2004 August 17 Tuesday
Reporter Visits With Civilians Caught On Najaf Frontline Fighting

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Scott Baldauf was in Najaf covering the fighting between US forces and Sadr's Mahdi Army and had to take refuge in a house with local civilian non-combatants. Baldauf found that the local Shias disliked the Mahdi Army but disliked the US forces even more.

At 10 a.m., the Najafis are in their front guest room. Seated on the floor, a cushion at his elbow, neighbor Ahmed al-Ramahe rues the day he ever heard of the Mahdi Army or its 30-year-old radical Shiite leader, Moqtada al-Sadr. "They say they're fighting for freedom, but they're killing more people than Saddam Hussein," he says, and the other men nod. "They know it's impossible for them to win this war. And we're stuck in the middle. We get most of the casualties. The Mahdi Army are just shooting foolishly, destroying our houses."

Two of the same men who nodded in agreement about their dislike for the Mahdi Army also caught a 15 year old kid spying on the Mahdi fighters and turned the kid over to the Mahdis to almost certainly be killed.

Back inside the courtyard, Ahmed and Sameer tell of their disappointment with the Americans. Originally, they greeted the Americans as liberators from Saddam Hussein, who repressed Iraq's Shiite majority. Now they see the Americans as occupiers. As moderate Shiites who follow the moderate Shiite Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, they originally condemned the Mahdi Army's hopeless fight against the powerful Americans - and the inevitable death and destruction it will bring - but now they sympathize with the Mahdi Army fighters.

Ahmed tells how he and Sameer discovered a 15-year old boy who had been acting as a spy for the Americans. He had been carrying a GPS (global positioning system) device in his sleeve, marking the positions of all the Mahdi Army units in the neighborhood. Ahmed and Sameer chased the boy down, and handed him over to the Mahdi Army, knowing they would probably torture and kill him.

"We wish the Mahdi Army would defeat the Americans, even though we are not for the Mahdi Army," says Sameer.

Baldauf did a good job of capturing the sensibilities of these people. Their loyalties run to extended family, religious sect, and other places unconducive to the sort of political and social transformation that the proponents of Middle Eastern democratization dream about.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 August 17 04:07 PM  Mideast Iraq


Comments
Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 8:39 AM:

Is it me, or is anyone else bothered by the possibility that we might have used a fifteen-year-old kid to do one of the most dangerous jobs around? I know the other side uses kids, but aren't we supposed to be better than that?

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 8:42 AM:

I find it interesting how much it is believed that the Iraqis are incapable of achieving democracy. In part, I think that is due to the mainstream media coverage of Iraq; for it seems all we hear about are less than one percent of Iraqs who are active troublemakers. And it is easy to think of all Iraqis in that light. But there are nearly thirty million Iraqis; the thousands of criminals, terrorists, foreign fighters, and Saddam-loyalists are in no way representative of Iraq. See www.iraqthemodel.com, http://hammorabi.blogspot.com/, http://www.roadofanation.com/blog/, http://iraq-iraqis.blogspot.com/, http://iraqataglance.blogspot.com/, for examples of Iraqis who desire a strong, free Iraq, and are working towards it. People are much the same everywhere, and I believe the Iraqis are capable of achieving democracy. And remember, only roughly a third of the colonists supported our war for independence- while roughly a third sat aside, and roughly a third fought against it. I think the Iraqis actually have better numbers supporting freedom.

But I also find it interesting that some conservatives think the war was a bad idea in the first place. They call those in support of the war and reconstruction 'neo-conservatives'; but forget that we have already successfully engaged in nation-building. Witness Japan and Germany. I would say those opposed to the war are simply conservatives who have not learned enough of the lessons of history.

For the war itself was critical for a reason going beyond WMD's. Saddam launched an aggressive war of conquest in Gulf War I; and we forced him to stop- remembering the prelude to WWII and how Hitler was allowed to increase power unchecked. We could have destroyed Saddam's regime then (as I believe ought to have been done); but we ceased active hostilities and allowed his regime to remain in power, predicated upon certain conditions. And Saddam continually and flagrantly violated those terms over the decade following.

For that cause alone, war was absolutely necessary (and completely legal). Had the League of Nations dealt with Italy's conquests in Africa prior to WWII, Hitler would have had a very real reason to try to not antagonize the League. Had France and Britain enforced the Treaty of Versailles when Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in defiance of the treaty, strong diplomacy alone may have been enough to have forced him to back down. I have read that he was quite concerned about possible reactions, and was relieved at the tepid response. Even had war started then, Hitler would not have gotten the resources of Austria or the Sudetenland so easily; his starting position would have been significantly degraded.

More critically, Bin Laden viewed the US as a weak nation- a nation that would back down- due to our overall policy under Clinton, Somalia being the most glaring example. And that encouraged him to attack. Had he feared swift and overwhelming retaliation, he might not have been so eager to do so. Bin Laden is not a suicide bomber, even if he employs them.

And as a result of the war in Iraq, other dictators who might be interested in WMD know we mean what we say regarding them. Regardless of whether or not there actually were WMD's, it was commonly-accepted knowledge at the time that Saddam had some; and our response to him would be judged by the bad guys as if we were responding to someone who had them, and who was defying the US in regards to them. And regardless of how reconstruction is progressing, the sight of Saddam being pulled from a hole in the ground is excellent deterrence, and gives us a great deal more diplomatic power where it counts- against the bad guys. I do believe that helped significantly in Libya, and may prove invaluable elsewhere.

Possible WMD's themselves and connections between Saddam and terrorists simply bolster the above argument. The mainstream press has focused on WMD's, but I recall the President mentioning that as only one of several reasons. And he was clear that Iraq was not an imminent threat, but also that allowing Iraq to become an imminent threat was untenable. The humanitarian reason was also a good one, especially considering that an indirect result of our attempt at containment through sanctions was the death of many Iraqis as Saddam stole vital goods from his people (not to mention the Iraqis he killed directly). The 'collateral damage' argument many have posited against the war is invalidated by that reality. (And I do not recall reading about how the French loudly complained about the thousands of French civilians we killed liberating France during WWII, and opposed our actions doing so. Freedom is not free, and never has been; but it's worth the price.)

The case for reconstruction is different than that for the war, but it is equally compelling in my mind. First, if we simply destroyed Saddam's regime, looked for WMD's, and then left, we would leave behind a power vaccuum that would most likely be filled by another Saddam- or Iran. And the probable civil war that would be involved would tend to nullify the humanitarian reason. In the end, we would have to deal with the problem again, especially if Iran took over the region. That was a basic lesson we learned from WWI, and we applied it to the aftermath of WWII. We reconstructed Europe, including West Germany, and did what we could to ensure that the circumstances would not be favorable to another Hitler.

The principle is most clearly seen in Japan, however. Many do not understand that the most critical reason for dropping the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not winning the war militarily, and they point to Japanese willingness to surrender beforehand as evidence the atom bombs were not necessary. However, the critical reason for the atomic attacks was to destroy the Japanese militaristic system, so that another, better system could replace it. It was not enough to militarily defeat that system- it had to be replaced, else Japan would simply build up for another conflict. The atom bombs allowed us to rebuild Japan to be something much better than it had been, and there has been no cycle of violence between us and them. Despite the fanaticism and extremely different militaristic culture of the Japanese at the time, we built Japan into a democracy that has lasted for fifty years.

In the first Gulf War we militarily defeated Saddam, but did not destroy the system that caused the problem in the first place. And the idea of simply surgically eliminating Saddam would not have worked; for it would not have destroyed the system. In the current war, we have destroyed the system, and are in the process of rebuilding it. Note how long it took after WWII to accomplish the same thing, by the way (and also note how it did not look good in Germany to some for a while). And from what I am seeing on the internet, it is going well in Iraq overall. Many Iraqis are beginning to understand what freedom means after years of repression, and are willing to fight for a democratic Iraq. Witness the constant high number of volunteers for the Iraqi police and national guard, despite the deadly attacks on those organizations.

But there are yet two more key reasons for reconstruction. The geopolitical importance of a functioning democracy in Iraq would be immense. The repressive nations in the Middle East are the chief breeding grounds of international terrorism. A functioning, healthy Arab democracy would give the 'common' people in the surrounding nations hope that they could achieve the same, and would put great pressure on their leaders to move in that direction- and thus away from systems friendly to terrorism. Even now some of those regimes are beginning to deal with terrorists instead of allowing them to operate freely. It also would put both Iran and Syria between two Allied nations, and make strategic encirclement of those rogue states more effective. This powerfully augments the critical reason for reconstruction.

Finally, terrorists understand the importance of a free Iraq enough to want to stop it if possible. But that pits them against the most powerful military in the world- a force which can more easily deal with them; and it diverts significant terrorist resources from attacking civilians at home. Taking the battle to the enemy is critical; we cannot simply sit back and defend every possible target forever. To do so effectively would require that we give up far more freedom than we have already. Thus reconstruction is a critical aspect of the war on terrorism.

Those who say in opposition to the war and reconstruction that we should be friends of liberty everywhere, but defenders only of our own, do not understand the reality of practical geopolitics today. The Monroe Doctrine was applied early in our history, encompassing all other regions in the Western Hemisphere. Why? Because of their proximity to the US. Projecting power across oceans then was extremely difficult. Nowadays, however, in a practical sense the world is much smaller thanks to technology. Oceans are no longer a defense; nearly every nation is essentially our neighbor. And there are transnational organizations who can, from the shelter of other nations, quickly and easily penetrate the US and cause much damage here; we cannot stop them all through passive defense. The spirit of the Monroe Doctrine clearly applies to the entire world today, not just to the Western Hemisphere. Simply defending our liberty therefore requires us to do what we have done in Iraq.

And yes, we've made mistakes in reconstruction. But that is completely understandable; nation-building is not something nations do very often, nor prepare to do as a general rule. But the mistakes are no reason to not perservere in the effort. Learning from mistakes is healthy, focusing on them to the exclusion of everything else and throwing up one's hands in despair is not. And if we could rebuild the fanatical Japanese system into something far better, I do not see why the same cannot be done in Iraq. And from what I can see, we and the Iraqis are succeeding- and far faster than we did after WWII. Reconstruction took many years in Germany and Japan.

In the end, I cannot trust John Kerry to do what's right regarding the defense of this nation. But I can trust GW to do so, despite our differences on social spending and other things; he understands what is needed. Electing John Kerry may well teach Republicans a lesson; but it may come at the cost of a WMD attack in the US, with a possible toll of hundreds of thousands of lives. All other things aside, that risk simply is not worth it.

gcochran said at August 18, 2004 9:24 AM:

"People are much the same everywhere." No, they're not. Are you blind? They don't look the same, they don't act the same. TRhey don't _think_ the same. The frequencies of polymorphisms affected behavior varies enormously from place to place - you want to see the number?

Bush sold the invasion with WMD: exdcept for that, he never would have had Comngressuional support. Attempts to minimize that important of that false argument are dishonest. Don't be dishonest - you'll burn in Hell.

Since only a few percent of Southerners were actuallly served with Lee, I suppose you'd say that only an insignificant percentage of the South supported secession. A specious and a dishonest argument. Or, maybe you're just stupid. When we sent the 'Iraqi Government' troops we'd trained to Fallujah, 82% deserted - put that in your pipe and smoke it. That's why we quit there: we faced a general revolt if we kept it up. We have _no_ support in Iraq, and why would anyone have ever expected that we would? Look at the damn polls: Al_Sadr is enormously more popular than we are - not because he's really respected for himself, but because he resists the US.

Invading Iraq changed things: for example, before, 75% of Indonesians had a favorable impression of the US before. After, 83% had a negative impression. I suppose you think that's a great blow against Moslem terrorism - makign a Moslem country of ~200 million people deeply hostile to the US, one recently friendly. I suppose you think that terrorists - a hugely overrrated threat, by the way - will find it harder to operate in a Moslem/Arab world that has become more enormosuly more hostile to the US as a result of Iraq?

Bush is a fool, perhaps the greatest fool we've ever had a President. Kerry is a zero, and therein lies our hope: he'll quit, which is just what the doctor ordered.




Langdon Down said at August 18, 2004 9:33 AM:

Dear Mr. Nelson,
You've got it entirely wrong.
Saddam was never more than a small-time dictator, a comic-opera type figure with aspirations way above his capabilities, and a man of very limited intellectual faculties to say the least.In short, Saddam was a thug, a street fighter who managed to climb up the slippery pole and stay there through sheer thuggery.This appears to be the only wayt an Iraqi leader can cling on to power and hold their wretched nation- A 1920 artificially created League of Nations mandate state - born from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, together.
To compare Saddam to Adolf Hitler, a man of real stature and intelligence, the leader of a powerful cultured nation is simply ridiculous.
Concerning Gulf wars 1 and 2, we must ask ourlselves Cui Bono?
At the time of Gulf war 1 there was a lot of wind passed by panicky journalists and stupid politicians about Saddam cornering the World oil supply and having an economic stranglehold on the West.For those with a modicum of economic literacy, a moment's ref;ection reveals this to be an erroneous fallacy.But nevertheless it was the genesis for the whole crisis.
Reason number two is much more controversial.It must be realised that Saddam's Iraq posed a potential threat to Israel, the so-called "neo-cons" who unfortunately infest the higher echelons of the Bush regime managed to lead the prize chump by the nose and get him to do a tidy amount of "dirty work" for them.Neat.

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 9:59 AM:

People are indeed much the same everywhere regarding what counts- good and evil, in an absolute sense. Cultures are in great part simply an outward shell; what matters is what is on the inside. Some people choose to follow good, some evil- and it is that way all around the world. What we are doing is ensuring the people who have chosen good are in power in Iraq, in a free society with checks and balances.

Regarding WMD's, GW did not 'sell' Congress on them; the intelligence was enough. I read the 9/11 Commission's report on Iraq intelligence, and it is clear GW did not lie or pressure the intelligence community to present what he wanted them to present.

Regarding Fallujah, there are three spheres to the perception front of the war (in which we are fighting our own mainstream media). One involves those who are fighting us. Another is the normal Iraqi (the tens of millions who have not fought us, to put it another way). And the third is the home front. Leveling Fallujah from the first would indeed have appealed to the home front and sent a strong message to those fighting us. But in truth, Fallujah is a hostage situation, as was all of Iraq under Saddam. Leveling Fallujah would require killing many Iraqi civilians who want no part of those fighting the US. By exploring every reasonable alternative before committing to the final option- and more critically, allowing the Iraqi interim government to do so- we are shifting the perception of millions of Iraqis for good. Many now see the militias as fighting Iraqis- not the US; and more now want to see the militias massively destroyed. (See the sites to which I linked for examples.) The strategy being pursued in Fallujah, Najaf, and elsewhere is to help the Iraqis recognize and deal with the problems themselves- which will be necessary anyhow at some point if they are to be free.

And I do not believe Al Sadr is more popular than the US. One of the chief problems in Iraq has been that everyday Iraqis have been terrorized over the years to not say or demonstrate what they really believe. See here, for example: http://messopotamian.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_messopotamian_archive.html#109251090824364686 . But the constant air strikes on Fallujah demonstrate that we are getting good intelligence from within the city, which means there are Iraqis willing to work with us. And it seems that that is so increasingly as ordinary Iraqis awaken from the sleep of terror into which their hearts and minds were forced. Read the sites which I referenced here and in the above post thoroughly, and then see if you can honestly tell me again that Iraqis are incapable of freedom.

As to the world view of the US, much of the world liked the US as a victim. Much of the world doesn't like us when we awaken with a vengeance.

Tough.

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 10:05 AM:

Hitler, cultered- a man of stature? No- evil is evil. And evil men respect force, and the will to use it. Hitler and Saddam's cultural propensities and education are irrelevant.

As to Gulf War I, maintaining the free flow of oil was indeed a serious matter. And stopping Saddam before he increased his power further through control over much of the world's oil was also critical. Saddam's military was (on paper) larger than ours prior to Gulf War I; and he could have done much more with the oil of Saudi Arabia. The Hitler effect is clear to those who understand the lessons of history- Saddam had to be stopped early.

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 10:23 AM:

"And I do not believe Al Sadr is more popular than the US."

Hmmm. Do we believe you or our lying eyes?

American soldiers don't dare leave the Emerald City or other fortified bases without oodles of armor for fear of the locals. Sadr's men live with and in the population and they've been able to melt in and reappear practically at will. So whose more popular with the locals? You make the call, Phil.

BTW, nice copying of Norman Podhoretz's rebuttal by filibuster.

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 10:26 AM:

"But the constant air strikes on Fallujah demonstrate that we are getting good intelligence from within the city, which means there are Iraqis willing to work with us."

Yeah, fifteen-year-old kids. What a proud moment for our country!

"And it seems that that is so increasingly as ordinary Iraqis awaken from the sleep of terror into which their hearts and minds were forced."

And we're doing this by using a puppet government that threatens to shoot reporters who don't leave combat areas? Quite an awakening from terror, Phil. Oh yes, now I can see why they "hate us for our freedom."

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 10:31 AM:

No- that's all my writing; and much of it was done at the end of July (see here: http://p090.ezboard.com/fjpspanzersfrm1.showMessage?topicID=4586.topic).

Anyhow, in a literal sense you cannot believe your eyes since you are not there (and neither am I, to be sure). If you are to believe something about it, you must believe other sources. I've linked to some of mine. (The best is Iraq the Model, by the way; read the whole thing, if you have time.)

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 10:39 AM:

Fifteen year-olds can make their own choices for good or evil; and to demean a choice for good is not wise. And I do not believe the Iraqi government is a puppet government. To look at it another way, how would you accept falsification of your contention? If they asked us to leave and we went? Is there not a logical possibility that they recognize that they need our help, and want us to say? As I said, read the sources to which I linked.

As to reporters, there are some places they do not belong. Reporters did not have free access to everything in WWII either; and in fact they were heavily censored- nothing could be published without being screened first (something I think should be implemented in Iraq). And in that vein, many of today's reporters I consider to be treasonous. One who decides to film an ambush instead of warning our military about it when they could have done so is a traitor, in my opinion.

gcochran said at August 18, 2004 10:40 AM:


So, since there han't been a government in Mesopotamia that has had a touch of interest in individual rights for the last five thousand years, I'm supposed to think that the dice have come up 'evil' for 200 generations?

We're striking Fallujah. What makes you think we're hitting the targets we want to? Although since absolutely everyone there hates us, I guess we can't miss, eh?

There is a simple way to determine who is correct - whose predictions come true. I predicted, before the war, that'd we'd find no nuclear program in Iraq, and damn little of anything else. I was right. Were you? I predictd we'd find no evidence of any real collaboration between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. I was right. Were you?

I predicted that original invasion would be a walkover, and that we might lose fewer than 100 KIA, certainly less than 200. I was right. Were you?
I predicted that we'd encounter a low-level guerrilla insurgency, and that it would get worse with time. I was right. Were you? I predicted that world opinion would turn very much against us after Iraq. I was right. Were you? The typical 'conservative' pundit predicted that Saddam's capture would weaken or end the insurgency. I thought otherwise: I reasoned that since he was military incompetent and enormously unpopular, his capture would if anything strenghten the resistance, in the medium to long run. It would be easier for Iraqi nationalists and religious conservatives to join the resistance, absent his noisome presence. Moreover, fear of Saddam was one of the factors that had kept the Shiites passively cooperating with the US: He was the bogeyman, we were their shield. Once we were foolish enough to capture the bogeyman, we were never able to get the kids to clean up their rooms anymore....

I guess the fact that Westerners can't travel safely anywhere in Iraq, that the Green Zone faces mortar and rocket attacks every night from _within_ Baghdad, that avowed enemies of the US control East Baghdad, that most of the construction projects have shut down, that a quarter of the US reconstruction money has been allocated to mercenary security units, that oil exports are lower than they were before the war and continue to decrease - that's not the real truth. You have 'blogtruth', which is ever so much better than the products of those lying eyes and cameras.

More generally, it was obvious in advance that there would be enough resistance to pose the hard question to every Iraqi: Whose side are you on? The only two sides are the US and the Iraqi resistance: we have few local supporters, we have no 'side', no local faction whose interests really align with our. Other than the Kurds, of course. Thinking positively, we're bringing the Sunnis and Shi'ites together: you have Fallujah sending help to Al-Sadr at Najaf. Foreign occupation has welded tribes into a antion before: we must be so proud.

55% of Iraqis are illiterate. But I guess that can't interfere with their readiness for democracy. because everybody's the same deep inside, see?
Shit, I'd hate to be the same as you, deep inside. Do you really think I am?

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 11:03 AM:

I didn't accusse you of plagiarism, Phil. Only of copying Podhoretz's tact of trying to drown his adversaries in an avalanche of bullshit.

Yes, we can't see everything there, but we can make judgements on what's visible. For one thing Sadr and his people move through the population practically at will. We cannot and dare not. Those are facts, plainly seen in the armored convoys and surprise guerrilla attacks. If you can't infer from these facts that we are more unpopular than Sadr, then you simply unwilling to reason from the evidence.

"Fifteen year-olds can make their own choices for good or evil; and to demean a choice for good is not wise."

Is this war worth so much that you would really prostitute your moral commonsense? Apparently so.

"As to reporters, there are some places they do not belong."

Yeah, apparently "some places" include any location that might embarass the Bush Administration or its Iraqi sockpuppets.

Randall Parker said at August 18, 2004 11:06 AM:

Philip Nelson,

As for the democratization success stories: The US has tried to democratize many countries and US democratization efforts have failed more often than they have succeeded. Even when countries become democracies many revert back to non-democratic forms of government. See, for example, my post Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies.

As for people being the same everywhere: if people are much the same everywhere then why are various crime rates and government corruption rates different between countries literally by orders of magnitude? Why are national average IQs different by a range of about 48 points from the highest to the lowest IQ countries? Why is there such a strong correlation between IQ and per capita GDP? That is especially problematic for democratization efforts since low IQ and low per capita GDP countries never remain democracies.

There are serious flaws in any comparison between Germany and Japan on one hand and Iraq on the other hand. See my post Stanley Kurtz: After the War for links to articles that point out the flaws in arguments that try to draw historical parallels with post-WWII Germany and Japan.

Then there is the problem with consanguineous marriage and the effects that high levels of consanguinity have on politics.

I've pointed to a number of other factors that prevent development of democracy in the Middle East.

Are you unaware of all the evidence about why some countries are not going to become democracies? Take the time to click thru on all those links above and read all about these factors.

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 11:18 AM:

"For one thing Sadr and his people move through the population practically at will. We cannot and dare not. Those are facts, plainly seen in the armored convoys and surprise guerrilla attacks."

That is not supported by the data I have seen, especially the first statement. There is a reason Al Sadr has not been back to Sadr City; he can't get there. Rather, he and his thugs are limited to hiding behind civilians and mosques, and threatening them. As to puppets, I would say that rather Al Sadr is a puppet of Iran; and many Iraqis understand that.

And violent events as you described are an extremely narrow percentage of total events in Iraq. The violence in Iraq is very limited (consider the size of Iraq, the number of people there, and then the number of incidents per day). If you focus on the violence to the exclusion of everything else, then your viewpoint will be skewed. Why dismiss the Iraqi bloggers out of hand?

By the way, Mr. Parker, I will try to read to what you have linked.

gcochran said at August 18, 2004 12:03 PM:


Of course the Iraqi government is a puppet. It has no army that will fight for it, very little money, very little popular support. The only thing it has going for it is American support. Allawi is known by everyone to have been a CIA agent; do you really think someone with that background is going to be embraced by Itaqis? And we make clear that it is a puppet: US officers shush Iraqi spokemen when they begin to say the wrong things.

As for democratizing countries - look at the record. Germany was been a real democracy during Weimar, and there were still lots of people around who had participated in it, such as Adenauer. For that matter, the Diet mattered quite a bit in Bismarckian Germany. And Germany had, except for the Nazi interval, been a government of law for a long time. There were other factors that favored democratization in Germany. A high level of educationn, for one. A demonstrated capacity for societal cooperation (which can be a good or a bad thing, of course). They embraced US and allied occupation because, among other things, it was ever so much better than the alternative - Soviet occupation. In this sort of thing it is not much whether you are good in an absolute sense, rather whether you are better than the alternative, and we certainly were. Japan was an even _more_ orderly society, and it too had had significant experiments in parliamentary government during the 1920s.

Countries that self-organize can build competent armed forces, but can also be easier to occupy after defeat. Iraqis are not good at self-organizing, not nearly as good as Europeans - that's been true since Xenophon wrote Anabasis.

As for other US efforts at democratization - well, one might want to consider Haiti. We first occupied it from 1915-1934: we trained the army, ran the burreaucracy, wrote the textbooks, built the roads, beat the feeble guerrillas (cacos). Then we left, and they elected a bright young reformer - Papa Doc. And they lived happily ever after !

Back on Iraq: have you ever wondered what fraction of the country is under the control of Allawi's central government? Let us define what that means : it would mean obeying laws passed by that central government, paying taxes to that central governemtn. In that sense, I figure that Allawi at most controls parts of Baghdad. I think that he controls none of the Sunni towns, except to the extent that American armed forces occupy them. It seems that anti-US forces take over such towns (Fallujah, Ramadi, etc) the moment that US forces leave - we control only what we stand on - because a big majority of the local fighting men reject the US. Which is entirely natural and expected.

Now this appears to be the case, to an increasing extent, for the Shi'ite south as well. The Kurds run their section, and are not opposed to us (because we protect them from the bogeyman, Sunni or Shi'ite dictatorial rule), but they aren't really subject to Allawi. They have their own army, their own administration.

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 12:21 PM:

"There is a reason Al Sadr has not been back to Sadr City; he can't get there."

Phil, I simply don't know how to respond to a statement as willfully ignorant as the above. The reason Sadr is in Najaf is that, outside of Mekkah and Medinah, it's the holiest shrine in Shia'ism. He picked that place because it afforded him a tactical advantage. This is something we knew and attempted to stop. The fact that he could still get there, not once, but twice, utterly unimpeded by our forces, shows how well connected he is, even in a city like Najaf, which is not his base of operations. Further, the fact that his forces still control Sadr City, along Kut and other Shiite centers, shows that his movement is not a one-man phenomenon. A simple one-hour read through even the most introductory literature would have revealed all this to you.

"As to puppets, I would say that rather Al Sadr is a puppet of Iran; and many Iraqis understand that."

Again, your ignorance is showing. I'm certain Sadr is getting support from Iran, as the Iranians like to have all their bases covered, but he's not their man. He didn't spend two decades training and building up a brigade for them. SCIRI did. SCIRI, as you may or may not know, is one of our allies. Sadr, if anything, represents something of anti-Iranian trend in Iraqi Shiism.

"The violence in Iraq is very limited (consider the size of Iraq, the number of people there, and then the number of incidents per day)."

The violence in Iraq extends from Mosul in the north to Basra and other parts south. It's occuring from the Iranian border all the way over to the Syrian border. If this is your idea of "limited", heavens preserve us from what you consider "extensive."

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 12:21 PM:

All right- I skimmed through the articles to get the kernels of them. Here are a few points:

As to installing democracies, there two key aspects you do not reference. One is that while democracy is used to describe free nations with representative forms of government (as I have done in previous posts), an actual democracy is not a very good form of government. What is far better is a federal republic, with checks and balances built into it. I think that more than IQ or GDP is a key to why the US has succeeded as it has. Our national structure encouraged GDP growth and the immigration of people who saw the opportunity inherent to our society- thus increasing the real, practical intelligence of our nation. A proper federal republic will encourage both the increase of GDP and real intelligence, something you did in a way allude to as a possibility. (I think IQ is a flawed measure, by the way. For instance, wisdom is far more important than sheer brain power.)

The second is that the reconstruction of Japan and Germany was preceded by total victory; those nations were thoroughly beaten, and knew it. We did not achieve total victory over Latin American nations or South American nations; and total victory is critical to reconstruction of a hostile nation.

Now though comparable in some ways, Iraq is indeed not completely comparable to them, and cannot be- since the populace largely was not supportive of Saddam. (If they were, why all the mass graves and torture?) As I said, it was essentially a hostage situation; and we did destroy Saddam's regime.

But perhaps a key difference between us is that I view those fighting us as not representative of the Iraqi population at large; thus trying to use brute force methods to achieve total victory over the militantly hostile elements will involve killing many innocent Iraqis. That is the primary reason the solution to the conflict in Iraq is difficult; weeding the tares from the wheat is not an easy process. But we have the firepower to level Iraq easily; there can be no question of that. And if I am wrong in my assessment of the population, then the solution is obviously much simpler. Use massive force to achieve total victory since nearly all Iraqis are militantly hostile; and once the enemy knows it's beaten- whatever it takes- we can go to work. But pulling out without doing either of the two is not an option.

Yet it is clear to me that most Iraqis are not against us. There are almost thirty million of them. There are only a few hundred thousand of us at most. There are massive stockpiles of weapons all over the country. If they militantly wanted us to leave, the violence over there would almost be unimaginable in comparison to what it is now! If they really supported Sadr, the population would fight for him; they could easily do so. Yet the vast majority are not. It is far too easy to lose perspective, given the skewed coverge of events there. As much as possible we must destroy the hostile elements without destroying the innocent with them, though that is unavoidable to some degree. But the perception is being reinforced among Iraqis at large that the militant among them are attacking Iraq- not the US; and they are responding well to that, which is excellent.

One key to strong Iraqi freedom is establishing a proper federal republic- not an actual democracy. GDP and IQ are not an insurmountable impediment to that; rather, they will follow. What is needed now are enough Iraqis who understand what is involved with such a republic, desire real liberty, and perhaps most importantly, are willing to work towards it and learn along the way. Are Iraqis inherently incapable of that? I do not believe so; and in a large enough population, I believe there will be at least some people like that, if not many. They must be enabled to step forward and begin fulfilling civic responsibility. Two of the Iraq the Model brothers are doing just that in running for the Iraqi National Assembly, and many local elections have already taken place across Iraq.

Consider our own population during the War of Independence. Only roughly a third supported it, as I said earlier- only a third. Two thirds did not, and a third were actively against it (roughly). (And the Founding Fathers were but a small percentage of that.) Though I believe the partitioning is better than that in Iraq, it is clear that a key to the situation is that the right 'third', so to speak, must set up the system of government; and we must do what we can to help. Will there be immense difficulties? Absolutely; yet it is worth the attempt.

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 12:23 PM:

"Allawi is known by everyone to have been a CIA agent..."

And before that, he was one of Saddam's hitmen. We found ourselves a real winner there.

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 12:42 PM:

Derek, do you really think Al Sadr could get to Sadr City right now? He is ringed in tightly in Najaf. As to his being a puppet of Iran, 'puppet' is perhaps too strong a word; but I have read data indicating that he is heavily supported by Iran.

Anyhow, a puppet government is simply a guise for a controlling government. Yet I have not seen evidence that we are controlling the Iraqi government; rather, we have been following their guidelines in Najaf. And Allawi is not the only man in the Iraqi government; were the hundred members of the Iraqi delegation also all ex-CIA agents?

Randall Parker said at August 18, 2004 12:45 PM:

Philip,

I've pointed you to a number of articles that provide a lot of evidence unfavorable to your position. Your response shows little signs of having taken the time to think about those arguments. You just dismiss them as unimportant. IQ is extremely important. The psychometric research literature can't be dismissed simply with an assertion that wisdom is more important. The practice of consanguineous marriage is an important obstacle for democratization and so is Islam with the role it accords religion in politics.

I'm not interested in having a long-winded debate with you. You write really long posts and yet do not directly tackle the points raised that are injurious to your argument. You can go read the social science data and the historical analyses by scholars. I've linked to them. They are there for your consideration. If you don't want to take the time then there is not much I have to discuss with you.

Our own war of independence: Once the pro-independence forces won the Tories were driven into exile in Canada. Who are we going to drive out of Iraq? To where? Also, the pro-independence forces were sufficiently motivated to take up arms against their fellow countrymen. Where the the pro-democracy forces in Iraq that are willing to fight the Mahdi Army?

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 1:07 PM:

"Derek, do you really think Al Sadr could get to Sadr City right now? He is ringed in tightly in Najaf."

That city is full tunnels. The Shrine is also surrounded now by thousands of Sadr's civilians. In fact, Sadr and his father managed to get around for quite a while under Hussein's rule. The Americans, who know neither the land nor the people, are far less of a barrier to him.

"Yet I have not seen evidence that we are controlling the Iraqi government..."

That's because you've placed your head deep inside your G.I. tract.

gcochran said at August 18, 2004 1:13 PM:

" There are only a few hundred thousand of us at most. " Christ, you don't even _know_ how many troops we have in Iraq. what makes you think you can figure out the proper course in international relations when you don't _know_ anything? Reminds me of Wolfowitz of Arabia, testifying to the Senate, saying that at least we wouldn't have all those pesky holy cities in Iraq. (unlike Saudi Arabia) I don't think he was lying: I think he's a God-damned idiot.

I guess that you don't have to know anything in particular if you have an ideology - since 'people are much the same everywhere', you don't need o know particulars, such as whether they can read, their history, their national character, their IQ, their beliefs. I can see it's a lot easier that way. Too bad it doesn't work.


to Derek Copold: yeah, I knew about Allawi being a hit man, but I didn't want to pile on, ya know?

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 1:22 PM:

Randall, what matters in regards to brain power is what you do with it. A fool can misuse genius, while someone with wisdom can do much with little. IQ is only part of a broader question; to focus exclusively on it is a mistake. How people use the brain power they have is clearly more important than how much they have. Resources are good, but it is in their use that their actual value as applied is determined. Do you dispute the idea that a proper federal republic will likely result in increased GDP and IQ?

And though they may be difficult obstacles, are consanguineous marriage and state-mandated Islam insurmountable obstacles? Some polls (for what they are worth) have shown that the majority of Iraqis do not want an Islamic government like Iran's. Cultures do not change overnight, to be sure; yet some people will love liberty enough to change in some of the areas that conflict with the principles of republic. The latest article on Iraq the Model indicates that, for example. (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/archives/2004_08_01_iraqthemodel_archive.html#109284558267127549) I quote:


"The children were happy carrying their application forms but the story is about some girls who refused to have pictures taken for them, I asked one of them “what would you like to do when you finish your studies?”. She replied with apparent sadness “I’m not going to finish high school, my parents won’t let me continue after 9th grade”. I asked again “Is that what you want?” she replied “I don’t know, it’s for my parents to decide....”.

On the other side some parents confirmed that they insist to have their daughters finish their studies “the future is different from the past as you know doctor” one of those parents said to me."


And in news reports about the fighting in Najaf, an all-Iraqi special forces team was mentioned as being assigned to clear the Shrine if necessary. I have seen news reports of how many people (including women) are signing up for the Iraqi police and national guard, despite being targeted by militia. And the Iraqi police and army have been fighting militant Iraqi's. It seems to me that they are motivated enough to fight with fellow-countrymen.

No one ever said it would be easy or quick, or that there would not be great difficulties. But despite that I believe it is worth the attempt, which is perhaps the kernel of our disagreement. Anyhow, I'm not interested myself in long-winded point and counter-point, which is one reason why I have not responded to everything. One note- I would say it is unarguable that when it becomes clear an axiom is incorrect or misapplied, then that must be dealt with before one deals with whatever is built upon that faulty foundation, as the structure may be irrelevant as a result. As such, I have tried to discuss some of the basic principles involved. Clearly, though, our minds are already decided.

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 1:25 PM:

To arrive at three hundred thousand I was including contractors and other such civilian support personnel along with army figures AND a very generous error margin against my argument, as is a common tactic....

Philip Nelson said at August 18, 2004 1:27 PM:

If Al Sadr has to resort to tunnels to escape, it is clear that the population of Najaf itself cannot be an effective conduit on its own- which was the orginal contention.

Derek Copold said at August 18, 2004 1:37 PM:

For an infomative, and disturbing, analysis of the fight I recommend you read the story posted here:
http://www.libertyforum.org/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=news_international&Number=292869858&page=0&view=&sb=&o=&part=1&vc=1#Post292869858

Note, Phil, that it took two days for our "popular" forces to travel 120 miles because of local resistance.

As to the tunnels, Phil, I know you'd prefer Sadr march out into the desert where we can bravely fight him from 30,000 feet, but he's not that stupid, which is why he keeps handing us our ass.

Fly said at August 18, 2004 4:11 PM:

Philip Nelson, welcome to the ongoing argument.

I also follow the Iraqi bloggers. And the US military bloggers. I believe the US administration is following a multi-front, multi-level battle plan with alternate continguency plans. I hope (but don’t know) that those plans include Iran and North Korea.

The links Randall provides are valuable. The difficulties the US faces in changing the ME are real. However the military, economic, political, and cultural power the US can use to force change is also real. As is the desire of the Iraqis for a better nation. I believe the US can enforce change in the ME. (I doubt the resulting ME governments and culture will resemble the US but they will be far better than what is there now.)

My major concern is whether we have time. Can the US change the Islamic world before we lose a US city? I’m doubtful.

On the other hand I’ve seen no better alternative than the Bush strategy.

PS

Very mature of you to ignore the Ad Hominen attacks and focus on the issues.

gcochran said at August 18, 2004 4:25 PM:

Fly: wy don't you make a few quantitative predictions? Then we could bet, and I could take your money. Good for me, and educational for you. Funny how a government that can't figure out that Iraq had no nuclear program - which even _I_ knew - can have a sophisticated long-range plan that has any chance of working.

Wolfowitz said we'd be down to two divisions in Iraq by September 2003: I though we wouldn't be able to withdraw anyone at all. That's not a blip - just about every thing the Administration thought would happen, hasn't. The success of any long-range plan depends on the validity of the worldview of those who developed it, but these guys are practically always wrong. Yet you believe his extrapolations rather than mine - why?

I don't knock whetherr you pick your nose or put your elbows on the table - or, now that I think of it, whether you even have elbows - but you sure say a lot of foolish things.

Fleming said at August 18, 2004 8:48 PM:

Iraq has always been a hopeless situation. Bush was very reckless with his political capital when he took that risk, given that no other arab country has been capable of sustaining a democracy for long. It will be a wonder if Bush wins re-election, given his risk-taking. But Kerry is enough of a self contradicting non-entity to allow Bush to win. And Kerry's supporters are about as stupid as the arabs in the story.

The arabs in the story are certainly too stupid to rule themselves. Tribal arabs are some of the stupidest people on earth. Of course there are cosmopolitan arabs who can be quite sophisticated, and almost make you think that maybe these arabs could pull it off.

Just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it's impossible. Just very, very difficult.

Derek Copold said at August 19, 2004 6:56 AM:

" I believe the US administration is following a multi-front, multi-level battle plan with alternate continguency plans."

You play the Lotto, too, don't you?

Philip Nelson said at August 19, 2004 7:27 AM:

Thanks, Fly. :) Ensuring regime change occurs in Iran will be critical; I wonder when Europe will awake to the threat. If we wait too long, Iran may be able to strike Europe with nuclear weapons. There are hints we are tightening the noose around Iran (witness the Caspian Guard diplomatic initiative- http://www.techcentralstation.com/072904B.html).

As to Najaf, there is some excellent analysis on www.orbat.com and www.belmontclub.blogspot.com.

The key point here is that if Al Sadr had the level of support some here seem to think he has, he would have far more people in his militia than the best estimates of a fwe thousand fighters (some of which are foreign). There are millions of Iraqis, and incredible amounts of weapons available there. Why aren't more people fighting for Sadr if he has that level of support?

For a good analysis of the situation, read what an Iraqi has to say. (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/archives/2004_08_01_iraqthemodel_archive.html#109256777898814773) I quote:

"There is another factor here that helps to explain why Sadr gets such support that involve not only She’at clerics but all the anti American front in Iraq, which is formed of a bizarre mosaic of Ba’athists, Religious fanatics whether Sunni or She’at backed by terrorists from outside and unlimited support from the neighboring countries as well as all anti American anti democracy powers. Still there is a question regarding the non-Shea’at components of the anti American front. Why would they all show considerable support to Sadr that’s far more than they should any other part?

I think the answer to that is that they saw in Sadr a more ‘legitimate’ voice than the others, as it’s true that although most of his army is composed of criminals and even ex-Ba’athists, there are still some poor and ignorant Iraqis who suffered a lot at Saddam’s time and were not able to voice their demands. These people found freedom now but many of their demands are still haven’t been met. Some of them misunderstood freedom and were deceived by Sadr words and are attracted by his father’s name.

The non-She’at parties saw in Muqtada’s revolt a golden opportunity to further disturb peace in Iraq and hinder American and Iraqi efforts to build a democracy. Also they are very determined to push any peace agreement away, unlike the She’at parties, because they hope that Sadr get killed and that this would inflame the position further.

To summerize it, all the parties who support Sadr do not want him to succeed. Some just want him not destroyed because it will harm them too (She’at clerics) and others want him killed or arrested because they mistakenly think that this will make it worse. The truth is that most Iraqis don’t support Sadr and do not care what happens to him and even if he get killed, his militia which is a very unorganized crazy bunch will disperse into small gangs that kill and steal without any political ambition."

That statement seems to me to be supported by the facts as we know them; for it explains why Sadr does not have much real, boots-on-the-ground support from Iraqis, yet might do well in polls.

Philip Nelson said at August 19, 2004 10:34 AM:

You can find more interesting information about Al Sadr and the Iraq situation here at Strategy Page:

http://www.strategypage.com//fyeo/qndguide/default.asp?target=IRAQ.HTM

Derek Copold said at August 19, 2004 11:43 AM:

The only thing notable about the Belmont Club blog is it's atrocious record of error. It tries to portray every Centcom screw-up, like Fallujah, as being some kind of brilliant, complicated success. Strategy page is no better. Iraqi blogs have to be treated with a great deal of skepticism because all of them are attached to one cause or another, which infects them with a severe case of Munchausen's syndrome. Chalabi isn't the only liar over there.

Akefa said at August 19, 2004 1:02 PM:

I looked up strategy page and belmont club. Other points of view are always helpful. Thanks for linking them. Does anybody know if there are blogs written by actual Iraqis?
But I disagree that we should spend so much money over there. There are more important causes back home that need money. Like HIV in the African American community.

gcochran said at August 19, 2004 7:45 PM:

In another forum, I remember people endlessly quoting "Belmont Club", which wrongly predicted every event in the Fallujah battle. The actual facts were simple enough: everyone in the town hated us. We were quite capable of crushing them militarily any time we wanted to, but between the likely civilian casualties (and their PR consequences), the likely marine casualties if we tried hard to avoid civilian casualties (and their domestic PR consequences), and growing indications that we were pissing off everyone in Iraq to the extent of risking general revolt, we folded.

People kept saying how we were going to utterly crush those Fallujah bastards, show them what happened to people who dry-gulched American contractors. Monitoring the Iraqi response, I said we'd quit - I was right, again, which evidently just proves how evil I am or something.

Fleming said at August 19, 2004 9:10 PM:

Arabs aren't known for their restraint toward their enemies when they have the upper hand. Iraqis are tentative because americans are infidels, and they lose face with other muslims if they're seen as american puppets or needing the americans too much. They want to do it on their own but they're clearly not capable.
But they need to understand that if they're seen as weak, nobody in the world will respect them, especially not their fellow arabs/muslims. Arabs love winners, at all costs. That's why so many Iraqis are already longing for a return to strong-man rule. The tribal ethic, with the headman mentality, is too much in their blood. The headman never hesitates when shedding blood is called for, unless he has to stall for time to build strength and advantage.
The fake headman hesitates time and again (think Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton) and never seems able to act.

Randall Parker said at August 19, 2004 9:29 PM:

Fleming says about the Arabs:

They want to do it on their own but they're clearly not capable.

Well, there is a fundamental flaw in that argument: The Arabs fighting against US forces are sufficiently capable that if the US forces were to leave those Arabs would take over much of Iraq (with the possible exception of Kurdistan). The Mahdi Army can manage to take over whole cities now. They are not as capable as the US Army but they are capable enough to grab power in the absence of the US Army.

We can't train an Iraqi Army that will fight the insurgents. Is this because the Iraqi Arabs are not sufficiently capable? Some commentators claim that the problem is that training an army takes time. But those Mahdi fighters didn't require months of training. The key thing they have is motivation.

By contrast, there is no faction of the Iraqi society that is so thrilled by the prospect of Jeffersonian Democracy that it is willing to take up arms to free the nation from Islamist fighters. Where are the Iraqi bands of freedom lovers rising up to fight street by street to take out the Mahdis?

Reality is trying to tell you something. It is right there in front of your eyes. But to see it is really tough because you have to give up the cherished myth that the majority of every country aspires to have a society that resembles Western countries in their political freedoms and liberalism.

Philip Nelson said at August 20, 2004 6:40 AM:

I did not say a majority of Iraqis aspired to freedom. A majority of the colonists did not aspire to freedom, either. The right segment of the population must be empowered; and that takes time.

Also, the Iraqi police and national guard are improving steadily; and many people are joining them. That is where the Iraqis willing to fight for freedom are going, and they know they may die for it.

gcochran said at August 20, 2004 8:27 AM:


That estimate of the split in the American revolution is probably bullshit: there were certainly a lot more Rebels willing to fight than Tories, even though that meant taking on big odds, fightng against one of the strongest states in the world.

But suppose it was a third: that third created armies out of nothing that were willing to fight against the British Empire. In Iraqi the pro-Nelson forces have the backing of a powerful occupying army (the most powerful army in the world) - yet they refuse to fight, they disintegrate in desertion. They don't want to fight fellow Iraqis: they say so. Tp be blunt about it, I'm sure that the big majoirty of the forces we've 'trained' would be much happier shootng at us, if they thought they had any chance. Some say so out loud.

Let's compare this to Vietnam - I think it's illuminating. Some things were worse for us in Vietnam than in Iraq. Our technological edge was smaller. The bad guys had a real state behind them, North Vietnam, from which they could get conventional troops as well as arms aid. In fact, after the local guerrilas in S. Vietnam were pretty much wiped out, they were replaced by NVA. North Vietnam got significant aid from China and the USSR.

On the other hand, we had a side, probably related to the fact that we didn't invade and conquer Vietnam. There was a government in Vietnam before we arrived and it had some support - enough that it had a real army, one that fought hard enought to lose more than a quarter million KIA. Probably most people in South Vietnam wanted us to win.

In Iraq, we have no side at all, nobody who wants to fight for us. Outside the Kurds, virtually everyone wants us out. And they'll get their way - the poltical will to continue this indefinitely does not exist. No reason it _should_ exist - this war has no purpose at all.


Philip Nelson said at August 20, 2004 9:03 AM:

You're focusing on early accounts of the Iraqi police and national guard. That is not how many are behaving now; from what I have been reading, many have have performing well. And they seem to be steadily improving.

gcochran9 said at August 20, 2004 9:08 AM:

You're insane: one whole battallion lay down its weapons and refused to fight a week ago. Stay in your own fantasy world - you'll like it better than the one everyone else has to live in.

Derek Copold said at August 20, 2004 12:19 PM:

"You're focusing on early accounts of the Iraqi police and national guard. That is not how many are behaving now; from what I have been reading, many have have performing well. And they seem to be steadily improving."

Ah, I see we even hired Baghdad Bob for our new puppet government.

Phil, if the ground troops are doing well, you don't flatten urban centers with AC-130 gunships. That you don't recognize this means, as Greg has pointed out, that you flat refuse to reason from the facts available. I know it sucks having to admit you were wrong, but there's only so many soldiers this country is willing to waste (and that's the word for it) trying to turn Iraqis into Americans. The sooner you realize this, the better for everyone.

Fly said at August 20, 2004 5:36 PM:

Randall: “Reality is trying to tell you something. It is right there in front of your eyes. But to see it is really tough because you have to give up the cherished myth that the majority of every country aspires to have a society that resembles Western countries in their political freedoms and liberalism.”

I don’t have a “cherished myth” that every country aspires to be a Western liberal democracy.

Many countries have an educated, secular class that would like to leave behind fundamentalism and dictatorships. Even Saudi Arabia has such a class. This class is a minority of the overall populations. Many of these countries also have a growing fundamentalist Islamic movement.

So most Muslims don’t want to become liberal democracies. On the other hand countries such as Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq were or are ruled by groups that fund and preach hatred toward the US. That funding and preaching creates a terrorist supporting culture that will eventually have access to WMD’s.

Closing US borders and withdrawing from the ME won’t stop terrorists from attacking the US. Energy research (as much as I personally favor it) won’t stop the teaching and funding of terrorism.

The US is trying to use military, economic, and political pressure to enforce change in Islamic countries. The US may fail as it is going against cultural, religious, and nationalistic forces. In Iraq the US is also facing terrorists from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Europe and China also want to see the US trip. A liberal US media that is overwhelmingly Democratic and strongly focused on attacking Bush makes the task much more difficult.

The Bush strategy has multiple fronts and multiple levels with contingency planning. Bush didn’t devise the plan. (He has neither the intelligence nor the experience to do so. That is not his job.) The plan works best if Iraq becomes a successful democracy. If that fails, the plan still succeeds in that Saddam is gone and Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are encircled. The plan also succeeds in that the US has proven that it is willing to invade and depose rulers who threaten the US. Whether by carrot or by stick, the US will force the ME governments to change.

This does not mean the US will be successful. We are at war. There will be successes and failures. Parapundit focuses on failure. There have been successes. (I’ve seen recent reports of shutting down Wahabbi mosque funding and of a crack down in Pakistan on the Madrassas.)

Randall, you continually address problems with the top-level democratization strategy. What about the secondary effect of deposing Saddam and encircling Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia? If the US has to stop Iran from developing nukes isn’t the task easier with Saddam gone and the US military on Iran’s borders?

Randall Parker said at August 20, 2004 5:53 PM:

Fly,

The invasion of Iraq has undermined a nuclear proliferation preemption strategy as well as anti-terrorism efforts in several ways:

  • The US military is tied down in Iraq. There are no troops to spare for another invasion.
  • We can not afford another invasion.
  • The American public doesn't trust the Bush Administration to competently handle another invasion.
  • The Bush Administration is now seen as the boy that cried wolf. Its claims of a nuclear threat from Iran are weighed against its false claims of such a threat from Iraq.
  • Muslim countries and other countries are much more hostile toward any proposal for the US to invade yet another country having seen the effects of the US invasion of Iraq.
  • We now know the neocon claims of a major connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are ridiculous exaggerations at best.
  • The invasion has decreased Iraqi oil production rather than having the opposite promised effect. This has increased the price of oil and therefore increased the amount of money available to the Wahhabis. It has probably increased the amount of money available to Al Qaeda as well.
  • It is obvious that the invasion of Iraq has not helped us undermine Al Qaeda.

Bush has made the task more difficult. So have Cheney, Wolfowitz, Lewis Libbey, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith. Put the blame where it belongs.

gcochran said at August 20, 2004 6:45 PM:


In an ideal world, we'd put that whole crowd in the stocks. At minimum. Are there any creative lawyers out there who can gin up some way to do this?

Thomas Hoyt said at August 21, 2004 1:51 AM:

Mr. Parker, you bring up a number of excellent points:

Why is there such a strong correlation between IQ and per capita GDP?

First, there have been a number of criticisms of the methods used by the researchers you refer to, including the fact that standardized IQ tests translated into multiple languages and given across multiple cultures are problematic at best and the fact that only a few hundred people in each nation were tested, as well as others mentioned in the article you linked to.

Even accepting the correlation, however, note that their exceptions include nations that earn well above what their national IQ would suggest, like Qatar, probably because of natural resources like oil, and those that earn well below, like China, probably because of its socialist economy.

Also, their research suggests that an increase in per capita GDP may increase the national IQ (and vice versa, of course), which in turn suggests that IF Iraq ever gets full use of it's oil, both their GDP and national IQ may well increase.

That is especially problematic for democratization efforts since low IQ and low per capita GDP countries never remain democracies.

From the Harvard study you quote in another post:


The probability that democracy survives increases monotonically with per capita income. Between 1951 and 1999, the probability that a democracy would fall during any particular year in countries with per capita income under US$1,000 was 0.089, implying that their expected life was about 11 years. With incomes in the range of US$1001 to US$3000, this probability was 0.037, for an expected duration of about 27 years. Between US$3001 and US$6055, the probability was 0.013, which translates into about 78 years of expected life. And above US$6055, democracies last forever.

In 1955, 10 years after its defeat, Japan had a per capita income of $208 (that would be from "The Rise of Modern Japan," W.G. Beasley, p. 259 - sorry, no link), which would have given it a very low chance of remaining a democracy. A high growth rate kept increasing the odds until they passed the magic $6055 mark.

The statistic is static, but economic performance is dynamic. If Iraq achieves a decent rate of growth, then (according to this study) they have a decent chance of making it to democracy, regardless of other factors. If insurgents continue to successfully attack oil lines, etc., and retard growth, or if other internal or external factors prevent adequate growth, then they may indeed prevent Iraq from making it to a sustainable democracy.

As for IQ, the national average IQ they list for Iraq is only six points below Ireland, it is the same as Mexico and Brazil, and it's a full 15 points above South Africa. This does not seem to support your idea that their national IQ is too low to develop democracy, particularly if future economic growth is coupled with an increase in national IQ.

Speaking of Japan, Kurtz's article you linked to was incredibly uninformed on Japan. From the article:

... Japan’s leaders had enacted an ambitious series of reforms, amounting to a social and political revolution. Known as the Meiji Restoration, this revolution from above ...

The Meiji Restoration was a military revolution, not "an ambitious series of reforms" and most certainly not "from above." AFTER the Restoration was completed, i.e., after the revolutionaries came up from below and violently overthrew the government of the day, they did indeed institute a great many changes "from above." The fact that he cannot get the basics of the Restoration correct would suggest he is clueless about Japanese history, which the rest of his article bears out.

More Kurtz:
...the U.S. merely had to shove the Japanese back onto the democratic road they had been voluntarily roaring down for nearly a century.

As Kurtz wrote, it's true the revolutionairies maintained a limited role for the emperor, but the Japanese emperor had been powerless for centuries. This was not the change Kurtz suggests. They did create a constitution, as Kurtz wrote. However, they based it and their government on the German model of the day, specifically because it gave the appearance of democracy (elections, a parliament, etc.) but not the reality of it (no authority to pass independent legislation, no control over the budget, etc.). The military had been the real power since the 1400s, and the Meiji reformers continued that tradition.

It is true that democratic ideals were widely talked about, but there were no real effects until the Taisho era (1912-1926), and they died there as well (literally, from political assassinations, etc.). From the 1920s, Japan increasingly rejected democracy and embraced militarism.

Yet more Kurtz:
If Iraq currently lacks a modernizing, democratizing class, like Japan’s samurai bureaucrats...

Ouch. 1. The samurai bureaucrats could hardly be considered a "democratizing" class. They were hereditary feudal retainers owing loyalty to either the shogun or the lord of their individual fiefs. 2. 1945 Japan did not have a samurai class, mainly because it was abolished in the 1800s. 3. The effect, in the 1870s, of Japan having ex-samurai in power was a primary reason they did NOT achieve democracy until after 1945.

There are many reasons Iraq may not achieve a lasting democracy, but I do not find the reasons you give about per capita income or national IQ compelling at the moment (though the per capita income issue may indeed become compelling). I especially find Kurtz's attempt to compare Japan and Iraq laughable, although he does seem to make good points in other areas.

You may have very good points about consanguinity, etc. I do not have the time to read them today, but plan to do so in the near future.

Thank you very much for your posts. You are an excellent writer and I learn a great deal from this blog, even when I disagree with it.

Respectfully,

Thomas Hoyt

Fly said at August 21, 2004 9:51 AM:

“The US military is tied down in Iraq. There are no troops to spare for another invasion. We can not afford another invasion.”

The US won’t be occupying or rebuilding Iran, Syria, or Saudi Arabia. The US has sufficient military force to change the ME countries.

“The American public doesn't trust the Bush Administration to competently handle another invasion.”

The election in November will answer this question. If Bush loses, he could still commit the US to striking Iran before the administration changes. If Kerry is elected he may find that his choices are pretty much limited to continuing the Bush strategy.

“The Bush Administration is now seen as the boy that cried wolf. Its claims of a nuclear threat from Iran are weighed against its false claims of such a threat from Iraq.”

The election is November will show what the US populace believes.

“Muslim countries and other countries are much more hostile toward any proposal for the US to invade yet another country having seen the effects of the US invasion of Iraq.”

Muslim countries have been hostile to every military, economic, and political action by a non-Muslim country against a Muslim country. Even when Saddam invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia, the Muslim countries did not support removing Saddam.

France and China are enemies of the US. Most of Europe has interests that don’t coincide with US interests.

World opinion influences US actions but can't be allowed to stop the US from protecting itself.

“We now know the neocon claims of a major connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are ridiculous exaggerations at best.”

The direct connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam were never strongly claimed. There is plenty of evidence of indirect connections and lower level connections. There is also strong evidence of Iraqi involvement with other terrorist groups. Plus all the other reasons for getting rid of Saddam.

“The invasion has decreased Iraqi oil production rather than having the opposite promised effect. This has increased the price of oil and therefore increased the amount of money available to the Wahhabis. It has probably increased the amount of money available to Al Qaeda as well.”

I don’t like the additional oil funds flowing to the terrorist sponsors. (It also helps Chavez.) Ultimately I believe US force is required to stop the teaching and funding of Islamic terror. Unfortunately war in the ME causes disruption of oil supplies. I believe the US is trying to minimize the risk but it can’t eliminate it.

(On a positive note the recent oil price spike should speed the development of alternate fuels that should have the long-term effect of undercutting ME oil prices.)

“It is obvious that the invasion of Iraq has not helped us undermine Al Qaeda.”

It is not obvious to me. US willingness to depose Saddam makes the threat of US force much more credible. I believe that demonstration of US power has made many third world nations more cooperative in the fight against Al Qaeda. It will be many years before we understand how this plays out.

(Al Qaeda is only a part of the overall threat facing the US. Too much emphasis on Al Qaeda misses the larger strategic necessity for deposing Saddam.)

Fly said at August 21, 2004 9:52 AM:

Thomas Hoyt, interesting comment. I look forward to more of the same.

gcochran said at August 21, 2004 10:19 AM:

France is not an enemy of the United States, Fly. You are.

Randall Parker said at August 21, 2004 1:08 PM:

Thomas,

I think Przeworski used inflation-adjusted dollars in his study of economies and democracies. So a number for the Japanese dollar per capita income in 1955 is going to be misleading unless adjusted for inflation.

Also, per capita income is not so much the cause of what makes democracy possible as it is a measure of the qualities of a people that are essential for making a democracy work. The Japanese had the qualities needed to create a high per capita income society. They had much of their capital stock wrecked by US bombing. But they had the qualities needed to rebuild and to create a working democracy (albeit one that is rather odd and deferential to the Mandarins).

Per capita GDP as a proxy for other qualities of a people also explains why the US could have a successful democracy back in the early 1800s even though it had a very low per capita income at the time. The technological knowledge didn't exist to create a high per capita income society back then. But the US had the qualities to sustain a democracy and later to become much more wealthy as the amount of technological knowledge accumulated.

Iraq's average IQ: But they have other factors weighing against them such as consanguineous marriage, Islam, and Arab culture.

Mexico only started having a real democracy in the 1990s. Before that it was an effective single party state for most of the 20th century. Whether Mexico will remain a democracy remains to be seen.

I think you are picking nits on Kurtz's analysis of Japan. Yes, it was a military revolution. But it was also a very ambitious series of reforms. What happened to Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century was very rapid change engineered from above. The fact that it was capable of being engineered from above was a result of characteristics of the Japanese people. They took orders. Their bureaucrats did not simply see government jobs as a means to hand out benefits to their families. They could create a modern bureaucracy. Many nations (including Iraq) are incapable of creating such a democracy for reasons such as consanguineous marriage and low IQs..

Yes, Kurtz goes too far in describing Japan as having had a roaring democracy. But what they had was not too shabby before the military's officers started killing all the civilian leaders who opposed them. After WWII the US military replaced the Japanese military and thereby prevented the civilians from being knocked off. The mechanisms were then in place for success. Not so with Iraq.

"Japan’s samurai bureaucrats" didn't have to be a "democratizing" class in terms of their motivations. They just had to be non-corrupt, organized, competent, and willing to follow orders. Iyad Allawi lacks such a bureaucracy in Iraq. That puts him at a huge disadvantage, don't you think? A competent bureaucracy that does not have to be terrorized by a dictator to get it to follow orders is a very valuable enabling element for the eventual development of democracy. If government can continue to function when evetually a succession of elected officials take office then people are going to be a lot more happy about elections and the results they bring.

There are 20 some (too lazy to look up a number) Arab states. None is a real democracy (though a few have elections that do not transfer real power). I see that as very compelling evidence that there are powerful factors working against democracy in Arab countries. I'm putting forward very plausible factors for why democracy has failed in the Arab countries.

Proborders said at August 21, 2004 1:15 PM:

Fly, the US military is stretched as it is. A military draft may be resumed in the near future.

Iran, it seems, wants to acquire nuclear weapons. One way of preventing Iran from continuing on the path toward nuclear weapons would be an invasion and occupation of Iran.

It seems that unless Iran decides not to acquire nuclear weapons or the US is willing to accept an Iran with nuclear weapons, military conflict between the US and Iran may be inevitable.

In my opinion an invasion of Iran equals a military draft in the US unless other countries are willing to provide large numbers of troops or the US greatly increases the size of its volunteer military.

Volunteer soldiers tend to be more expensive than soldiers who are drafted. With large budget deficits in America's present and future a military draft might be seen as a cheaper way of increasing the number of soldiers in the military.

Interestingly enough Kerry and Bush have two daughters each but no sons (excluding Kerry's stepsons). Cheney also has no sons. Edwards has an adult daughter, a young son, and young daughter. Edwards's deceased first son would, I think, be of draftable age if he were alive.

By the way Presidents L.B. Johnson and R.M. Nixon both had no sons.

Might a President with draftable age sons be more reluctant to engage in warfare that requires a draft unless the country has been attacked?

I think the public would be more likely to accept a military draft from a President Kerry than from a second President G.W. Bush administration due to Kerry's active duty service. However, another 9-11 on US soil might minimize opposition to a draft, regardless of who is sworn in on January 20, 2005.

Perhaps some people think that Bush should have called for a military draft after 9-11.

In terms of Middle East policy there might actually be few major differences between a G.W. Bush second term and a J.F. Kerry first term.

Fly said at August 21, 2004 4:08 PM:

Proborders: “the US military is stretched as it is. A military draft may be resumed in the near future.”

The US ground forces are stretched. Readiness and training are likely suffering. However re-enlistment levels are good. (There are re-enlistment problems in selected specialties but that is normal.) New recruiting is also doing well with new recruits meeting or exceeding previous standards. I expect the US military will increase in size. I’d also guess that significant seasoning is occurring. I believe the US military is growing stronger as weapons and strategies are tested and improved.

The only government calls for military draft that I’ve heard came from anti-war Democrats. The US military strongly favors a volunteer, professional force.


“In my opinion an invasion of Iran equals a military draft in the US unless other countries are willing to provide large numbers of troops or the US greatly increases the size of its volunteer military.”

I don’t expect an Iran conflict to resemble the Iraqi invasion. I also don’t believe the US would try to occupy the country, maintain order, and rebuild the society.

I agree that the US doesn’t have the ground troop strength or the willingness to spend treasure to treat Iran as the US did Iraq.

“Might a President with draftable age sons be more reluctant to engage in warfare that requires a draft unless the country has been attacked?”

Having no sons, I’m not in a position to say. I’ve read several military bloggers who have sons who have already enlisted. Also a military mom whose daughter went to Iraq.

I personally believe that US soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere are saving US lives here at home. If the US makes it through the coming decades without losing a city I believe it will be due to their efforts.

“However, another 9-11 on US soil might minimize opposition to a draft, regardless of who is sworn in on January 20, 2005.”

I’m not in favor of a draft. Warm bodies are not the same as dedicated, trained soldiers. If the US faces additional military threats I expect the US to fight meaner with less concern for collateral damage or world opinion.

My main worry is that before the US can force ME governments to change an American city will be nuked. The resulting escalation could (and in my opinion would) lead to total war.


“In terms of Middle East policy there might actually be few major differences between a G.W. Bush second term and a J.F. Kerry first term.”

I suspect you are correct.

One of my concerns is the degree to which our country is polarizing. Whether Bush is re-elected or Kerry is elected, our nation needs to unite. With all the hatred that may be difficult.

Thomas Hoyt said at August 22, 2004 11:15 AM:

Randall:

I think Przeworski used inflation-adjusted dollars in his study of economies and democracies.

Indeed, he used Penn World Table prices. That was an obvious mistake and I apologize. The adjusted number would have been about $673, if I'm reading the tables correctly, which is still in the low-survivability range.

You are also right that he does not claim high per capita income creates democracies. However, neither does he claim that per capita income is a measure of the qualities of a people for developing democracy. Since you suggest that it is, I would be interested in seeing what qualities you think are necessary and why/how you think they correlate to income. It's an interesting idea.

(I should also mention that it was not a Harvard study, as I said above, but rather an article published in a Harvard journal. Sorry for the error.)

Reading Kurtz's article again with a bit more charitable eye, he still does not convince me he has any real grasp of Japanese history. Ignoring most of the anachronisms, minor errors, etc., and dealing with just the main thrust of his argument about Japan, I have to question whether the Japanese bureaucrat contributed to democracy beyond his ability to follow orders from the Occupation authority, especially in regards to Kurtz's claim that modern bureaucracy separates the man from the office, instills the idea that rules apply to all equally, and that they blow apart traditional social structures.

Pre-Occupation Japan had strong elements of both Confucianism, with its emphasis on family duty, and of feudalism, with its emphasis on personal loyalty to a powerful individual in exchange for favors and protection rather than on loyalty to any state or government. Even the historical Japanese sense of nationalism was not seen as loyalty to the nation, but rather as individual fealty directly to the emperor. The Imperial Japanese soldier did not fight for his country; he fought for his emperor.

Beyond this, Kurtz takes the ideals espoused by samurai bureaucrats in a feudal, agrarian society in the early 1800's and attributes them to 1945 non-samurai bureaucrats who grew up in an industrialized nation, and he does so without any explanation of how the two are connected or this transfer of ideals occurred. He uses that anachronism as his sole explanation for Japan's modern, "democratizing" bureaucracy in 1945, which isn't enough.

I find Kurtz's statement that all the Allies had to do was put Japan back on track to democracy over-stated. Yes, they had elections, but when their elected representatives were powerless without the approval of unelected oligarchs and appointed bureaucrats, what did it mean? The Ba'athists created a parliamentary system in Iraq in 1968 and had regular elections, but what did that mean?

Additionally, I think Kurtz overlooks a number of important differences between Iraq and Japan. First, Japan was and is a far more homogenous society with virtually all Japanese sharing the same language, religion, social outlook, sense of being Japanese, etc. This was a big point in favor of Japan's success, I think, and lack of it is a big problem in Iraq. Then there was the emperor, at that time the moral and religious leader of Japan. Imagine if al-Sistani was an unchallenged caliph, believed by all Iraqis to be the divine representative of Allah on earth. When the emperor went on the radio and told the Japanese people to cooperate with the Allies, they did. (No, they did not do it because they desired democracy or American-style freedom. They did it for reasons that fit into their pre-1945 worldview.)

On the other hand, the Japanese had virtually no natural resources, unlike the Iraqis. If they can get rid of the insurgents, economic development will be much easier for the Iraqis than it was for Japan.

Your (and his) points about consanguineous marriage and tribal ties in Iraq are good ones. Will these things alone prevent democracy from taking hold? I don't know. Combined with three hostile social groups forced to build a nation together, competing religions, insurrection aimed at undermining the government and stopping reconstruction, and enemies in surrounding states, they very well might.

I still do not find your idea of low Iraqi national IQ being a hindrance credible. As I pointed out, it's only 6 points below Ireland's, and the same as Mexico's, so it's easily in the range of possibility. I'm aware of Mexico's history, and that they achieved democracy without much of the help the US is giving Iraq. Mexican democracy looks fairly stable, which also indicates it's possible for the Iraqis, as far as national IQ is concerned.

Occupation in Japan lasted from 1945-52, and Japanese economic growth didn't really start taking off until 1955. The Japanese economy was supported by the US with fixed currency exchanges, large imports, etc., for decades. By 1977, 32 years after their defeat, the Japanese had a per capita income that meets Przeworski's minimum to permanently sustain democracy.

I suspect, if it works, that the democratization of Iraq will likewise take a generation. I do believe it is possible, but not that it is inevitable.

Randall Parker said at August 22, 2004 1:00 PM:

Thomas,

Consanguineous marriage and the tribal ties are incredibly important because they prevent rule of law. They produce corruption. They reduce economic development.

I agree that the homogeneity of Japan was (and still is) important. But why is that important? Because it means they didn't have tribal, linguistic group, or other divisions of blood. It was easier to get everyone to feel loyalty to a central state when there were not competing sources of loyalty. Iraq is full of such competing sources with splits between Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shias, tribes, and lower level loyalties down to the level of cousins who are married to each others' sisters.

Islam makes democracy problematic. Look at Turkey. It has taken the better part of a century for democracy to develop there. It could not have happened without the Turkish military dedicated to secularism serving as guard rails against both Islam and corruption for Turkish democracy to reach the point where it might be sustainable. Even now the future of democracy in Turkey is by no means certain. Of course, Turkey has a lower rate of consanguineous marriage than Iraq and the Turks were intellectually reacting different to the rise of Europe even in the Ottoman Empire era. Also, there is no charismatic figure in Iraq equivalent to Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) who is dedicated to secularism and Westernization of Iraq. Ataturk even went so far as to force the Turks to switch to a Western style alphabet.

The United States does not have either the patience to serve as the equivalent of Ataturk's secular military. Plus, the US forces are seen as infidel outsider invaders (which they are of course) and so they lack the nationalistic legitimacy that the Young Turks had in Turkey.

Iraq has all these problems on top of the IQ and per capita GDP problem. Low IQ by itself is an obstacle and the lower the IQ the bigger the obstacle. If all the other factors in Iraq were more favorable then perhaps lower IQ would just produce the sort of corrupt semi-democratic government that Mexico has. But Iraq has many other problems on top of a less intellectually able population.

Ireland has the English language and proximity of Britain going for it. Multinationals can supply the English-speaking upper levels of management for branch offices and those managers can easily communicate with and coordinate the work for large numbers of workers.

Oil is problematic as well because oil provides the state with a source of funding independent of the productive work of the middle class. This allows the state to be less responsive to the needs of the middle class and hence less motivated toward creating the kind of environment in which the middle class has incentives to accumulate skills and capital.

Randall Parker said at August 22, 2004 1:06 PM:

Thomas,

Consanguineous marriage and the tribal ties are incredibly important because they prevent rule of law. They produce corruption. They reduce economic development.

I agree that the homogeneity of Japan was (and still is) important. But why is that important? Because it means they didn't have tribal, linguistic group, or other divisions of blood. It was easier to get everyone to feel loyalty to a central state when there were not competing sources of loyalty. Iraq is full of such competing sources with splits between Arabs and Kurds, Sunnis and Shias, tribes, and lower level loyalties down to the level of cousins who are married to each others' sisters.

Islam makes democracy problematic. Look at Turkey. It has taken the better part of a century for democracy to develop there. It could not have happened without the Turkish military dedicated to secularism serving as guard rails against both Islam and corruption for Turkish democracy to reach the point where it might be sustainable. Even now the future of democracy in Turkey is by no means certain. Of course, Turkey has a lower rate of consanguineous marriage than Iraq and the Turks were intellectually reacting different to the rise of Europe even in the Ottoman Empire era. Also, there is no charismatic figure in Iraq equivalent to Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) who is dedicated to secularism and Westernization of Iraq. Ataturk even went so far as to force the Turks to switch to a Western style alphabet.

The United States does not have either the patience to serve as the equivalent of Ataturk's secular military. Plus, the US forces are seen as infidel outsider invaders (which they are of course) and so they lack the nationalistic legitimacy that the Young Turks had in Turkey.

Iraq has all these problems on top of the IQ and per capita GDP problem. Low IQ by itself is an obstacle and the lower the IQ the bigger the obstacle. If all the other factors in Iraq were more favorable then perhaps lower IQ would just produce the sort of corrupt semi-democratic government that Mexico has. But Iraq has many other problems on top of a less intellectually able population.

I do not see why you dismiss the importance of IQ. Of course dummies are not going to be as literate. Of course dummies are not going to be able to judge the wisdom of complex policies that governments pursue for a variety of purposes. Debates about economic policy are only intelligible if you understand such difficult concepts as marginal return, derivatives, and integrals. Debates about cost/benefit ratios of safety regulations and environmental regulations sound like gibberish to a less bright person.

Ireland has the English language and proximity to Britain going for it. Multinationals can supply the English-speaking upper levels of management for branch offices and those managers can easily communicate with and coordinate the work for large numbers of workers.

Oil is problematic as well because oil provides the state with a source of funding independent of the productive work of the middle class. This allows the state to be less responsive to the needs of the middle class and hence less motivated toward creating the kind of environment in which the middle class has incentives to accumulate skills and capital.

Thomas Hoyt said at August 23, 2004 11:36 AM:

Randall,

We're talking a bit across each other here. I'm still addressing whether or not Kurtz's article is a good comparison of Iraq and Japan, while you've moved on. I'll try to catch up after the next paragraph.

Briefly, I think I have shown that Kurtz's article makes a number of historical mistakes, that there are serious questions about his main contentions regarding Japan, and that there are better explanations than his. You understood immediately why a homogenous society was important, and I would argue that it was far more important than his claims of samurai bureaucracy and a long history of pseudo-democracy. Kurtz's article may (or may not) be otherwise good, but it almost completely fails as a discussion of Japanese democratization.

Moving on, I found the information you linked to on national IQ to be pretty interesting. But I do not think it conclusively shows Iraq's national IQ is low enough to have a serious negative effect in the short term, particularly since the US and other nations are loaning Iraq their IQs, so to speak. Also, we do not have historical data for comparison - what was Japan's national IQ in 1945?

For the long term, national IQ is too dynamic to guess. Education and GDP both affect IQ. We know what Iraq's national IQ was in 2002, assuming the study was right, but we do not know what it will be in 2032, after a new generation has gone through whatever education system evolves in Iraq and after whatever economy has developed. The Iraqi economy and educational system may become modern miracles that produce geniuses galore, or they may fall into utter ruin and produce ever greater dunces. The present situation is too fluid for national IQ to be an effective measure of the odds of success. The security situation and whatever happens to Iraq's oil will be much better indicators in the near future.

As to the rest, the question is, how much social change can be induced in the next generation? I think a great deal of change could occur, but it depends on a lot of things. If anything goes seriously wrong with the economy, or if the security situation does not improve, or if the US runs out on them, or if their education system is not seriously improved, then democracy in Iraq is probably doomed. Even if all these things go well, it doesn't ensure democracy will succeed, but it would lay the foundation for serious social changes.

One of the key changes in Japan was US insistence on women's rights (including property ownership, suffrage, education, and equal divorce rights, among others), which broke the stranglehold their society kept on them. This led to changes in marriage patterns, which led to changes in family norms. The Japanese family today is very different from that of 50 years ago, as is the structure of Japanese society.

In the end, of course, you may be right. Maybe the societal factors you mention are too much, but many people thought the same of Japan, and indeed of the US when it was just beginning. I agree they are serious obstacles, but history shows major social changes are possible, even in a generation.

Randall Parker said at August 23, 2004 12:12 PM:

Thomas,

Use commoin sense about IQ. Germany and Japan successfully developed into democracies. They are the two big success stories that get trotted out. Well, they already had become so organized internally and advanced technologically that they managed to conquer large chunks of the world. They didn't need to be democracies to develop huge arms industries and many technological innovations during the 1930s and 1940s. The innate abilities of their peoples were obvious in the 19th century, in the 20th century before WWII, during WWII, and the decades since. They were enormous success stories in economic terms before their defeat in WWII and their economic successes speak to a high level of innate ability in their populaces.

You can't attribute their economic success to their transition to status as democracies. The same can be said for South Korea. South Korea became an economic success and then became a democracy.

By contrast, working inside of much less successful countries US democratization efforts have failed more often than they have succeeded.

Japan's changing family norms: These changes were not much due to US intervention. The changes were more the inevitable result of industrialization.

As for your question "How much social change can be induced in the next generation?": First of all, how much social change will we try to induce? The Bush Administration is already at pains to try to show that the Iraqi government is making decisions in a broad range of policy areas. The US occupation never tried to make major changes in Iraqi school curricula or other educational practices. We haven't forced Iraqi mullahs to denounce theocracy the way we forced Emperor Hirohito to denounce his position of supernatural sovereign. We aren't going to change Iraq much in the direction of liberalization.

In my view, even if we tried to change Iraq we wouldn't get very far. We'd have to occupy the place for decades and enforce a ban on consanguineous marriage while we ran very liberal institutions of higher education. We are clearly not going to do that. Even if we did that we'd still run up against Islam, lower IQs, Arab culture, and assorted other obstacles. What Ataturk did to Turkey is beyond our ability to change in Iraq. We don't have the patience, the willingness to pay the cost, or the needed legitimacy of being native Iraqi Arabs.

gcochran said at August 23, 2004 9:44 PM:

"On the other hand, the Japanese had virtually no natural resources, unlike the Iraqis. If they can get rid of the insurgents, economic development will be much easier for the Iraqis than it was for Japan."


In a sesne, you're quite right. The insurgents _are_ the Iraqis - get rid of them, have the Swiss settle the place, and you'll see lots of dairy farming and cuckoo clocks. As for the idea that we'll ever see much economic development in Iraq - Jesus, what planet are you from? You must think that people are the same everywhere. Do you _know_ the economic and tcchnological state of the Arab/Moslem world?


In a contest of scientific innovation, I'd beat Iraq all by myself. If we're talking cutting-edge technology, Lichtenstein, a country too small to even see on the map, towers over the entire Moslem world.

Thomas Hoyt said at August 24, 2004 9:54 AM:

Randall,

You didn't address my arguments regarding IQ, specifically that in the short term, you have not shown Iraq's national IQ is low enough to make much of a difference, and in the long term we don't know what Iraq's national IQ will be.

As for education, democracy and liberal education are not necessarily requirements for improving education. As you mention, Japan and Germany both did well in education without those elements.

Here, fight with Stanley Kurtz:


the United States ought not to be in the business of browbeating Muslim women out of their veils, much less reforming the Middle Eastern kinship system. Instead, we need to encourage the separation of traditional Muslim family practices from the political ideology of Islamic fundamentalism. By far the best way to do this is to roundly defeat the fundamentalists on the battlefield.


Once military and political failure has broken fundamentalism's appeal as an ideology, traditional family practices will be free to gradually adapt to modernity. Modernizing Egyptian women may still veil, but if they drop the theocratic fundamentalist baggage, that will be enough. Can we really get modernizing Muslim women who veil to drop their support for fundamentalist theocrats? It won't be easy, but nothing is more likely to produce a disastrous backlash against the United States than the conviction that an American victory will lead to a feminist-directed assault against veiling and the family. And many Muslim women in rural areas veil without being followers of the fundamentalist theocrats.


When the United States governed Japan after World War II, we forcibly reconstructed the country as a democracy, without being so foolish as to seriously challenge its traditional family or sexual system. That system has remained far more "traditional" than our own, yet today Japanese family and sex roles (for better, and for worse) are slowly changing and adapting to modernity. With luck, the pattern will someday repeat itself in the Middle East.

I think he underestimates the impact the US had on the role of women in Japanese society, but maybe I overestimate it. In any case, although the US made radical changes in Japanese family/gender laws, it took a complete generation change for real changes in Japan's family norms to come about.

Thomas Hoyt said at August 24, 2004 7:11 PM:

Randall,

Looking at our comments again this morning (I posted at about 2 a.m. local time), my point with the Kurtz quote was that political and economic change can produce social change over time. I have maintained from the beginning that social change in Iraq will take at least a generation. I have also acknowledged that democratization in Iraq may well fail; I am not one of those who thinks everyone on the planet wants a democracy or that if you topple a dictator democracy will immediately bloom in his place. The Japanese very much did not want a democracy, for example, and as soon as MacArthur was out of sight their bureaucracy set about reversing a number of the reforms he instituted. In fact, pretty much as soon as the US was focusing on the war in Korea, the Japanese people democratically elected a number of convicted war criminals to office. The fact that democracy succeeded there is a good example that serious changes are possible.

I agree with a number of your points about why democratization in Iraq may fail. You have some good arguments about what may happen, and I haven't contradicted your main contentions so much as pointed out weak and under-researched areas in them.

On the IQ question, for example, I have not said it will not play a role, or that you are necessarily wrong. My point is, we do not know enough to know what, if any, role it will play. I think pointing the study out was good and that it supports your main contention, but there's really not enough information for it to be conclusive.

As for how much change the US will induce, it has already induced a great deal simply by removing Saddam's regime. What future effects will this have in Iraq? What will Iraq look like in 30 years? In 60 years? Better? Worse? We don't know.

Your attempt to predict what might happen is very interesting, and I have learned a number of things from it, and will continue to read, learn from, and consider your point of view. I think we agree on a number of key points. We do not entirely agree on the conclusions to be drawn from them.

A key theme of Przeworski's article was refuting earlier economic theories that he states seemed reasonable based on the information the economists had at the time, but that later information disproved. He ends with a warning about being too sure of our predictions. I think he made a very good point.

Randall Parker said at August 24, 2004 11:07 PM:

Thomas,

Fight with Stanley Kurtz on Muslim democracy? Kurtz is a pessimist on Muslim democracy. He just thinks it is counterproductive to try to force an end to veiling. (and if you click thru on that link be aware that I have since substantially lowered my evaluation of the level of understanding of Condi Rice and of the rest of Bush's foreign policy team)

On IQ I guess I have to state a point that ought to be obvious: The factors that are obstacles to democracy do not each separately weigh on their own scale to their own individual cut-off line for what is problematic enough to prevent democratization. Imagine there is some average national IQ below which democracy becomes impossible. Surely there must be such a point. A million monkeys couldn't organise a democracy. Just where that point is is not a constant value across all cultures and all conditions. Throw in, say, a religion that explicitly demands religious figures as political leaders. That raises the cut-off point at which IQ becomes too low for democracy to succeed. Throw in a practice of cousin marriage and veiling and the IQ cut-off point becomes higher. The same holds for still other factors that make democracy problematic.

Iraq's IQ is low enough that is would make any democracy more corrupt, any leaders more demagogic, any public policy debates greater simplifications than what would find in a higher IQ country. But an average IQ that is fairly low compared to Western countries is not the only factor weighing against successful democracy in Iraq.

Yes, of course IQ plays an important role. Yes, we do know enough to say it plays a big role. The sum total of the body of research accumulated by psychometricians demonstrates this to be the case. This isn't speculative. People with different levels of intellectual ability behave differently on average. Lower IQ people commit crimes at higher rates, are religious at higher rates, are less able to master technical and scientific subjects, learn more slowly, and are more prone to believe superstitions as explanations for phenomena they can't understand. IQ has all sorts of effects. IQ differences between groups are very stable from early childhood. The problem with interracial IQ differences is now measurable back as far as age 3 or 4.

Weak and under-researched? Look, I do not write a blog for low IQ people or for people who have major deficiencies in their educations. I expect people to read the stuff I link to. I expect them to know basic concepts. If someone doesn't know much about psychometrics research or doesn't appreciate its importance then they ought to go learn it. There are excellent books written about it for the general public. If they don't know basic economics I"m not going to write economics tutorials to make a basic point (though I have troubled to explain on multiple occasions to the deniers of the relevance of economics to labor market prices that the demand for labor has a negative slope just like the vast majority of other goods and services. So I do try to explain some things.) But there are many things that I have to expect the readers to understand because I simply do not have the time to write huge tutorials explaining all the connections between various fields of research and public policy. I wish I had the time but I don't. I also expect some of my readers to be smart enough to see some of the connections themselves once some relevant but previously obscure facts are presented to them.

I am not goiing to engage people on a debate about whether, for instance, psychometrics is a rigorous, mature, and advanced discipline that has great insights to offer about human nature. I think it obviously is and does. Human brains glaringly differ in abilities. Groups also glaringly differ. I know that lefties in the press and academia want to call anyone racist for saying this. But I'm not going to be brow beaten by those idiots who studied watered down majors with ideological professors in college. Psychometricans as a group are far more rigorous than the vast bulk of sociologists, anthropologists, and psychologists. Anyone who takes the time to read them will find that out. Anyone who wants to believe the deniers of what natural selection and the biological mind mean for human nature are not people I'm going to argue with. They are too far gone. They reject reality.

Japan's family structure in 1945 was far less problematic for democratization than Iraq's is in 2004. Japan just didn't have the degree of tribalism and consanguineous marriage that Iraq has.

What will Iraq look like in 30 years? I do not know. But I do know that the United States military has occupied and ruled a number of countries for years and then withdrawn and those countries descended into dictatorship, corruption, revolution, coups, and civil war. Germany and Japan were exceptions before we occupied them and we had larger motivations for keeping control of those places until they shaped up.

The reason I am making my argument is that the "neoconservative" pseudoconservatives have been arguing that forced democratization of the Middle East is not only a viable strategy for ending terrorism emanating from the Middle East but that it is the only strategy that will do that and that it is a strategy that the United States should invest a huge amount of blood, money, prestige, and influence attempting to carry out. In the face of all the historical evidence and social science evidence of why this strategy seems obviously foolish and counterproductive I think it is very important to call them on the intellectual bankruptcy of their argument. If you have been enjoying their Panglossian sales pitch I do realize that my arguments can seem distasteful and ugly. But reality is sometimes distasteful and ugly.

There is nothing virtuous about being optimistic when the optimism is based on shoddy reasoning and when the optimism leads us down a policy making path that exacts huge costs on the US and actually harms our national interests in the short term. They are arguing for a /pay-off that is very unlikely to come while exacting large costs on the American people. I am opposed.

Philip Nelson said at August 25, 2004 6:40 AM:

What, then, do you propose to do to win the war some transnational organizations have declared on us?

Thomas Hoyt said at August 25, 2004 7:22 AM:

Randall,

Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss this with me. I have learned a lot from the articles you have linked and your comments. I look forward to reading through more of your site in the future.

I really do appreciate your time and your work.

Randall Parker said at August 25, 2004 12:45 PM:

Philip,

The first thing we need to accept is that some types of conflicts are of very long duration. Not all threats yield to a quick solution. We fought the Cold War for approximately 45 years. Other conflicts in human history have been waged for decades or longer. See, for example, the Hundred Years War.

The Cold War is notable because we basically had to wait for people to lose faith in communism. Today we face a threat from people who embrace a religious rather than a secular belief system. Secular belief systems are easier to discredit because they are based purely on results in this world in this life.

The second thing we need to accept is the limits to what military action alone can accomplish. The US military can defeat any conventional military in existence today in set piece battles. Yet it is constrained by the politics and beliefs of the people of Pakistan from crossing into Pakistan to hunt down Bin Laden. The US military also finds itself unable to cut down the size of the insurgency in Iraq.

A USA TODAY database and analysis of unclassified U.S. government security reports, show attacks against U.S. and allied forces have averaged 49 a day since the hand-over of sovereignty June 28, compared with 52 a day in the four weeks leading up to the transfer.

Iraqi guerrillas are relying heavily on weapons that allow them to attack and then slip away, such as roadside bombs and mortars. In June and July, U.S. and Iraqi forces were attacked with 759 roadside bombs and uncovered at least 400 others before they exploded.

U.S. officials had said they expected the attacks to drop as Iraqis re-established control over their country. Their thinking: Iraqi security forces would be better at gathering intelligence, and support for militants would erode because insurgents would be attacking Iraqis rather than U.S. occupation forces.

The officials still hold that view. But U.S. officers say the continuing attacks suggest that it will take time, possibly years, to crush the insurgency. President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have said U.S. forces will stay in Iraq as long as they are needed to assist Iraqi security forces. Iraqi forces are not yet trained and equipped to the point where they can assume responsibility for the country's security.

We need to accept that it is easier to do things that make people hate us than it is to do things that make people like us.

We need to accept that whatever we do we can not expect the rest of the world will agree with us in our own stated beliefs for our motives and intentions.

We need to accept that there is "Blowback" for every move we make and that we need to choose our moves a lot more carefully with that in mind. The US support for mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan (both because we radicalized Muslims to fight Jihad and becaues we didn't do the fighting ourselves), US quick withdrawal from Beirut and Mogadishu (seen by Bin Laden as signs of weakness), the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia to fight the first Gulf War and continued US troop presence to enforce the sanctions on Saddam along with other US moves resulted in the 9/11 blowback.

We must acknowledge the limits to what can be accomplished by military action and by democratization efforts. We must acknowledge that we can even make our position worse by using military action (e.g. by turning the Indonesian population in a huge swing from supporting us to opposing us).

In a sense what we need to do is to stop digging our hole even deeper.

So what positive actions can we take? We should obsolesce oil thru a huge energy research project spending about $10 billion per year on research. Once we could come up with cheaper substitutes for oil then the amount of money flowing to the Wahhabis and to Al Qaeda will decline.

We should do much better defense in depth of our own borders. We need a barrier on our southern border to make it extremely difficult for terrorists to enter the United States from Mexico. We need immigration and visa polices that make it hard for Muslims to come here.

We need an end to the political correctness that reduces the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to do profiling and to use computer information to look for terrorists. On that last point also see Heather Mac Donald on US Senate TIA Ban and Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat.

I have posted arguments in favor of a number of other ways to deal with the terrorist threat. At the moment I can't find my posts on intelligence agencies, foreign language skills, and related stuff. Go digging in my archives and you will find more relevant posts.


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