you not agree that withdrawal in this case is the greatest of evils?

Black: ...Neither world terrorism nor the Jihad were in Iraq until we created the power vacuum and opened the door. Under Saddam, no one was allowed to achieve any element of power base or rival his authority- not the Shiites, not al Qaeda, no one. But now they have rushed in. We are creating the world's next Chechen-style murder battalions... Understand, we are in an unwinnable struggle with an implacable enemy that knows no limit to their historic barbarism. That said, we must understand that while we cannot run, and while we can survive in Iraq, we will never succeed in Iraq. We must declare a war on oil addiction, and launch an international Manhattan Project to move the world to alternatives such hydrogen, solar, wind. We could do it for $5 billion in 5 years- or a month's war expense in Iraq. Then we rob the region of its arch-importance. Then we edge out of Iraq as the Israelis are doing in Gaza, as we did a generation earlier in Viet Nam. That will end the war in Iraq but the legacy of world terrorism, the new Mongol-style onslaught, shall be with us for generations.

There's a lot more stupid questions and informative answers but I wanted to leave room for an offering courtesy of National Lampoon.

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