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2011 March 27 Sunday
Stephen Walt On Failed Liberal Foreign Interventions

Harvard political science prof Stephen Walt takes a look at the social science findings on interventions by liberal states that fail to transform target states in desired ways. Sure, those targets change. But, whoops, not in the ways intended.

Before France, Britain, and the United States stumbled into its current attempt to dislodge Muammar al-Qaddafi from power in Libya -- and let's not kid ourselves, that's what they are trying to do -- did anyone bother to ask what recent social science tells us about the likely results of our intervention?

I doubt it, because recent research suggests that we are likely to be disappointed by the outcome. A 2006 study by Jeffrey Pickering and Mark Peceny found that military intervention by liberal states (i.e., states like Britain, France and the United States) "has only very rarely played a role in democratization since 1945." Similarly, George Downs, and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita of New York University found that U.S. interventions since World War II led to stable democracies within ten years less than 3 percent of the time, and a separate study by their NYU colleague William Easterly and several associates found that both U.S and Soviet interventions during the Cold War generally led to "significant declines in democracy." Finally, a 2010 article by Goran Piec and Daniel Reiter examines forty-two "foreign imposed regime changes" since 1920 and finds that when interventions "damage state infrastructural power" they also increase the risk of subsequent civil war.

Back in 2004 I did a post about political science research into how US interventions usually fail. Walt's post covers more recent research that comes to similar conclusions. If past experience was our guide we would not try to convert so many countries to democracies. But the faith of our elites in our secular religion remains quite strong. I suspect that faith is going to begin to fade in the next 10 years for a variety of reasons. I'm impatiently awaiting the day when both domestic and foreign policy becomes based on a more rational assessment of human nature.

Robert Conquest, accomplished historian of the Soviet Union, also took a dim view of trying to establish democracy in infertile soil.

One very important social science consideration that is rarely mentioned (with notable exceptions) when it comes to the Middle East: Consanguineous marriage where people marry close relatives, cousins most often. The secretive hbd chick has a post about the high rate of consanguineous marriage in Libya. This high rate does not bode well for democracy in Libya.

Speaking of failed liberal foreign interventions, Megan McArdle argues the American intervention in Iraq created many obstacles for business formation that remain in effect.

Update: Lou Pagnucco points to a podcast interview of Stephen Walt about the US intervention in Libya and comparisons with previous US interventions. Walt would make a good US national security advisor. I wonder what Brent Scowcroft thinks of the current (faltering) intervention.

By Randall Parker    2011 March 27 02:54 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2005 November 17 Thursday
Muslim Brotherhood Doubles Seats In Egyptian Election

In the Middle East democracy means Muslim rule, not liberalism.

CAIRO, Nov. 16 -- The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamic group, more than doubled its legislative representation in runoff parliamentary elections, according to initial results announced Wednesday.

The Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928 and has been banned since 1954, had won 34 seats after a first-round runoff vote Tuesday, and the ruling National Democratic Party about 70 seats. The results were reported by the semiofficial Middle East News Agency, quoting judges in counting stations.

Someone tell Condi Rice, George W. Bush, and the neocons that democracy does not produce liberalism, tolerance, and freedom in many parts of the world. But they do not want to know. So never mind. There's no convincing the invincibly ignorant with mere evidence.

By Randall Parker    2005 November 17 07:30 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2005 June 21 Tuesday
Would Democracy Bring Islamic Theocratic Rule In Egypt?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a speech in Cairo Egypt pressed for greater democracy in Egypt but ignored Egypt's ban on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Her silence on the Muslim Brotherhood's lack of free choices reflected the strong official Egyptian resistance to legalising the organisation. But it also illustrated Washington's larger dilemma in calling for greater Arab democracy while opposing Islamic groups such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon with proven electoral appeal.

Muhammad Mursi, the brotherhood's spokesman, said conditions imposed by Mr Mubarak on the poll meant it would be neither inclusive nor fair. The president is widely expected to win a fifth consecutive term.

Mr Mursi said the organisation would decide soon whether to call for a boycott, and was meanwhile focusing on the parliamentary elections this autumn. The brotherhood currently has 15 MPs, who are officially described as independents.

"In a free election we would have 20% to 25% of the parliament," Mr Mursi told the Guardian last week. "Many more independents would support us. We are known in this society. We are active in the villages, in the universities, in the parliament, in the mosques ... We're organising, building strength."

George W. Bush and Condi Rice want democracy in the Middle East. I think they should be more careful about what they wish for. The fact that they fear the Islamic political parties and groups demonstrates they understand on some level that open elections won't bring automatic Western style liberal democracy. But I suspect they don't understand just how intractable the obstacles are to liberal democracy in the Middle East. They aren't, for example, going to consider low average IQs as an obstacle. Nor are they likely to consider consanguineous marriage or the original texts of the Koran as obstacles. After all, part of the official ideology on the ideological Right (as distinct from the empirical Right) is that the stronger the families the better and that anyone embracing a faith in God has got to be better than people who don't believe. So they are ideologically blinded from forming realistic views of the Arabs, Islam, and chances for liberal democracy to take hold.

Rice dispensed the standard pablum about democracy.

"We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people," Rice said. "As President Bush said in his second inaugural address: 'America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, make their own way.' "

"The people of Egypt should be at the forefront of this great journey, just as you have led this region through the great journeys of the past," she said.

I'm so glad I'm not a Secretary of State who has to make those sorts of speeches. Gag me. Gag me with a spoon.

Irshad Manji has an Op/Ed entitled "Egypt's democracy charade" where she reports that the most liberal political activists get imprisoned in Egypt under laws originally enacted to crack down on Islamists.

But why should the rest of the world care? At this, El Sawaf gets animated. He quotes a fellow Egyptian, the renowned sociologist and democracy champion Saad Eddin Ibrahim: ''Societies that restrict the space for citizens to participate and express dissent will eventually spawn a twisted, angry, and lethal response."

Translation: Wake up, Westerners. Radical Islam gains bloodthirsty adherents when mosques take over for legislatures because fair political representation no longer exists.

And the fact is, it doesn't exist. Egypt's 24-year-old Emergency Law, introduced to crack down on Muslim militants, has been exploited to zap political modernizers too. While letting President Hosni Mubarak hang onto power longer than he promised, the law puts honest-to-goodness democrats behind bars.

Some Egyptian intellectuals claim that failure to liberalize will lead to rule by the Muslim Brotherhood.

At a small party to mark the 60th birthday of Egyptian novelist Gamal Ghaitani on 9 May, Naguib Mahfouz was asked what he expected to happen in Egypt, in view of the rapidly developing events there. "It looks like Egypt wants to try the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood," Mahfouz responded.

The greatest Arab writer was not just expressing a passing fancy, but wanted to warn about what might happen if slow democratic reform leads to a political crisis and radical change. Mahfouz is not alone in imagining "Brotherhood rule" in Egypt; he is joined by many politicians and intellectuals who believe the scenario to be plausible, if the reform process is not handled well in the coming months.

Either reform will expand and embrace change that is already underway in the country politically, guaranteeing a safe and smooth transition to a clearly democratic regime, or it will fail to do so, with the resulting impact taking place outside the political system, which could open the door to the unknown.

The danger appears to be that partial liberalization would provide an opening for the Brotherhood. The populace as a whole (Coptic Christians excepted) probably has little interest in liberal secular politics.

Nina Shea claims the Muslim Brotherhood would sweep to power if open elections were held in Egypt.

Mubarak’s policies have created a situation in which pro-Western democrats like Ramy Lakah are silenced or driven abroad, leaving the Muslim Brotherhood as the only organized opposition within Egypt. If an open election were held this year, few doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood would win. An Islamist group, the Brotherhood has won hearts and minds through charitable work and exploited religion to thrive despite ruthless repression against it. It purportedly renounced violence in the 1970s, but its motto continues to be: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Though some of its members disclaim the group’s agenda and promise moderation, its institutional goal is to rule through a form of sharia (Islamic law) that would suppress women, give second-class dhimmi status to Coptic Christians and other minorities, and impose restrictions on Muslims’ rights to freedom of speech, association, and religion.

The liberal democrats are living in exile or in jail or too afraid to speak. If the Islamists come to power then the upper level administrators for the jails will change but the guards will probably remain the same.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 21 01:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2005 June 09 Thursday
Saudi Arabia Showing Few Signs Of Change

Political reform is moving along at a snail's pace in Saudia Arabia.

They are the first to say that meaningful change remains a distant prospect because the institutions opposing such change are so powerful. And because there is no real forum to even discuss change, the process of creating open, freer societies is more the sum of individuals chipping away at the traditional order, rather than any organized movement or national discussion.

The three barely know each other, and their lack of contact is emblematic of Saudi Arabia, which ranks among the most closed Arab countries.

Here and elsewhere, Arab reformers tend to be isolated dissidents, sometimes labeled heretics, much like those persecuted under Soviet totalitarianism.

Even those who pursue the mildest forms of protest are slapped with long prison sentences. The right to assemble does not exist, political parties are banned along with nongovernment organizations, and the ruling princes constantly tell editors what they can print. Local television is almost all clerics, all the time.

What country is the biggest source of Al Qaeda terrorists? Saudi Arabia. Which Middle Eastern country is most set in its ways? Saudi Arabia.

Reformists get thrown in jail.

The Sauds were prepared to allow limited discussion in the press, but have come down hard on those who continue to press publicly for reform. A gathering of about 100 reformists from across the country at a hotel near Riyadh airport in February 2004 provoked their wrath.

Three activists - two academics, Matrouk al-Faleh and Abdullah al-Hamid, and the poet Ali al-Domeini - were arrested after circulating a petition supporting a constitutional monarchy. Their lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, was also jailed last fall.

In May, the three were given heavy jail terms: Mr. Domeini, nine years; Mr. Hamid, seven years and Mr. Faleh, six years. Mr. Lahem has not been charged.

Unless the House of Saud is overthown expect glacially slow changes in Saudi Arabia. Even if the princes get the boot the replacement government might be even more Islamic.

The consequences of elevating extremist thought to the point where it cannot be questioned are grave, Mr. Maleky believes. "If Wahhabism doesn't revise itself," he says, "it will produce more terrorists."

We can't count on Saudi Arabia to change in ways that make its citizens less eager to kill us. we need to defend ourselves from terrorism and to reduce the influence of the Wahhabi brand of Islam in the United States. The United States should stop granting visas to Wahhabi clerics and should look for ways to cut off the flow of money from Saudi Arabia to fund Wahhabi schools and mosques in the United States. The US government should make immigration by Muslims to the United States much harder. The US government should also accelerate energy rearch with the intent of obsolescing oil.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 09 11:45 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (7)
2005 June 07 Tuesday
Hezbollah Wins Elections In South Lebanon

Pro-Syrian parties swept elections in southern Lebanon.

BEIRUT, June 6 -- Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian allies celebrated their sweep of Sunday's elections in southern Lebanon, while in Damascus, officials of Syria's ruling party gathered Monday for a meeting where President Bashar Assad focused on economic and governance matters rather than broad change in the political system. Politicians from Hezbollah, an armed Shiite Muslim movement that was allied in the election with the mainstream Amal party, sought to portray the election results as a rebuff to international calls for its disarmament. Official results showed candidates on the Shiite parties' list outpolling their nearest opponents by ratios of about 10 to one.

Remember why Syrian troops were in Lebanon in the first place: The various groups in Lebanon fought a many year civil war with each other. In some other parts of Lebanon Hezbollah and Amal couldn't win a single seat. The various groups and regions are deeply divided. Deep divisions are not favorable conditions for successful democracy.

There is a possibility that pro-Syrian parties will get a majority in the Lebanese parliament.

The next two rounds of voting, this Sunday and on June 19, will be more hotly contested than the first two, and will determine whether the anti-Syrian opposition achieves a majority.

Suppose the pro-Syrian faction achieves a majority. Will Condi Rice hail the result as a victory for democracy? Will George W. Bush point to it as beneficial result of the US invasion of Iraq?

This brings to mind Saudi Arabia's April 2005 municipal advisory council elections in which Islamists won the most seats.

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia, April 23 -- Saudi Arabia's limited 10-week experiment with electoral democracy ended here Saturday in a sweeping victory for slates of Islamic activists marketed as the "Golden List," who used grass-roots organizing, digital technology and endorsements from popular religious leaders to defeat their liberal and tribal rivals, even here in Jiddah, for decades Saudi Arabia's most diverse and business-driven city.

Shiites won many of the seats in the Eastern oil region where Shiites are a majority.

Imagine a Saudi Arabia where the monarchy was replaced with a democratically elected government. The Sunni majority's elected leaders might persecute the Shia minority more than the monarchy does. Given an illiberal voting majority dictatorship of the majority will be harsh.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 07 09:22 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2005 May 09 Monday
A Critical Look At Natan Sharanky's Democracy Argument

Gerard Alexander writing for the Claremont Review of Books casts a critical eye on a book by Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror. Alexander argues that both the main empirical arguments of Sharansky's book are wrong.

The evidence for these claims is mixed at best. Research on the "democratic peace" is easily misunderstood. It shows, for example, that the U.S. has basically never gone to war against a democracy; but this does not suggest that it has waged war against all that many dictatorships. Wars may be more likely between democracies and non-democracies, but these wars aren't especially likely, either. It is true that both the Soviet Union and Palestinian radicals— Sharansky's focus—have highly aggressive agendas. But his claim that non-democratic regimes are "inherently" belligerent is difficult to square with the fact that most dictatorships do not manifest military designs on democratic countries. It is symbolic, in this respect, that America in the 20th century shared its two famously undefended borders with democratic Canada and authoritarian Mexico.

The evidence is even scarcer that non-democratic regimes inevitably generate extremism among their citizens. Some may have, such as Nicaragua and Iran in the 1970s and Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian territories since the 1980s. But in Africa, Latin America, and East Asia, non-democratic regimes have not, as a general rule, generated violent extremism. Most of Western Europe's historic dictatorships incubated more moderation than radicalism, which is why many of them evolved peacefully into today's consolidated democracies. For that matter, well over a dozen substantially Muslim countries in Africa and Central Asia have so far not generated much extremism, despite durable authoritarian rule. Indeed, one of Sharansky's core cases doesn't support his claim: the USSR seems to have incubated apathy, not extremism.

This highlights a fundamental contradiction in the book. Sharansky argues that non-democratic regimes are doomed to see their citizens move increasingly in the direction of freedom. But a few pages away he argues that non-democratic regimes inevitably produce enraged and profoundly illiberal citizens who are easy fodder for radical recruiters. Which is it? If tyrannies produce not only Mohammed Attas but also Natan Sharanskys, then they must have effects far more complex than he suggests. To make matters worse, violent extremism has been bred, and sustained, in democratic Northern Ireland, and jihadis have found ready recruits among Muslims who are lifelong residents and even citizens of democratic Britain, France, and Israel.

If Sharansky's arguments are wrong then the neocon rationale for their attempt to spread democracy is also wrong. The sorry history of US attempts to change other nations with military force argues against the view that democracy is a panacea. Robert Conquest, one of the rare scholars who called the nature of the Soviet Union correctly, argues that the current promotion of democracy by the chattering classes is a form of madness of the crowds. Also, see my partial list of reasons why democratization efforts in the Middle East are naive. The recent Islamic "Golden List' victories in Saudi municipal elections are only the most recent example of why democracy is not a panacea.

Sharansky recently resigned from Ariel Sharon's cabinet due to Sharansky's opposition to the removal of about 7000 Jewish settlement occupants from the Gaza Strip. My cynical view of Sharansky's argument for Palestinian democracy is that he's setting the bar so high on Palestinian behavior precisely so that Israel never has to grant the Palestinians either self rule or firm borders that clearly separate them from Israel.

Update: Steve Sailer, after citing a number of democracies that have fought each other, points out that democracy is more likely a consequence of the same conditions that make a society less likely to want to invade other countries.

I think, though, that the main reason democracies don't fight each other much is because if the objective situation makes war likely, democracy is unlikely too. Notice that Britain simply suspended its constitutional requirement for a General Election in 1940 for the duration of the war to prevent democracy from interfering with the more important business of winning the war.

Similarly, if a country has disputed borders and a restive minority, democracy is unlikely. For example, Croatia was a dictatorship during its war with Serbia over the Serbs who wanted to break away from the Croatian break-away state. It didn't let Serbs, or anybody else, vote. In 1995, however, Croatia won its war and ethnically cleansed the Serbs out of Croatia (with American backing). Once it became a mono-ethnic state with an undisputed border, it rapidly turned into a democracy.

So, democracy is more likely in comfortable countries that don't need to gird their loins for desperate battle, which is why they haven't gotten into wars with each other.

Our problem with the undemocratic countries stems from the qualities that make them undemocratic, not the fact that they are undemocratic.

By Randall Parker    2005 May 09 09:28 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2005 March 02 Wednesday
Robert Conquest On The Limits And Pitfalls Of Democracy

Eminent historian Robert Conquest, who for decades wrote politically incorrect but true things about Stalin and the Soviet Union and who for his effort was heavily criticised from the Left, has an essay in The National Interest taking on a different group of believers in false panaceas. This time Conquest's target is the mad crowd that sees democracy as the universal solution for political problems.

The common addiction to general words or concepts tends to produce mind blockers or reality distorters. As Clive James has put it, "verbal cleverness, unless its limitations are clearly and continuously seen by its possessors, is an unbeatable way of blurring reality until nothing can be seen at all."

"Democracy" is high on the list of blur-begetters--not a weasel word so much as a huge rampaging Kodiak bear of a word. The conception is, of course, Greek. It was a matter of the free vote by the public (though confined to males and citizens). Pericles, praising the Athenian system, is especially proud of the fact that policies are argued about and debated before being put into action, thus, he says, "avoiding the worst thing in the world", which is to rush into action without considering the consequences. And, indeed, the Athenians did discuss and debate, often sensibly.

Its faults are almost as obvious as its virtues. And examples are many--for instance, the sentencing of Socrates, who lost votes because of his politically incorrect speech in his own defense. Or the Athenian assembly voting for the death of all the adult males and the enslavement of all the women and children of Mytilene, then regretting the decision and sending a second boat to intercept, just in time, the boat carrying the order. Democracy had the even more grievous result of procuring the ruin of Athens, by voting for the disastrous and pointless expedition to Syracuse against the advice of the more sensible, on being bamboozled by the attractive promises of the destructive demagogue Alcibiades.

His use of the Clive James quote about verbal cleverness strikes me as a subtle (or perhaps not so subtle) allusion to neoconservatives.

So how about instant democracy of the sort that the neocons want spread over the Middle East? By Conquest's standard it is worthless because it does not emerge from an existing tradition that will support it.

As to later elections, a few years ago there was a fairly authentic one in Algeria. If its results had been honored, it would have replaced the established military rulers with an Islamist political order. This was something like the choice facing Pakistan in 2002. At any rate, it is not a matter on which the simple concepts of democracy and free elections provide us with clear criteria. "Democracy" is often given as the essential definition of Western political culture. At the same time, it is applied to other areas of the world in a formal and misleading way. So we are told to regard more or less uncritically the legitimacy of any regime in which a majority has thus won an election. But "democracy" did not develop or become viable in the West until quite a time after a law-and-liberty polity had emerged. Habeas corpus, the jury system and the rule of law were not products of "democracy", but of a long effort, from medieval times, to curb the power of the English executive. And democracy can only be seen in any positive or laudable sense if it emerges from and is an aspect of the law-and-liberty tradition.

I typed the above before reading the rest of his essay and, lo and behold, Conquest has disparaging things to say about "instant democracies". Hey, and I already thought highly of this guy!

The countries without at least a particle of that background or evolution cannot be expected to become instant democracies; and if they do not live up to it, they will unavoidably be, with their Western sponsors, denounced as failures. Democracy in any Western sense is not easily constructed or imposed. The experience of Haiti should be enough comment.

Conquest says democratization is sometimes used as a tool to ruin institutions.

Democratization of undemocratizable institutions is sometimes doubtless the expression of a genuine utopian ideal, as when the Jacobins by these means destroyed the French navy. But more often it is (in the minds of the leading activists, at least) a conscious attempt to ruin the institutions in question, as when the Bolsheviks used the idea to destroy the old Russian army. When this, among other things, enabled them to take power themselves, they were the first to insist on a discipline even more vigorous.

So then are some advocates of democracy really preaching it in order to cause destruction and general mayhem? How about, say, a civil war between majority and minority groups in Middle Eastern countries? Could this in fact be a conscious but unspoken goal?

Disappointed by the lack of insights to be gleaned from 99.9+% of the commentators you read? Go read his full essay. The mind that wrote it was born July 15, 1917 which makes him 87 years old. I hope my mind can work that well should I live to be that old.

By Randall Parker    2005 March 02 04:46 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2004 July 06 Tuesday
Polygamy, Sex Ratios Prevent Democracy, Encourage Terrorism

A New York Times article discussing the book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer (which I've previously covered in my FuturePundit post Aging Or Sex Ratio Bigger Demographic Problem For China?) addresses a consequence of high male/female sex ratios that is a recurring ParaPundit topic: what conditions prevent liberal democracy from developing? A shortage of females is seen as a destabilizing influence and a cause of rebellions and terrorism.

Mr. Fish of Berkeley, in his own research into why democracy is so rare in Muslim countries, has examined 150 countries with populations over 500,000 and has concluded that the status of women, more than anything else, explained the strength or weakness of democracy. And the two biggest indicators of female status, he said, were sex ratios and the gap in literacy between men and women.

On average, he found that Muslim countries had sex ratios of 102 men for every 100 women, although it can go as high as 125 men for every 100 women in Saudi Arabia, for example.

Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says the topic raises hackles because many researchers don't want to acknowledge differences in male and female behavior. Ms. McDermott and Richard Wrangham, a professor of anthropology at Harvard, are studying more than 60 African countries to figure out the relationship between gender — sex ratios, the number of women in the workforce — and internal and interstate violence. They are especially interested in the role of polygamy.

"Historically, when large groups of men can't get married they hang out together and they become monks or marauding bands that rob, rape and pillage," Ms. McDermott said. "Where do you think terrorist groups come from?"

Polygamy raises the effective sex ratio by reducing the supply of women for those men who have no wives at all.

My list of obstacles to democracy in the Middle East already includes polygamy and a previous post links to William Tucker's argument for polygamy as a cause of a "winner take all" ethos that is obviously inimical to liberal democracy.

Islam is the only major world religion that sanctions polygamy. Mohammad allowed his followers to have four wives (the same number he had). About 12 percent of marriages in Moslem countries are polygamous. This is not as bad as East and West Africa, where successful men often take more than a hundred wives and where almost 30 percent of marriages can be polygamous. But the solid core of polygamy at the heart of Islamic culture is enough to produce its menacing social effects.

What are those effects? Do the math. Into every society is born approximately the same number of boys and girls. If they pair off in monogamous fashion, then each one will have a mate -- "a girl for every boy and a boy for every girl." In polygamous societies this does not occur. When successful men can accumulate more than one wife, that means some other man gets none. As a result, the unavoidable outcome is a hard-core residue of unattached men who have little or no prospect of achieving a family life.

The inevitable outcome is that competition among males becomes much more fierce and intense. Mating is an all-or-nothing proposition. Women become a scarce resource that must be hoarded and veiled and banned from public places so they cannot drift away through spontaneous romances. Men who are denied access to these hoarded women have only one option -- they can band together and try to fight their way into the seats of power.

If all those Muslim polygamous marriages involved only two wives that would be enough to deny 12% of the men the chance to have a wife. If the average number of wives per polygamous marriage is even higher then an even larger portion of the men have no prospects for marriage. Offered the chance of dying in a cause in order to get 70 virgins in the afterlife some of them opt for that choice.

The neoconservative neoimperialists do not even want to consider the possibility that there are intractable obstacles in the way of their plans to democratically reform and remake the Middle East. Yet sex ratios, polgamy, consanguineous marriage, and other obstacles are quite intractable unless the United States wants to impose a nearly totalitarian regime and rule ruthlessly for decades while banning some marriage practices, preventing the selective abortion of female fetuses, and imposing liberal curricula upon schools and regulating the content of sermons in mosques.

Of course the United States isn't going to do all that. Yet a sustained effort to remake societies that radically would only begin to remove the obstacles in the way of liberal democracy in the Middle East. By failing to even consider the underlying conditions that cause the Middle East to have no liberal democracies the neoconservatves have launched the US into an intervention in Iraq that is hopelessly naive. The US intervention in Iraq is actually causing Iraq to develop in a directon that lowers the status of women.

Update: Also see an article by den Boer and Hudson in the Washington Post.

We have already seen in China the resurrection of evils such as the kidnapping and selling of women to provide brides for those who can pay the fee. Scarcity of women leads to a situation in which men with advantages -- money, skills, education -- will marry, but men without such advantages -- poor, unskilled, illiterate -- will not. A permanent subclass of bare branches from the lowest socioeconomic classes is created. In China and India, for example, by the year 2020 bare branches will make up 12 to 15 percent of the young adult male population.

While unrelated for the most part to my argument above I've also argued that this shortage of females is causing natural selection to operate on which genes are passed on to future generations.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 06 02:51 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (12)
2004 July 01 Thursday
History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy

How difficult is it to change a country into a democracy by intervention using military force? John B. Judis has an article in Foreign Policy about the history of failed US attempts to reform and democratize other countries entitled Imperial Amnesia. This article is an excerpted adaptation of his forthcoming book The Folly of Empire: What George W Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. His excerpt Imperial Amnesia reviews the history of US intervention in the Philippines, Cuba, and other lands.

As for the Philippines' democracy, the United States can take little credit for what exists and some blame for what doesn't. The electoral machinery the United States designed in 1946 provided a democratic veneer beneath which a handful of families, allied to U.S. investors—and addicted to kickbacks—controlled the Philippine land, economy, and society. The tenuous system broke down in 1973 when Philippine politician Ferdinand Marcos had himself declared president for life. Marcos was finally overthrown in 1986, but even today Philippine democracy remains more dream than reality. Three months before Bush's visit, a group of soldiers staged a mutiny that raised fears of a military coup. With Islamic radicals and communists roaming the countryside, the Philippines is perhaps the least stable of Asian nations. If the analogy between the United States' “liberation” of the Philippines and of Iraq holds true, it will not be to the credit of the Bush administration, but to the skeptics who charged that the White House undertook the invasion of Baghdad with its eyes wide shut.

Minor quibble: I'd put Indonesia at the top of the list of unstable Asian countries. Though if you include Papua New Guinea (PNG) as part of Asia then obviously PNG is worse. However, PNG is small enough that PNG can be managed by Australia and the Aussies can rule the Solomon Islands as well. But Indonesia can not be stabilized by a return of colonial administrations and its far more numerous Muslim populace would resent US military intervention. Whereas the Philippines still occasionally accepts US military missions to track down Muslim rebels. So Indonesia strikes me as the greater worry.

The American imperialists overestimated their ability to reform and reshape the world.

Some Americans argued the country needed colonies to bolster its military power or to find markets for its capital. But proponents of imperialism, including Protestant missionaries, also viewed overseas expansion through the prism of the country's evangelical tradition. Through annexation, they insisted, the United States would transform other nations into communities that shared America's political and social values and also its religious beliefs. “Territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause,” U.S. President William McKinley said of the Philippines in October 1900, “and whenever it does the banner of liberty will float over it and bring, I trust, the blessings and benefits to all people.” This conviction was echoed by a prominent historian who would soon become president of Princeton University. In 1901, Woodrow Wilson wrote in defense of the annexation of the Philippines: “The East is to be opened and transformed, whether we will or no; the standards of the West are to be imposed upon it; nations and peoples which have stood still the centuries through are to be quickened and to be made part of the universal world of commerce and of ideas which has so steadily been a-making by the advance of European power from age to age.”

The naivete doesn't end there. Woodrow Wilson thought he could make South America have successful democracies. Well, South America's democracies are still plagued with corruption, slow economic growth, and popular hostility to elected leaders that is so intense that some are forced from office.

Upon becoming president, Wilson boasted that he could “teach the South American republics to elect good men.” After Mexican Gen. Victoriano Huerta arranged the assassination of the democratically elected President Francisco Madero and seized power in February 1913, Wilson promised to unseat the unpopular dictator, using a flimsy pretext to dispatch troops across the border. But instead of being greeted as liberators, the U.S. forces encountered stiff resistance and inspired riot and demonstrations, uniting Huerta with his political opponents. In Mexico City, schoolchildren chanted, “Death to the Gringos.” U.S.-owned stores and businesses in Mexico had to close. The Mexico City newspaper El Imparcial declared, in a decidedly partial manner, “The soil of the patria is defiled by foreign invasion! We may die, but let us kill!” Wilson learned the hard way that attempts to instill U.S.-style constitutional democracy and capitalism through force were destined to fail.

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Lucien O. Chauvin reports that democracies in South America are unstable and their populaces are deeply dissatisfied.

LIMA, PERU - Here in Peru, the president is polling in single digits, and some want to bring back a former strongman.

Just across the border in Bolivia, the government had to fend off rumors last week that the military was planning a coup.

Next door, indigenous politicians in Ecuador called for a general uprising to force the president out of office.

In Venezuela, the electoral board set a tentative date for a recall vote on its left-wing leader.

In fact, political conditions in Bolivia may be so bad that Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute has recently made the argument that Bolivia may be disintegrating.

Last October Bolivia experienced a social and political upheaval that forced the resignation of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and shook the capital, La Paz, to its very foundations.[1] The headquarters of all the political parties supporting the government were burned to the ground; toll booths and other symbols of government authority were destroyed or disabled; even the Ministry of Sustainable Development--a magnificent Art Deco building that once housed the business offices of the Patiño tin empire--was gutted. Although a measure of normality has been restored since then, there is no certainty that stability is here to stay. As recently as late April, the lobby and lower floors of the congressional office building were demolished by a suicide bomber, and the successor regime--led by Sánchez de Lozada’s former vice president Carlos Mesa--is attempting to buttress its shaky legitimacy through a series of tawdry gimmicks. These include attempts to govern without parties; denying natural gas to Chile, Bolivia’s hated neighbor; threatening to overturn long-standing contracts with international energy companies; and brandishing a plebiscite which may well take the country--or at least an important part of it--outside the world economy. Republics do not normally commit suicide, but Bolivia may be an exception. If current trends continue, we may witness the first major alteration of the South American political map in more than a hundred years.

Haiti's another poster child of failed democratization. The US occupied Haiti starting under Woodrow Wilson 1915-1934 and again under Clinton beginning in 1994 with US forces leaving in 1996 and UN forces remaining a few more years. More recently George W. Bush sent in troops after rebels defeated Aristide's forces.

Writing for the New York Times Juan Forero reports that Latin America Is Growing Impatient With Democracy.

In the last few years, six elected heads of state have been ousted in the face of violent unrest, something nearly unheard of in the previous decade. A widely noted United Nations survey of 19,000 Latin Americans in 18 countries in April produced a startling result: a majority would choose a dictator over an elected leader if that provided economic benefits.

Is democracy a panacea? No. Is it easy to impose it and make it stick? No. The US has failed far more often than it has succeeded.

Consider Cuba. Before Castro became dictator Batista was dictator. But before Batista the United States intervened repeatedly with troops. Corruption and oppression by elected goverments got worse with time. The United States had to repeatedly play umpire over contested elections up until the point of pretty much giving up on maintaining a democracy in Cuba.

Under the tutelage of the United States, the political life of Cuba prior to 1933 followed a certain pattern. Incumbent presidents would attempt reelection, but if they were unable to secure their own party's nomination, they would shift their support to the opposition candidate. The incumbent president's candidate would inevitably win at the polls, either legally or fraudulently. The losing party would usually dispute the final results, claim that they were fraudulent, and rise in revolt. The United States would send an arbiter, sometimes backed by United States troops. The mediator would then call for new elections, but the incumbent president's opposition would not accept the arrangement and would boycott the polls. Thus the presidential nominee would win by default. This did not happen every time, however. In 1906 Estrada Palma refused to accept the United States compromise plan, which in fact favored him; and in 1924 there was no electoral boycott or rebellion.

Note that this saga of the repeated failure of democracy played out over a period of decades with US involvement. For Cuba the outcome was a communist dictatorship that lasts to this day. So US involvement does not necessarily eventually succeed. The Middle East is going to be no easier to reform than Latin America and the Caribbean. Well, our involvement in Latin America has lasted for over a century with uncertain results. Therefore I think it takes a lot of audacity for the neoconservatives to bill US efforts to build democracy in the Middle East as the most expeditious and certain way to deal with the threat of terrorism in the short to medium term.

There are many reasons why democratization can fail. I have listed several obstacles to democracy in the Middle East (see bullet list in the middle of that post). But that list is far from comprehensive.

Some people see moral virtue in being optimistic about the achievability of desired optimal outcomes and believe that to strive for anything less than the ideal is somehow immoral. But there are limits to our power. The United States had overwhelming military superiority over Cuba and Haiti and yet still was not able to work any lasting beneficial changes in either society. Idealism is the enemy of the good if idealism prevents a person from reaching a realistic appreciation for what is possible. Overreaching can (and has) often resulted not just in limited gains but even net losses. A panglossian view of the potential for the spread of liberal democracy is the enemy of the cause of liberal democracy.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 01 02:22 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (20)
2004 April 22 Thursday
Partial Baathist, Iraqi Army Restoration And Fallujah Big Battle Brewing

Some former Baathists and former Saddam-era Iraq Army officers are to be hired in an attempt to reduce Sunni support for insurgents.

The U.S. administrator of Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, proposed the policy shifts to broaden the strategy to entice the powerful Sunni minority back into the political fold and weaken support for the insurgency in the volatile Sunni Triangle, two of the most persistent challenges for the U.S.-led occupation, the officials say. Both policies are at the heart of national reconciliation, increasingly important as the occupation nears an end.

This may in part be an attempt to split some of the more secular Sunnis from the old regime away from the more fundamentalist Sunnis who see the current battle more as a holy war. Another way to look at this US move is as an attempt to recruit Iraqis who know who the insurgents are and who are not hesitant to use force against their fellow Iraqis as these former Saddam men surely did for the old regime.

One reason that the ex-Baathists might still not be willing to sign up to serve US occupation forces is that they may reasonably expect that once the Shias dominate the new government these ex-Baathists will be sidelined (or worse) once again. On the other hand, getting back on the inside has got to beat being on the outside under a Shia-dominated regime. So some will no doubt elect to sign up - especially if the pay is high enough. But what is less clear is whether, once in positions of power, they will serve their American masters or surreptitiously work against US interests.

If the US would support a confederation rather than a federation for the new Iraqi government that would give the old Sunni Baathist elite a greater incentive to suppress their fellow Sunni insurgents. A confederation would provide the ex-Baathists with a clear zone where they could be the bosses and therefore have a stake in more peaceful conditions.

If the Bush Administration wanted to get really Machiavellian it would promise to create and enforce some sort of formula for what percentage of the oil revenue went into each of the Kurdish, Shia, and Sunni areas of the confederation. Keep in mind that the oil is all located in Kurdish and Shia areas. So If the Sunnis saw the continuation of the confederation as a way to guarantee them a slice of the oil money they'd have a vested interest in maintaining the stability of the confederation. Then one could even imagine Sunni soldiers who would get support from their tribes to, say, go take a piece out of the Mahdi Army in the Shia area.

It isn't clear whether the decision to restore more former Baathists to jobs involves any powerful positions. A lot of people were in the Baath Party simply to be teachers, engineers, or other occupations which required Baath Party membership. It may be that the change here is designed simply to speed up the return to work of people in fairly unpolitical jobs.

"We've heard complaints from Iraqis for instance that the appeals process is sometimes slower in implementation than was originally designed," Senor said. "It sometimes excludes innocent, capable people who were Baathists in name only."

The restoration of Iraq Army officers and perhaps intelligence agents is likely to have more potent effects on the conduct of the fight against the insurgency forces.

The bid for Sunni support comes at a time of losses of existing allies.

Monday, Spain began to withdraw its 1,400 troops, and the Dominican Republic announced it would quickly follow suit, bringing its 300 troops home within two weeks. Honduras also said it would pull its 370 troops. Poland, a resolute coalition member, said Thursday that it was considering withdrawing its 2,400 troops.

The previous article provides a pretty good description of events around Fallujah. It sounds like once the Marines are well-positioned and prepared there is going to be a final battle for Fallujah.

One reason the US needs to figure out a better way to govern Iraq is that, as Mark Steyn acknowledges, the American people are not temperamentally suited for colonialism.

America hasn't an imperialist bone in its body. For one thing, there's nobody to staff an imperial governing class. If you were the average 19th-century Englishman, life in the colonies had plenty of attractions: more land, better weather, the opportunity to escape the constraints of class. None of these factors applies to the average 21st-century American: if you're in Maine and you're sick of it, you can move to Hawaii rather than the Malay states.

Steyn points out that Niall Ferguson is engaged in an exercise in futility when Ferguson argues that the US should become a colonial power. Mark's conclusions on Ferguson and colonialism are very similar to my own.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 22 05:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2004 April 21 Wednesday
Bring Back Iraqi Army Officers Or Pursue Democratic Imperialism?

Many in military circles in Iraq think the disbanding of the Iraqi Army was a mistake that ought to be rectified.

"It's very clear that we've got to get more senior Iraqis involved - former military types involved in the security forces," said Gen. John Abizaid, the US regional commander, last week. "In the next couple of days you'll see a large number of senior officers being appointed to key positions in the Ministry of Defense, and the Iraqi joint staff, and in Iraqi field commands."

Former Iraqi officers boast that they could form an emergency committee at the Defense Ministry within 48 hours and restore order within a week. Such predictions may be wishful thinking, but these men have one refrain: Security can't be restored without them.

"The cat knows where the mouse is, but the lion doesn't know," says Colonel Saad, who asked that a pseudonym be used. "I won't go back to the army for the Americans - I can't shake their hands - but I would [go back] for an Iraqi government.

"[President] Bush promised to rebuild Iraq, and that every Arab will wish he were an Iraqi," says Colonel Saad "They gave this idea of freedom, and Iraqis can't handle it. To them it means freedom to attack the Americans with stones and tomatoes."

While it clearly goes against George W. Bush's character to learn from his mistakes it is possible that enough people in the military and in the Coalition Provisional Authority will recommend bringing back parts of the Iraqi Army that this may eventually happen. After all, Bush also follows advice from his advisers and many may swing around to supporting this idea. So a restoration of the old Iraqi Army and an unleashing of it to crack heads seems plausible.

Another possibility is that the US occupation forces could become just totally brutal and ruthless in putting down the insurgency. Niall Ferguson, British Empire historian, argues that the US needs to be as ruthless as the British were in 1920 in order to restore order in Iraq.

And this brings us to the second lesson the United States needs to learn from the British experience. Putting this rebellion down will require severity. In 1920, the British eventually ended the rebellion through a combination of aerial bombardment and punitive village-burning expeditions. It was not pretty. Even Winston Churchill, then the minister responsible for the air force, was shocked by the actions of some trigger-happy pilots and vengeful ground troops. And despite their overwhelming technological superiority, British forces still suffered more than 2,000 dead and wounded.

Is the United States willing or able to strike back with comparable ruthlessness? Unlikely — if last week's gambit of unconditional cease-fires is any indication. Washington seems intent on reining in the Marines and pinning all hope on the handover of power scheduled — apparently irrevocably — for June 30.

This could prove a grave error. For the third lesson of 1920 is that only by quelling disorder firmly and immediately will America be able to achieve its objective of an orderly handover of sovereignty.

But is there any chance the US will do this? Isn't it easier from a political perspective to let Iraqi Army guys who were willing to brutalize for Saddam to instead brutalize for America?

Ferguson sees many parallels between Iraq in 1920 and 2004.

What happened in Iraq last week so closely resembles the events of 1920 that only a historical ignoramus could be surprised. It began in May, just after the announcement that Iraq would henceforth be a League of Nations "mandate" under British trusteeship. (Nota bene, if you think a handover to the UN would solve everything.) Anti-British demonstrations began in Baghdad mosques, spread to the Shi'ite holy centre of Karbala, swept on through Rumaytha and Samawa - where British forces were besieged - and reached as far as Kirkuk.

But the US in 2004 is not sufficiently like late Imperial Britain of 1920 for its leaders to order what the British did. Besides, today there will be CNN and similar media organs broadcasting the carnage in real-time. That won't go over well back home or in much of the rest of the world.

Ferguson has a new book coming out entitled Colossus: The Price of America's Empire.

In Colossus he argues that in both military and economic terms America is nothing less than the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Just like the British Empire a century ago, the United States aspires to globalize free markets, the rule of law, and representative government. In theory it's a good project, says Ferguson. Yet Americans shy away from the long-term commitments of manpower and money that are indispensable if rogue regimes and failed states really are to be changed for the better. Ours, he argues, is an empire with an attention deficit disorder, imposing ever more unrealistic timescales on its overseas interventions. Worse, it's an empire in denial-a hyperpower that simply refuses to admit the scale of its global responsibilities. And the negative consequences will be felt at home as well as abroad.

One problem I have with Ferguson's analysis is that he ignores the way that technological advances are effectively reducing the economic return on empire. Take the few hundred billion that the US may end up spending on Iraq. What is the return on investment for doing this? Today large sums of money have many competing uses and some of those uses could potentially offer huge returns on investment. Imagine the same dollars spent on, say, a massive effort to develop a large assortment of new energy technologies. As I've argued in the past a massive energy technology development project would yield many national security dividends as well as producing a cleaner environment and reducing the amount of money we have to spend on imports. We'd be enriched. Well, how does a global empire enrich us?

Territory isn't as valuable as it used to be and technology is a lot more valuable and continuing to rise in value. To the extent that foreign intervention in some Muslim territory could transform a Muslim society into a more liberal, democractic, and less likely to produce terrorists we could, at least in theory, benefit. But the scale and length of the intervention required to do that is far greater than even the Bush Administration has the stomach for. The Bushies do not even understand the scale of the intervention that is required. My own take on George W. Bush's obvious intellectual limitations is that he has high latent inhibition or a strong filter on new information. If he had low latent inhibition (and see the previous link about that) his mind might be able to learn enough to grasp the scope of what he wants to accomplish.

Even if Bush was up for the challenge democratic imperialism requires many decades to work. Given that many of our academics see imperialism as evil and corporations as the latest agents of evil imperialism I think it would be very difficult to build up a consensus in American opinion for sustained imperialistic intervention that could last long enough to create sustainable semi-liberal democracies. Formation of consensus to pursue that goal would require thpse portions of our elites which are currently hostile to classical liberalism to become more supportive of it. Also, other portions that do support classical liberalism but with an excessively panglossian view of its appeal would have to adopt a more realistic view of human nature that accepts that not all humans love freedom and liberal democracy. This seems a rather tall order. Even if it could be done would it be worth it?

Leave aside what the elites think for the moment and consider the beliefs of the popular majority. Failing some more terrorist attacks that kill a lot of people inside the boundaries of the USA I do not see the American public becoming sufficiently keen on rearranging Middle Eastern societies with the ruthlessness and sustained commitment that would be required to have a chance of making the changes stick.

My own take on what to do is partition Iraq and do the same to Sudan and Afghanistan. The Kurds could form their own army for their new country and the old Saddam Army could be the new army for the Sunnis. I am not sure what to do about the Shia area's military needs.

Update: An article on Tech Central Station by Carroll Andrew Morse is my first siting of a proposal for how to carry out a partition of Iraq.

Here is the plan. Sovereignty will not come to Iraq all at once. On June 30, Iraq will be divided into provinces, or occupation zones -- at different times and different places, both labels will be appropriate. There will be more than three zones, there will be at least 25, maybe as many as 100. Each zone will evolve towards civil government at its own rate. Some zones will need to be overseen using the rules of outright military occupation of a hostile nation. Other zones will be able to quickly establish full home rule, complete civil government in all matters except foreign policy and military affairs. Over six months, let's see how many zones can produce a local government that can rule without slaughtering a significant percentage of its own population, or stoning women for committing adultery, or burning the foreign nationals providing electricity and water.

Zones demonstrating the ability to live peacefully will be migrated towards full home rule. When enough provinces reach complete home rule, they will have important decisions to make. If enough zones decided to band together, they can form a state of their own. (There will have to be a few basic rules about a minimum number of provinces, or a minimum total population, and/or territorial contiguousness required to form a state.) They are free to welcome into their state other provinces that reach full home rule at a future time. Multi-province successor states may even reserve the right to join with other multi-province successor states. Under this plan, the Iraqi people ultimately decide the shape of post-Hussein Iraq.

My problem with this approach is that it will lead to fighting as rival ethnic groups try to create majorities in border provinces between newly seceded states. Ethnic cleansing tactics of terror to cause flight of competing groups will be used to create local majorities for plebiscites.

Still, he makes a number of points in favor of partition including an excellent finale:

Unless they freely choose to do so, people with wildly different visions of ideal governance should not be forced to work together because of eighty-year old map lines hastily drawn by colonial interlopers. The American coalition and the wider international community should give the people of Iraq an opportunity to build civil societies under the conditions where there is a fighting chance for success. A single state solution is not necessary for a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of post-Hussein Iraq. Democratic processes provide no guarantee that the people of Iraq will avoid bad choices, but they can be structured so that the poor choices of some do not scar the futures of all.

Why should the Kurds have to put up with living in the same country as the Arab Sunnis and Arab Shias? The Kurds show every sign of a far greater willingness to form working and relatively more restrained and less corrupt governments. From all the reading I've done they come across as having a more modern mentality. At the same time, clearly the Sunnis fear Shia payback once the Shias are in charge. Well, these fears seem reasonable. So why not split them apart? The hard decisions to make are about Baghdad and other places that are not clearly Sunni or Shia or Kurd. But the alternative of keeping Iraq together seems far worse.

Update II: Reporting from Baghdad Charles Crain thinks the Iraqis may not have all that much desire for a federal democracy.

Last week's events suggest that if the majority does not want to assert itself, then the minority will fill the vacuum.


The most troubling thing is that the passivity and irrelevance of the new Iraqi security forces reflect the mood of most Iraqis, who remain reluctant to fight for a new type of Iraq. They may not be enthusiastic about the occupation nor eager to make common cause with murderous insurgents or theocratic narcissists like Sadr, but they are either unwilling or unable to play the leadership role that is sorely needed.


I worry that the structure of a federal liberal democracy is simply not an inspiring prospect for Iraqis, who place such an emphasis on religious, family and tribal ties. It's no foregone conclusion that, if only the insurgency would go away, Iraqis would embrace the brand of representative government they're being offered.

Mr. Crain's fears are correct. Yes, the majority really doesn't want to assert itself. Yes, most Iraqis feel little loyalty toward Iraq as a whole and do not see the power plays by various minority factions as being against the greater good because the average Iraqi feels no great loyalty to the idea of the greater good. Yes, federal liberal democracy holds little allure for most Iraqis. There are no Iraqi opponents of the Mahdi Army running to battle to fight them while crying "Give me liberty or give me death". Not everyone has the values of the Founding Fathers of America. We should give up on the fantasy of a united liberal democracy in Iraq. It is not within the realm of possibility.

Update III: Frank Rich sees a parallel with the inter-tribal fighting that Lawrence of Arabia witnessed.

The Arab revolt against the Ottoman empire, abetted by the heroic British liaison officer T. E. Lawrence and guerrilla tactics, has succeeded. The shotgun mandating of the modern state of Iraq, by the League of Nations in 1920, is just a few years away. But as the local leaders gather in an Arab council, a tentative exercise in self-government, there is nothing but squabbling, even as power outages and public-health outrages roil the populace. "I didn't come here to watch a tribal bloodbath," says Peter O'Toole, as Lawrence, earlier in the movie when first encountering the internecine warfare of the Arab leaders he admired. But the bloodbath continued — and now that we've ended Saddam's savage grip on Iraq, it has predictably picked up where it left off. Only Americans have usurped the British as the primary targets in the crossfire of an undying civil war.

My favorite line is uttered by Peter O'Toole as TE Lawrence right after Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) kills the guide Talas.

"Sherif Ali! So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they remain a little people. A silly people! Greedy, barbarous, and cruel-as you are!"

I like Rich's characterization that what is going on in Iraq is a civil war and US troops just happen to be standing in the middle of it. Why should this be so? See my recent post High Costs And Dismal Prospects In Iraq: How To Derive Benefit? for links to a number of reasons why liberal democracy is not going to succeed in Iraq. Here's a brief summary.

  • Democracy always fails in low per capita income countries.
  • Consanguineous marriage creates conflicting loyalties that work against the development of a civil society.
  • Islam creates highly motivated extremist rivals to secular authority.
  • The Kurds and Sunnis are afraid to become oppressed minorities under majority Shia rule.
  • The practice of polygamy creates a "winner take all" ethos that makes people see all relationships as characterised by dominance and submission.
  • Liberal social and political values are not in-born and take decades or centuries for a society to absorb.
By Randall Parker    2004 April 21 01:37 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 April 19 Monday
It Is Time To Partition Sudan

Nearly a million black Sudanese have been forced out of their homes by an Arab militia.

In the Darfur region of western Sudan, a humanitarian crisis has already displaced nearly one million people -- and the United Nations has warned that the situation is getting worse.

According to reports, an Arab militia known as the Janjaweed has committed atrocities ranging from raping and murdering civilians to burning down entire villages, all with the aim of displacing the black Sudanese tribes.

This is all terribly predictable from just a very cursory reading of the last half century of Sudanese history. The civil war in Sudan has been going on for decades. Sudan has been in a civil war for longer than most of you reading this post have been alive.

The Arab-led Khartoum government reneged on promises to southerners to create a federal system, which led to a mutiny by southern army officers that sparked 17 years of civil war (1955-72).


In September 1983, as part of an Islamicization campaign, President Nimeiri announced his decision to incorporate traditional Islamic punishments drawn from Shari’a (Islamic Law) into the penal code. Southerners and other non-Muslims living in the north were also subjected to these punishments. These events, and other longstanding grievances, in part led to a resumption of the civil war that was held in abeyance since 1972, and the war continues until today.

There is nothing sacred about international borders. God did not come down and stand on a mount and announce that all borders made after World War II must be kept sacred and permanent from now until eternity. It is time to start solving long-running conflicts by splitting up peoples who obviously do not belong together. It is time to partition Sudan into black African and Arab sections. Continued international support for Sudan as a single national entity is grossly immoral and irresponsible.

Iraq is another place which should not be single a country. Others have recognized that partition of Iraq has considerable merit. I was very surprised today when Tyler Cowen pointed out that even Glenn Reynolds is batting around the partition idea for Iraq. Keep thinking about it Glenn. Partition would yield substantial benefits. Given all the factors working against a democratic Iraq (including continuing Bush Administration incompetence so severe that they haven't even managed to spend much on aid - see that post) a split of Iraq into pieces would give us at least a Kurdish part that would view the US favorably. See Glenn's post for a quick list of reasons why we don't owe the neighboring countries squat. We should not feel obliged to keep Iraq together.

I've also made this argument previously with regard to Afghanistan in the post Why Not Partition Afghanistan Along Tribal Lines?

The mess in the Balkans is effectively being sorted out by partition while Western governments pretend that they are not partitioning. Albanian Muslim dominated Kosovo is de facto a separate country from Serbia. Bosnia-Hercegovina has been split into pieces. Western governments could cut the death tolls and create the conditions for much better governments in several parts of the world if they were willing to explicitly acknowledge that not all currently recognized international borders deserve to be treated as having fixed permanent boundaries. A number of current borders throw together people (can you say Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi? sure!) who would be best off separated by strongly enforced borders drawn between them.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 19 11:40 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 April 03 Saturday
Low Per Capita Income Countries Never Remain Democracies

Jonah Goldberg reports on yet another reason why the prospects for democracy in Iraq are bleak.

More recently Adam Przeworski of New York University confirmed this truism by studying every attempted transition to democracy around the globe. He and his colleagues found that once a country passes $6,000 in per capita income it is virtually guaranteed to succeed in its transition to democracy. States between $3,000 and $6,000 have less than a 50-50 chance of staying democracies. And countries below $3,000 are almost bound to fail.

Jonah points out that Iraq's GDP is between $1,500 and $2,400 and that this does not bode well for the prospects of democracy in Iraq.

To build the kinds of institutions that Iraq would need to be able to succeed as a democracy would take decades. I see little sign of sufficient patience on the part of the America's politicians or people for that sort of thing. For this and other reasons I continue to be the camp of Pessimists on Muslim Democracy.

Update: Writing for Reason Michael Young, who also is opinion editor of Lebanon's Daily Star, argues that the main objective of the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq is democratization of the Middle East.

The last pillar, however, was the most interesting, and went to the heart of the strategy adopted by Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and, ultimately, Bush. By intervening in the relationship between the brutish Iraqi regime and its long-suffering subjects, the US adopted a policy of enforced democratization. As far as the Bush administration was concerned, a democratic Iraq at the heart of the Arab world could become a liberal beacon in the region, prompting demands for openness and real reform inside neighboring states. Ridiculous you say? The Syrian regime, faced in the past two weeks with protests by individuals seeking greater freedom and a revolt by disgruntled Kurds, would surely disagree.

This is where Clarke's allegations, and those of critics who see a disconnect between Al Qaeda and Iraq, are misleading. Iraq always was essential to the anti-terrorism battle precisely because victory there was regarded as necessary to transform societies from where terrorists, spawned by suffocating regimes, had emerged. One can disagree with the practicability of such a strategy, but it is difficult to fault its logic.

The biggest problem with Bush Administratration strategy against terrorism is that their course of action is very unlikely to result in a self-sustaining democracy in Iraq. It would take decades to bring about the depth of transformation in Iraqi society and in the Iraqi economy needed to make Iraq's democracy self-sustaining, let alone liberal. Iraq can not be used as a means to transform the other societies in the Middle East because a liberal Iraq as a beacon of transformation of the rest of the Middle East is not in the cards for a long time to come. The transformation of the Middle East into liberal democracies that will be less fertile ground for the recruitment of terrorists is therefore also not in the cards for a long time to come.

Another problem with this strategy is that relatively few Iraqis became terrorists even though they lived under a suffocating regime. By contrast, Saudi Arabia, while more suffocating to women, is less suffocating to men and yet lots of Saudi men have become terrorists. So the Bush Administration strategy doesn't seem like it is going to work - at least not by the mechanism of eliminating suffocating regimes.

However, having said all this there still might be a mechanism by which the Bush Administration strategy could work: the invasion and overthrow of multiple governments of overwhelmingly Muslim populations combined with the killing of many Muslim fighters who rush into the countries occupied by American troops might demoralize muslims and rob Islam of its appeal by making Islam seem like a loser religion. So US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan could conceivably demonstrate to Muslims that the US has both the ability and the will to defeat and kill any Muslim group that would attempt to stand up to the US and to the West. But that will only work if overwhelming force is used and sustained.

Mind you, I'd hate to rest all of a strategy against terrorism on such a hypothesized psychological mechanism which might not work for a number of reasons. A comprehensive strategy against terrorism ought to include a much better intelligence and covert operations capability, better border control, better immigration policy, an energy policy aimed at defunding the Wahhabis, and numerous other policy improvements. But military battlefields where Islamic Jihadis can test their mettle against US forces and lose decisively and repeatedly might have a longer term demoralizing effect that will decrease the appeal of Jihad. Then again, it might not. Anyone have an opinion to offer on this?

Update II: Steve Sailer provides yet another reason why it is unreasonable to expect democracy and freedom to take hold in Iraq.

Freedom or Dominance: I fear that one of the Administration's fundamental misconceptions about Iraq was the assumption that Arabs value freedom most of all. In reality, I suspect they prize dominance most highly We assumed we could hand them their freedom and they'd be grateful to us for our selfless sacrifice, or, at worst, appreciate our enlightened self-interest. But Arabs have no history of the powerful giving anyone their freedom, so they assume it is a trick and a trap. In Arab thought, the only way to prevent the dominant from exploiting you is to be the dominant one yourself.

It is a Western conceit that everyone shares the same values with the same relative ranking of values. It is foolish to think that everyone has the same values and that they are just being oppressed and prevented from expressing those values.

Update III: Here is an excerpt from Adam Przeworski's research on which the report above is probably based: A Flawed Blueprint: The Covert Politicization of Development Economics.

No democracy ever fell in a country with a per capita income higher than that of Argentina in 1975—US$6055. This is a startling fact given that throughout history about 70 democracies have collapsed in poorer countries. In contrast, 35 democracies spent a total of 1,000 years under more affluent conditions, and not one collapsed. Affluent democracies survived wars, riots, scandals, and economic and governmental crises.

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.

You might be wondering then: How did democracy survive in the United States in the 18th and 19th century when US per capita GDP was well below $3000? I think we have to do an adjustment for capital productivity. Basically, the living standards of even a messed up society can be higher than what Americans experienced in the 19th century because there are lots of cheap productivity-enhancing devices available today that will still enhance production in societies with a fair amount of corruption, less protection of property, and other shortcomings. Perhaps it is not the low per capita GDP itself that causes a democracy to fail but rather the same factors that cause the low per capita GDP also cause democracy to fail. A democratic society in the 19th century that didn't have those problematic factors present still would have had - at least by late 20th century standards - low per capita GDP. But it would have had the right cultural elements and other elements to maintain a democracy and to utilize scientific and technological advances.

Update IV: Writing June 2005 I now dismiss the idea that by use of overwhelming military force the United States is going to convince Muslims they have a loser religion. The Bush Administration's strategy is not going to work in Iraq either intentionally or by accident. The vast majority of the countries that have low per capita GDPs are not going to become successful democracies. Their populations lack the values and abilities and customs needed to make liberal democracy or even semi-liberal democracy work. We should reduce the risk of terrorism via a combination of layered defenses through better intelligence and covert operations, real border control. careful visa screening, information systems, and other means to make it harder for terrorists to reach and stay in the West. We should also accelerate technological developments that promise to obsolesce oil as a way to defund the Wahhabis.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 03 12:17 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2003 November 10 Monday
US, Pakistani Officials Meet Over Madrassah Schools Issue

Pakistan's Federal Education Minister Zubaida Jalal has just made a visit to Washington DC to meet with many top Bush Administration officials including Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice along with members of Congress. The Washington Times has the best coverage of her visit.

Mrs. Jalal said that only 2 percent to 3 percent of the madrassas pose political problems, not so much for their Islamic-centered programs but because they are used as recruiting centers for the fundamentalist groups that finance them.

The education minister estimated that there were some 15,000 to 20,000 madrassas across the country — only about half of which are even registered with the Islamic educational foundations. The total number of students is about 1.5 million.

The Pakistanis don't have enough money to move all the kids out of religious schools. Plus, the government doesn't want to anger all the religious leaders by doing so. Therefore expect a slow rate of change.

In a measure of the seriousness with which the Bush Administration takes the Madrassah schools as recruiting grounds for terrorists when Mrs. Jalal arrived at the Pentagon she got an honor guard and escort by Paul Wolfowitz. Mrs. Jalal expects changes to Pakistani education to come only very slowly.

"I briefed them about the committed measures being made by Pakistan to extend quality education, with stress on self-generating income and element of jobs." Pakistan Ambassador, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi was also present. Of the targets, she said "no miracle of instant changes could be claimed, while the objective is to make a positive dent in our educational system to make it skill and job-oriented, modern and moderate."

"In any case, the target is the next 10 to 15 years, if we are talking of mindset and change of attitude, it could be visible after as many years, and not within two to three years. Basically, it is the next generation we are talking about." "The target child is one who enters school or madressah today."

The article is not clear on the time-table but it sounds like the Bush Administration has promised $600 million in US aid for changing education in Pakistan.

Jalal also lobbied for more student visas to America for Pakistani students.

...during her recent meetings with senior US officials she apprised them of the difficulties Pakistani nationals, particularly those between 18 and 45 years, were facing with respect to their visa applications. The education minister said the US officials assured her that they were working on proposals to allow more flexibility to Pakistani nationals.

Sounds like the US officials are going to increase the number of student visas from Pakistan in order to give something to the Pakistanis in exchange for schools reform.

Half of all Pakistani students do not go beyond primary school.

The Prime Minister appreciated the vision of Education Sector Reforms (ESR) 2001-05 and called for its implementation in true letter and spirit. The Minister for Education Zubaida Jalal in her presentation said that the ESR envisages increase in literacy level from 40% to 60%, gross primary enrolment from 84% to 100%, net primary enrolment from 66% to 76%, middle enrolment from 47.5% to 55%, secondary enrolment from 29.5% to 40% and higher education from 2.6% to 5%.

If secondary enrollment is the equivalent of American high schools and middle enrollment is like junior high then it sounds like in Pakistan most kids do not even attend junior high schools for 7th or 8th grade. Pakistan's education system sounds like it is as backward as Mexico's.

By Randall Parker    2003 November 10 04:21 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 September 21 Sunday
US Aid To Iraq Proportionately Much Bigger Than Marshall Plan

Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution looks at US aid plans for Iraq and compares Iraq aid with Marshall Plan aid as a percentage of target country GDP.

According to some estimates, we will spend $20 billion on Iraqi infrastructure over the next year, half of Iraqi gdp (don't take Iraqi gdp statistics too seriously!). Andrew Sullivan has been asking how our assistance to Iraq compares to the Marshall Plan of postwar Europe. Here are some answers, drawn from a 1985 piece I wrote "The Marshall Plan: Myths and Realities," click here for an on-line summary, the piece appeared in Doug Bandow's U.S. Aid to the Developing World.

The Marshall Plan did not ever exceed 5 percent of the gross national product of the recipient nations. In the case of Germany, note that we were taking more out of Germany, in the forms of reparations and occupation cost reimbursements (11 to 15 percent of West German gnp), than we were ever putting in. Then throughout the mid-1950s, Bonn repaid half of the aid it had received. Note that German economic recovery followed from liberalization and reforms, which predated Marshall Plan aid.

The important thing to realize about Iraq is that it was not a country which had broadly gone thru a process of industrialization the way Europe had before WWII. Europe had the trained workforces, industrial firms, management know-how, financial expertise, and a recent memory of what civil societies were like. Iraq is much harder to reform even though the percentage of destruction of the economies of European countries was much higher. Also, as Cowen implies, the Marshall Plan has been given more credit for the recovery of Western Europe than it deserves.

It is instructive to read Stanley Kurtz's essays on Iraq, the British Raj and the postwar construction of Japan to appreciate just how much more difficult it will be for the US to succeed in Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2003 September 21 01:15 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 July 06 Sunday
Poorly Paid Afghan Police Prey On Populace

Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Owais Tohid paints a bleak picture of corruption in the 50,000 strong police force in Afghanistan.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – As the sun sets over Kabul, the city's hustle and bustle is replaced by shadows and darkness. And with twilight emerges a new criminal network - members of the city police.


Observers say if the illegal activities of policemen are not checked, the lawlessness may take Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan back into the era where warlords wreaked havoc on the country.

The police are not getting paid because Western aid donors haven't fulfilled their aid promises. Lawlessness was a major reason why the populace welcomed the Taliban in the first place.

By contrast, writing for The Washington Times Paul Rodriguez reports little crime but enormous waste on the part of the international aid agencies.

"It's a shame, really, given all the talent we have just sitting around," says a U.S. officer who points to the Band-Aid projects assigned to the military. "We could do so much more."

A wide array of Western and Afghan officials say that somewhere up the line the decision has been made to keep the United States in the background while leaving the bulk of the aid work to the international bureaucrats, heavily laden with overhead that eats up as much as 90 percent of funds targeted for aid on the ground. Afghans see this and express desperation. Whether aid workers are Belgian, Greek, English, Hungarian or Spanish, the Afghans view all Westerners as Americans.

Rodriguez reports that Westerners are paying $100 per day for security guards. But Tohid reports that the Afghan government is so short of cash that it has cut police pay in half to less than $17 per month. Are these two claims simultaneously plausible? Are all the Westerners hiring their own guards for their living areas in Kabul and reporting to Rodriguez that they are not having problems with robbers while the rest of the city lives a more perilous existence?

So whose report is more plausible in terms of the crime problem in Afghanistan? Well, here are some ideas: First, Tohid has contributed to CSM reports on Afghanistan going back at least 2 months whereas Rodriguez says he made a 3 week trip thru the country. Also, Rodriguez does acknowledge roaming gangs in the countryside and says aid workers are less safe there than they were a few months ago (one can assume that Afghans are less safe there as well now though he doesn't say). I'm tending toward the view that Tohid is correct in believing that many Afghan police are corrupt and that their salary reduction is pushing more of them into corruption.

BTW, I actually think that the Rodriguez article has a lot of excellent reporting on many more facets of what is going on in Afghanistan. I just suspect he is underestimating the extent of the lawlessness.

Read both reports and offer your opinions in the comment section.

By Randall Parker    2003 July 06 02:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 June 04 Wednesday
Occupation Officials Dismiss Basra Iraqi Administration

In Iraq's southern city of Basra the occupation officials have dismissed the local leaders appointed to run the Basra government arguing that these leaders were too closely associated with the old Baathist regime. That was certainly a criticism made against those leaders when the occupation forces first appointed them several weeks ago. Now the occupation officials are going to rule directly arguing the Iraqis are not ready to rule themselves.

Occupation officials say Basra's political leaders and their parties -- from aging communists to liberal socialists to Islamic religious organizations -- are either too inexperienced or unproven to assume leadership positions. In addition, officials say, some may be hostile.

In particular, the occupation officials say that they fear that extremist Islamic groups and their leaders could attempt to play an oversize role in any Iraqi-run government by manipulating people to rally around their clerics and buying loyalty with food, money and other aid.

Note the fear of the Islamic groups. On top of that there is the problem that family and tribal loyalties trump other loyalties among most Iraqis and there is just not a mindset there that places a high enough priority on being fair to the populace as a whole.

Are the occupation officials slowly learning the basics by a process of trial and error? Or did a different crew come in that understand the nature of the problem that they face? Either way, it is still doubtful that the US government has the will and wisdom to pursue policies with the wisdom and on the time scale required to make Iraq into a benign sustainable secular liberal democracy. The Turkish military has been trying to transform Turkey along those lines for many decades and the outcome there is still in question. Iraq is an even tougher challenge with occupiers who lack the staying power of the Turkish military.

By Randall Parker    2003 June 04 12:27 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 24 Saturday
Wolfowitz Explanation Of Iraq Conditions Undermines His Argument

The testimony of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee defending US handing of post-war Iraq has some obvious contradictions in it.

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2003 – Pundits criticizing the coalition Iraq reconstruction effort are demonstrating "an incomplete understanding" of pre-conflict in-country conditions and "an unreasonable expectation" of the progress level, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said to the Senate May 22.

We were all impressed by the military's ability to move large armored columns with a huge logistical train to bring up large quantities of military supplies to support a fighting force that went thru many hundreds or thousands of pounds of supplies per soldier per day. But once the fighting stopped the amount of supplies needed per soldier plummeted. So then why couldn't that logistical train have supplied a much larger occupation force that could have done more patrols and held more facilities to provide better security more quickly?

"Much of what I read on this subject suggests what I believe is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the security problem in Iraq and, consequently, a failure to appreciate that a regime which had tens of thousands of thugs and war criminals on its payroll does not vanish overnight," Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If Wolfowitz could foresee that the security problem was going to be so large then why didn't he push for the prepositioning of a much larger occupation force in the Gulf ready to move in as soon as the ground fighting stopped?

He said that Saddam Hussein's regime terrorized the people of Iraq for more than two decades, and "the people who created the mass graves that are now being uncovered in Iraq still represent a threat to … stability that was not eliminated automatically when the statues came tumbling down in Baghdad."

The deputy stated that those saying the coalition is ignoring the lessons of the Balkans in Iraq do not realize the fundamental difference between the two experiences. He said they are ignoring the difference between normal peacekeeping operations and the combination of peacekeeping and low-level combat coalition forces find themselves in.

If Wolfowitz does appreciate the difference and he knew there was going to continue to be low-level combat continuing after the major combat was finished then why didn't he argue that more resources should have been on hand to deal with it?

"To give you some statistics, in the last two weeks there have been 50 hostile incidents, 37 of them initiated against our troops," Wolfowitz said to the senators. "We have had 17 wounded in action and one killed. That is since the end of major combat activity."

President Bush declared major combat operations over in April, yet American soldiers continue to be shot at almost daily.

Wolfowitz said the coalition has made substantial progress in Iraq, yet much more remains to be done. The low-level combat complicates the situation for coalition forces because it constrains their freedom of movement.

"We face in Iraq a situation where a substantially defeated enemy is still working hard to kill Americans and to kill Iraqis who are trying to build a new and free Iraq," the deputy said, "because they want to prevent Iraqi society from stabilizing and recovering."

"Bizarre as it may sound, it would appear that their goal is to create nostalgia for Saddam Hussein. We cannot allow them to succeed."

Allowing Baghdad to effectively go unpoliced for many weeks was certainly not helping the populace feel happy that Saddam was gone.

He said Americans must realize the situation in Iraq is completely different from Haiti or Bosnia or Kosovo, where opposition ceased very soon after peacekeeping forces arrived. "We do not have the choice in Iraq of avoiding confrontation with these repressive elements of the old regime," he said. "We have to eliminate them, and we will do so, but it will take time."

The deputy said it is unrealistic to judge the plan for a post-war Iraq against perfection. "There is no plan that could have achieved all the extraordinary speed of this one and, at the same time, been able to flood the country with military policemen," he said.

Why not? Was it physically impossible to have the military policemen in Kuwait ready to enter Iraq within a week or two of the end of the war? If so, why? Insufficient port facilities to bring them into Kuwait? Insufficient logistics capacity to supply them in Iraq? I do not buy any explanation that is based on logistics constraints. One could argue that the MPs would have been in too much danger in the Iraqi cities in April. But then doesn't that argue that more regular troops were needed?

But let us come back to the bit about his argument that Saddam's thugs are the main reason for the lawlessness.

Assertions that the administration was failing in Iraq "reflect both an incomplete understanding of the situation as it existed in Iraq before the war and an unreasonable expectation of where we should be now," he said.

Critics of the administration don't "appreciate that a regime which had tens of thousands of thugs and war criminals on its payroll does not disappear overnight.

Even the explanation that the post-war chaos is being caused by Baathists and other supporters of the old regime does not hold water. The commander of the 3rd ID in Baghdad says 90% of the security problem in Baghdad is not coming from old regime holdovers.

The administration's effort to acknowledge the ongoing violence, but blame it on Hussein holdouts, has sometimes appeared at odds with military assessments. Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, who commands the 20,000 troops of the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, said last week that "about 90 percent" of the security problem "is common criminals -- the looters, the car thefts, attempted bank robberies, et cetera -- and only about 10 percent . . . is a holdover from the previous regime."

Even assuming that thousands of military police could not have advanced up thru Iraq along with the armored columns why couldn't the military police have been pre-positioned in Kuwait in large numbers ready to enter Iraq as soon as Baghdad was captured?

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it would have been impossible to bring in thousands of military police with such a rapid-strike force and still achieve the relatively quick three-week victory.

Again, why?

The Bush Administration does not want to admit they made a mistake. Worse yet, they are still not willing to intervene on a scale large enough to fix the problem that their mistake allowed to happen. Worst of all, they either do not want to admit the size of the problem facing them in their attempt to transform Iraq or they are truly naive and underestimate the size of that problem. Iraq can not be transitioned into being a democracy quickly. Iraq needs a great deal of policing to eliminate the lawlessness. Family structure in Iraq is an obstacle to the development of an effective nation-state. Also, illiberal political Islam is a very real problem as well.

Wolfowitz is spinning for the Administration. I wouldn't mind the spinning if it was clear that they understood the depth of the problem that they face in trying to transform Iraq. However, it is still not clear that they do.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 24 01:06 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 23 Friday
Iraqi Man Emerges After 21 Years Hiding In Small Room

At the age of 24 Juad Amir Sayed, facing certain death by Saddam Hussein's regime, went into hiding in a compartment he built under the family home and has just come out 21 years later.

Juad did not know it then, but the 3ft wide and 5ft high concrete room that he entered on Dec 2 1981 was to become his home for the next 21 years, a self-imposed exile - literally between the walls of his own home - which he says offered his only hope of survival under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

At least he had a radio with which he listened to the BBC World Service. The US government ought to scale up its efforts to broadcast to countries where the press is not free. There are a lot of minds out there ready to listen if they are only given more information to listen to. I'd especially like to see a book radio channel dedicated to simply reading great books in many languages.

Update: The BBC coverage of the story has a couple of photos of where this guy hid. Tiny.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 23 11:40 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 21 Wednesday
Revenge Killings Of Baathists In Iraq

Writing in the Washington Post Scott Wilson reports hundreds of Baath Party members have been killed by Iraqis in Baghdad alone and the rate of kiliing of Baathists by Iraqis is increasing.

The killers appear to be working from lists looted from Iraq's bombed-out security service buildings, which kept records on informants and victims alike. But others are simply killing Baathist icons or irksome party officials identified with the Hussein government. The singer Daoud Qais, known for his odes to Hussein, was shot dead on Saturday. So was the president of the Iraqi Artists Union.

Qais was not just a singer dishing out pro-regime propaganda.

At the College of Arts, where Qais was a feared alumnus known for intimidation of artists, cheers greeted news of his demise.

The de-Baathification of the universities is proceeding apace.

Falah Dulaimi, assistant dean of the Mustansirya University's college of sciences, was hit by three bullets as he left the campus May 10. The assailants fled in a pickup, firing shots in the air.

Dulaimi, a notorious Baathist, had a long list of enemies with motives for revenge.

This wave of killings may have net benefits for the reconstruction of Iraq. The Baathists are going to try to regain power and influence. Some are conducting organized campaigns of sabotage. They are quite willing to do killing and intimidation of their own. It may be necessary for the Iraqis to mete out their own backalley justice to the Baathists in order to avoid the trouble that the Baathists will surely try to cause in the future.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 21 11:47 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 19 Monday
Bush Administration Tries Harder To Restore Order In Iraq

Lawlessness and crime in Baghdad had to get pretty bad for quite a few weeks before the Bush Administration finally acknowledged the need for greater resources.

Only in the past week did administration officials begin to acknowledge publicly these miscalculations. They described continued lawlessness as a serious problem in Baghdad and called for more U.S. forces on the ground to quell a wave of violence that has kept American officials from assuring the Iraqi people that order would soon be restored.

The Pentagon did not put enough effort into planning for how to establish basic order.

From the outset, the Bush Administration was overly optimistic and in many ways unprepared for the myriad, messy challenges of rebuilding Iraq. The Pentagon had expected the postwar transition in Iraq to be orderly and quick, without requiring a major, long-term commitment of U.S. forces and other resources. Washington, it now seems, spent too much time thinking about how to reform institutions and not enough time on how to provide people with basic security or infrastructure such as electrical grids, oil-refining equipment, hospitals and museums.

Even as more US troops are sent to Iraq the Bush Administration has yet to accept the size of the task they've taken on. Donald Rumsfeld does not want to see Iraq as a problem that takes a large number of troops to handle because he wants to build a smaller but higher tech force for war-fighting. The problem is that while the high tech weapons are great force multipliers on battlefields they do not do very much to amplify the peacekeeping abilities of soldiers. It seems like Rumsfeld so concerned with winning budget battles over new weapons programs that he's ignoring requirements for doing the occupation of Iraq.

Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor writes about US Army Rangers patrolling in Baghdad.

"We tell them to get on the ground, and sometimes they argue," explains Gleason. "We increase force with butt strokes to the head, and they seize up. We show them who's boss and once they realize, they cooperate unconditionally."

Most law-abiding Iraqi citizens appear to welcome such rough treatment for the hoodlums and thieves who have been spreading chaos through the capital.

More professional police talent is being brought in.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who gained wide respect for his response to the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, will lead a team of policing experts in an attack on rampant street crime in Iraq's capital.

The US could have built up a lot more goodwill among the Iraqi population had the Bush Administration been more realistic about the nature of Iraqi society and the need for basic policing to maintain order. I suspect they are still very unrealistic about how easily Iraq can be transformed into a successful democracy (i.e. non-corrupt and classically liberal with fress press and respect for individual rights).

Far fewer people are watching what is going on post-war than followed the progress of the battles as the war was underway. Yet it is the outcome of the post-war attempt to transform Iraqi society and government that is most in doubt. There was never any question of whether the US military could easily defeat the military of Saddam Hussein's regime. By contrast, what is very much in doubt is the question of whether the US can transform Iraq in a way that will ensure that Iraq will not be a problem for the United States in the future. So far the United States has made big mistakes in pursuing that goal.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 19 02:26 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 18 Sunday
Lawlessness Preventing Reconstruction In Iraq

The New York Times has an excellent article that shows how the lawlessness in Iraq is preventing normal business from resuming. Reconstruction can not get seriously underway because businesses are staying closed, workers are afraid to leave their homes, and truckers are afraid to drive in supplies. More damage to the electric grid has occurred due to looting than from the war. Attempts to fix the electric grid are undermined by continual theft.

Looters had already pilfered underground cables, carted off computers that regulate power distribution, stolen 25 of the guards' 30 patrol cars, emptied warehouses of spare parts, ransacked substations and shot up transmission lines across the country's electric grid.

Then, his men reported, armed bandits stole the only cable splicer in central Iraq, needed to repair countless vandalized electric lines

A senior US official in Baghdad says the United States has a month to make Baghdad secure or it will be too late.

A senior U.S. official said American and perhaps other forces must improve security first, before beginning to rebuild Iraq. "The real key is security in Baghdad," said the official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "We have about a month to get that under control; after that, it will be too late."

Oil workers are afraid to go to work.

"How can we get anyone to work if we can't guarantee his security? If this is the way we're going to run our oil industry we're doomed," Saadi said.

"At best we hope to produce what we can refine."

Even that is a tough task as looters have even taken to shooting up pipelines to drain gasoline and sell it on the black market.

People are afraid to leave their houses. Cars are being forced over at gunpoint. Truck drivers are afraid to deliver goods from other countries because the highways are preyed on by armed gangs. The populace can not understand how the US military could have planned such a brilliant invasion and yet has continued to fail to restore order.

The destruction being wreaked during the lawless period is making the cost of reconstruction much higher. The lack of an occupation force is not cost-effective from a purely economic standpoint. Then there is the cost in goodwill and the fact that the lawless period is leading to the development of competing militias affiliated with political parties. Plus, the Islamists are pointing to the lawless period as evidence that the United States really does not care about the Iraqi people and the Iraqis are spinning all sorts of conspiracy theories to explain the seeming unwillingness of American leaders to impose order.

Update: US occupation officials would like to rejail the 100,000 or so criminals that Saddam Hussein pardoned and released in October 2002. But even if they decided they could legally do so they do not know who most of the criminals are.

'We captured some prison records, but I don't believe we have a list,'' of those previously jailed, he said.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 18 01:38 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 May 17 Saturday
Iraq Occupation Officials Put Off Self-Rule, Ban Top Baathists

The US occupation forces in Iraq have banned top Baath party officials from serving in the new Iraqi government.

IN A drastic policy volte-face the United States ordered the elimination of all Baathist influence in Iraq yesterday, banning up to 30,000 senior party members from any job in a future administration.

New top US administrator Paul Bremer seems to be determined to assert firmer control.

U.S. officials said the shift was accelerated by the newly installed civilian reconstruction chief, L. Paul Bremer III, to demonstrate that a U.S. occupation struggling to deliver order and material improvements to Iraqis will not tolerate Baathist resistance and is serious about remaking the country.

The US has also decided to delay plans to turn over the administration of Iraq to an Iraqi civilian administration.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 16 — In an abrupt reversal, the United States and Britain have indefinitely put off their plan to allow Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month.

These are both needed moves. The United States faces an up-hill battle to create the conditions that will lead to an even partially liberal secular democracy in Iraq.

Update: Philip J. Carroll, US adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil suggests Iraq should not be a member of OPEC.

BAGHDAD, May 16 -- The U.S. executive selected by the Pentagon to advise Iraq's Ministry of Oil suggested today that the country might best be served by exporting as much oil as it can and disregarding quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Free of OPEC quota constraints, Iraq could potentially be producing 12 million barrels a day within a decade.

The average cost of bringing a barrel of oil out of the ground in the U.S. is about $10. In Saudi Arabia, it's about $2.50. And in Iraq, it's less than $1, according to Fadhil Chalabi, executive director of the Center for Global Energy Studies in London and former Under Secretary of Oil in Iraq.

To put that in perspective Iraq averaged 2.45 million barrels a day output in 2001.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Iraq's average daily output last year was 2.45 million barrels a day, with about 2 million barrels a day legally exported under the U.N. program and the rest used domestically.

The more oil Iraq produces the cheaper oil will be for the whole world. Also, the lower prices would decrease revenue for Saudi Arabia and partially defund the export of Wahhabism. Still, a more thorough solution is needed for the problem of Saudi oil money going to spread of one of the most hostile forms of Islam. A revolution in Saudi Arabia followed by a break-up of Saudi Arabia would allow the oil revenue to be owned by a Shia Muslim state created out of the oil area western Saudi Arabia where Shias are a majority. This would cut off a huge source of cash for the Wahhabis.

Update II: Jonathan Foreman reports that US soldiers in Baghdad fear there will be an intifada in Baghdad if the US occupation officials do not get their act together.

These soldiers see the reservoir of Iraqi goodwill draining away while bureaucrats take their time holding meetings and making plans as if time were somehow not an issue. They fear that their successors here will face an intifada in the summer if power, water, medicine, gasoline and food don't start reaching Iraqi civilians.

"We ain't helping these people" says Sgt. Johnny Perdue of the 4/64 Scouts. It's just so f----ing frustrating. ORHA say they're doing it. Well, they're not doing it in the places we go."

"I'm no bleeding heart" says Sgt. Leon "Pete" Peters (who had more than his share of kills during the fighting south of the city). "I'll pull the trigger quick as anyone. But this place is going to go crazy if we don't find a way to help these people . . . I've been here for more than 30 days and I've yet to see a single yellow humanitarian food package."

The on-going debacle of America's half-hearted attempt at colonial rule of Iraq continues to unfold without enough attention in the press or in blog land. The hawks who supported the war have a moral obligation to push for better post-war management of Iraq. If we all hadn't pushed for the war in the first place the war wouldn't have happened.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 17 03:41 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 16 Friday
Francis Fukuyama Skeptical Democracy Will Succeed In Iraq

In a conversation with Michael Gove of The Times of London Francis Fukuyama expresses his doubt that the United States has sufficient will and staying-power to reshape Iraq.

“The idealist view of the Middle East is that Arab politics is stuck, and you can use Iraq to create an alternative model, an Arab state with freedom, the rule of law, greater democracy. I hope that happens. But I must say I’m sceptical. They (the Iraqis) are a fractious people. It’s an extremely delicate game to have a non-Baathist regime to keep the country together. And the other reason to be pessimistic is that we (the US) are not good at nation-building. We’re quick on the trigger when it comes to military intervention, but much slower on making the commitment to order and reconstruction.”

There is already talk in the Bush Administration about when all the troops will be pulled out of Iraq even while the level of violence is growing and militias are being formed around political parties. There certainly are abundant reasons for skepticism.

Fukuyama also defends his friend Paul Wolfowitz against the popular caricature of Wolfowitz as a neoconservative hawk operating simply to defend Israel. Fukuyama rightly cites Wolfowitz's role in pushing for the downfall of Marcos in the Philippines and in attempts to bring democratic change to Indonesia as well.

Fukuyama's response in the article to Robert Kagan's views on Europe appear to be meant to be a criticism of Kagan's views but he concedes some of Kagan's argument about why Europeans are reluctant to use force in the first place.

The key point on Europe where Fukuyama gets it right is that a split between Europe and America is not in the interest of the West as a whole. The problem, though, is that a major motivation for what is called the "European Project" is to be able to make Europe into a competing power center against the United States. The French elite clearly want that outcome. Some portion of the elite in other European nations want that as well. In my view the biggest likely catalyst for the development of a deeper split will be if European countries give up foreign and defense policy power to the EU central government. If that happens there is no way that Britain as a member of the EU can serve as a bridge between the United States and Europe any more than New York State or Massachusetts could play that role on on the western side of the Atlantic.

Update: In a recent interview Paul Wolfowitz demonstrates his appreciation of the need for an extended US presence in Iraq.

Q: What's the biggest mistake the U.S. can make in post-war?

Wolfowitz: The biggest mistake is to underestimate the resilience of the old regime and people's fear that the Ba'athists will outlast us. One of our big concerns is Iranian intervention. If people think the Americans aren't here to stay, the natural thing will be to say, "Let's get as much help from Iran or wherever we think it's coming from while we can." We want to convey that we'll be there, for emergency use, for a long time.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 16 02:07 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Homicide Rate In Baghdad Surges 60% In Last 10 Days

While ordinary Iraqis carry out revenge killings of the Baathists the Baathists are going around sabotaging electric power lines and power plants.

Independent observers expect worse. As more and more mass graves are discovered in Iraq, and people find out exactly what happened to their relatives who disappeared, "our prediction is ... there will be a huge spike in revenge killings," says Saman Zia-Zarifi, a researcher here with Human Rights Watch. US authorities here are also worried that Baathists themselves are "actively and aggressively seeking to defeat, discredit, and disrupt coalition operations," General McKiernan said Wednesday.

This is an excellent article by Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor. The doctors can tell which of the people who come in with gunshot wounds are thieves just by looking at their shoes. Some Iraqis are advocating the shooting of looters on sight while US forces say they will only do it in self defense.

The revenge killings (which at least are probably killing some murderers of the old regime) and the looting are not the worst of it. Writing in The New Republic Hassan Fattah reports on the formation of armed militias associated with each new political party.

Except that, according to security sources, many of these parties have formed organized armed militias ranging in size from 500 men for Hizb Al Dawa, a leading theocratic Shia group, to more than 2,000 fighters for SCIRI, whose armed wing is called the Badr Brigade. SCIRI, like several of these organizations, allegedly received training for their militias from Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Even the long-repressed Iraqi Communist Party, led by aging Marxists, has supposedly set up a 600-man force.

Meanwhile, according to several security sources, even more dangerous groups may be setting up in Iraq. A group made up of former Baathists is attempting to constitute a militia of Saddam loyalists. And security sources in Baghdad say that Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, is forming an Iraqi branch.

The formation of armed militias and the declaration of areas of turf is happening throughout Iraq. If US forces are not scaled up and allowed to far more forcefully establish order the country could decay into conditions similar to what was seen in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. It is worth noting that a single truck bomb attack on a US Marines barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983 killed 241 Marines. That is more than the US has lost so far in Iraq. With Iran's attempts to interfere in Iraq and the formation of a Hezbollah branch in Iraq it is also worth noting that there are credible claims that the Iranian government ordered the truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut.

The US can not afford to be so complacent about post-war Iraq disorder. The conditions there could easily develop in ways that will make Iraq far more dangerous for US soldiers than it was during the war.

Update: Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Warren Richey finds most soldiers he talked to in Baghdad are reluctant to be given the authority to shoot looters for fear that doing so will make the population view them as enemies. Lt. Col. Joel Armstrong, commander of the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) says the looters are not his biggest security problem.

Colonel Armstrong says looting is not the most significant problem in his sector of the city. His primary concern is the organized criminals paying the looters, as well as those carrying out carjackings, abductions, and robberies.

The move to lock up looters for a few weeks at a time will help. The attempts to put back into jail the 100,000 criminals that Saddam released could help a great deal if it could be done quickly. See the opening statement made by Ambassador Paul Bremer at his Baghdad press conference. The rate of arrests needs to be increased by an order of magnitude from the 300 in one day that Bremer mentions.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 16 10:44 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 15 Thursday
US Occupation Forces Move To Restore Order In Iraq

The US has stopped the draw down of forces in Iraq until order is restored.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 14 — The Third Infantry Division has been told to stop sending troops home and to step up patrols, a move that reflects mounting concerns within the Bush administration about security in Baghdad, military officials said today.

US forces allow Iraqis to keep guns in their homes.

U.S. forces allow Iraqi families to keep one rifle in their houses for protection but insist it remain inside. Any weapons spotted in the streets are confiscated and destroyed.

The use of trash collection to help restore order is right out of the "Broken Windows" theory of crime prevention.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. forces stepped up security patrols and began trash collection in a bid to create a sense of order in postwar Baghdad, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

More troops are being brought in to do security patrols.

Units with some 230 Humvees are flowing into the area Thursday and Friday and other troops also are on their way from staging areas in Kuwait, he said.

Paul Bremer, the new administrator for Iraq, vows to return to jail the 100,000 criminals that Saddam Hussein released.

Bremer noted that 100,000 inmates were released from Iraqi prisons in October by Saddam — political prisoners and common criminals alike. ''It's time those people are put back in jail,'' Bremer said.

It has taken a month of mounting criticism to get the Bush Administration to start moving more forcefully to restore order in Iraq. This should not have been necessary.

Update: One encouraging sign is that gun prices are rising in Baghdad.

One indication of US success is that the price of an AK-47 in Baghdad has increased from $8 a few weeks ago to more than $80 now, analysts say.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 15 12:17 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 12 Monday
Baghdad Is Still Lawless And Dangerous To Civilians

Saddam's regime fell on April 7. Baghdad and much of the rest of Iraq is still lawless over a month later. The Bush Administration is not acting in a responsible fashion to restore order in Iraq.

Reports of rapes, holdups and murders are multiplying citywide, in both poor and upscale districts. In this city of 5 million, the dearth of police is a fundamental problem, but certainly not the only one: Electrical power, gasoline, clean water and medical supplies remain unavailable or out of reach for many residents. The looting that broke out after the fall of Baghdad was a harbinger of a slow devolution into fear and despair, especially after dark, especially for women.

The criminally insane that are roaming the streets are certainly making a bad situation worse.

In the maximum security section of the mental hospital, 250 of the most dangerous criminally insane of Iraq were incarcerated. On the night of April 8 the looters made off with the door of this section, allowing the inmates to simply walk out.

The Baghdad police are so powerless that they still can not defend their own police station.

Even the police headquarters itself is not entirely secure. Wednesday evening, looters were seen stripping a building at the rear of the compound. The Iraqi police called in a contingent of U.S. military police, stationed across the street. The soldiers caught five of the men.

What possible excuse is there for this state of affairs? The US has had plenty of time to send in more troops. The US could have trained replacement police in the Kurdish region before the war. The US could have recruited police from friendly Arab states such as Jordan and Morocco.

The callous triumphalism of some rah rah hawk commentators makes me ill. This lawlessness undermines the achievement of the goal of building a secular democracy in Iraq. It makes Arabs in neighboring states think that the United States does not care about the Iraqis. It is stupid. The United States is being stupid in Iraq.

The first rationalization for the looting was that it was all just a letting off of steam over anger at Saddam Hussein's regime. The looting was directed at government buildings and so wasn't supposed to be anything to get upset about. But the criminality has spread into residential neighborhoods and includes rape gangs and carjackers.

While the major looting that followed the fall of Baghdad has tapered off, it has been replaced by more calculated crimes -- kidnapping, carjacking and home invasion robberies. Baghdad residents have set up 24-hour guards at their houses. They drive their children to and from school and carry loaded weapons.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld is rejecting the criticism that is being levelled in his direction. Rumsfeld says the aftermath was bound to be untidy.

The other thing I'd do, just to put a little perspective on it, is it's been 51 days since the war started. I mean, ask ourselves, each of us, what have we accomplished in 51 days? No, that's embarrassing, I shouldn't do that to you! (Laughs.) That would be wrong. (Laughter.) But 51 days is not very long. And I think that the reality is that it is a very difficult transition from despotism and repression to a freer system. It's untidy, it is -- it is -- there will be fits and starts, and a couple of steps forward and a step back. There'll be bumps along the way.

And it strikes me that what it requires is for people to be realistic; to look at other countries that have made that transition and ask how was that done, how long did it take, how difficult was it, how untidy was it? And recognize that this country does not have a history of representative or democratic systems; it's going to take some time and it's going to take some patience. And we accept that, and we're there to create an environment where that process can take place. And we have patience, and we accept the fact that it's untidy. And I hope that others can recognize that and accept it and put it into some historical context.

News flash for you Donny: It would have been a lot less untidy if you had put as much effort into planning for the aftermath of the invasion as you did into the invasion itself. You could have sent over enough soldiers to be able to stomp down on the looting as soon as it started. If order had been established initially it would have been much easier to maintain it. Anyone familiar with the "Broken Windows" theory of policing could explain it to you. Go ask James Q. Wilson what you are doing wrong.

The excuse that the war has been over for such a short period of time misses the point: Just as the US is able to prosecute wars much more quickly it also ought to be able to restore order very quickly. But to restore order requires more boots on the ground than a war does and Rumsfeld did not want to send over that many troops. The problem is that the Bush Administration did not want to commit a large ground force for peacekeeping. When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki told Congress a larger peacekeeping force would be needed Rumsfeld slapped down Shinseki for suggesting such an idea.

When Shinseki suggested this year that it might take "several hundred thousand" troops to occupy Iraq, he was rebuked by the Pentagon as being "wildly off the mark." About 125,000 U.S. ground troops are in Iraq, a figure the Pentagon hopes to drastically reduce in the coming months.

Had it been done right with a larger ground force then once order had been established and a new police force was developed the larger ground force could have been scaled back. There would not have been this period of such lawlessness. But the Bush Administration chose a force size that is allowing the criminals to prey on the innocent in Iraq.

The US needs to round up the 100,000 criminals that Saddam released from prison before the war started.

It was clearly not in the ORHA's plans to face the 100,000 criminals let out of jail by Saddam in the run-up to the war, nor the remnants of the Saddam regime. Mr Bremer will have an easier task than Gen Garner. As he is superior to the military, he will be able to tell the generals where to put their tanks and which buildings to guard.

To round up 100,000 criminals would be a big job under much more favorable circumstances. But with so few police and so few troops available to do policing the US is not even in a position to start doing that.

Update: The lawlessness increases the appeal of political Muslim clerics such as Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim who drew a crowd of 60,000 on Saturday in Samawa Iraq.

Ayatollah al-Hakim’s choice of words is revealing. His rhetoric is a lilting, nuanced delivery that builds to a crescendo of finger-stabbing that has provoked crowds to the traditional Shia response of beating their chest in unison, creating an effect akin to drums of war. Motifs repeated throughout speeches on the trail are: Islam, democracy, Sharia (Islamic law), unity, freedom and tolerance of other religions.

Tellingly, he insists repeatedly that Iraqis can “secure” and “rebuild” their own country — one reference a swipe at coalition forces for failing to stop looting, the other a message that General Jay Garner’s Organisation for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance is not needed in Iraq.

Update II: Al Rashad state hospital in Baghdad has lost 800 of 1100 patients and some are quite dangerous.

The marines broke the door down on the maximum security wing, and in no time the patients were gone, untethered from the antipsychotic drugs that stabilized many of them. One doctor said he was told by a Marine officer that the officer was there to "liberate and then leave."

Update III: As one region of Baghdad has come be known to US soldiers as "Looterville" US officials admit they need more troops to maintain order.

BAGHDAD, May 12 -- Baghdad residents and U.S. officials said today that U.S. occupation forces are insufficient to maintain order in the Iraqi capital and called for reinforcements to calm a wave of violence that has unfurled over the city, undermining relief and reconstruction efforts and inspiring anxiety about the future.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 12 02:00 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 09 Friday
Order Still Slow In Returning To Post-War Iraq

Looting gangs in Baghdad have made their work into a daily routine

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Ali Hussein and his three companions have turned looting into a 9-to-5 occupation. They rise each morning, hire a car and pick a target among the hundreds of burned out buildings in the capital.

The size of the military force needed to invade the country is smaller than what is needed to maintain order afterward.

Military commanders also have complained that although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to fight the war with smaller numbers of fast-moving troops may have been a wise battlefield strategy, it has left them with too few personnel to police a California-size country of 25 million people.

"Imagine spreading 150,000 soldiers in the state of California and then ask yourself, 'Could you secure all of California, all the time, with 150,000 soldiers?' " McKiernan said. "The answer is no. So we're focused on certain areas, on certain transportation networks we need to make sure are open."

That latter quote is from Lt. Gen. David McKiernan who is commander of all ground forces in Iraq. He's admitting that they do not have enough troops to protect the whole country.

The US led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq was given little time to prepare for their job.

Just weeks into its nation-rebuilding enterprise, ORHA is making it up as it goes along, cleaning up after a war conducted in lightning fashion in a country where the United States has had no official presence for more than a decade.

The man in charge of ORHA got the call to duty only in January, and he notes the contrast with a half-century ago, when the U.S. government took more than two years to prepare for the occupation of Germany.

It was clear by the summer of 2002 that the Bush Administration was more likely than not to invade Iraq. Why didn't they start preparations for post-war rule much earlier? Their handling of it has been incompetent and irresponsible.

International aid agencies have been afraid to start working in Iraq's third largest city of Mosul due to security concerns.

Until the Army team showed up Wednesday for a meeting in Irbil, the aid groups there weren't sure whom to call for information about needs in Mosul, said Hoshyar Siwaily, deputy minister of Humanitarian Aid and Cooperation, an arm of the Kurdish regional government in Irbil.

He said many outside of Mosul have been skeptical of the U.S. military's ability to keep the peace there. The city is the birthplace of Arab nationalism in Iraq, and is the traditional home of the Iraqi military's officer corps, he said.

Since Mosul and other cities in the northern part of Iraq have large Kurdish populations the cities that were not already part of the Kurdish self-rule zone could have been transitioned to safer conditions more rapdily if a large number of Kurdish police had been trained in the Kurdish self-rule zone before the war started. If some of the police had been recruited because of bilingual capabilities they would even have been able to provide policing in areas with a mix of Arab and Kurdish populations.

Writing in The Weekly Standard in an article entitled "Bad Reporting in Baghdad" Jonathan Foreman claims that most Western press coverage of conditions in Baghdad portrays conditions as far worse than they actually are.

But you won't see much of this on TV or read about it in the papers. To an amazing degree, the Baghdad-based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population--most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude that accompany every such encounter. Instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans for allowing the breakdown of law and order in their city.

Well, I've met hundreds of Iraqis as I accompanied army patrols all over the city during the past two weeks and I've never encountered any such fury (even in areas that were formerly controlled by the Marines, who as the premier warrior force were never expected to carry out peacekeeping or policing functions). There is understandable frustration about the continuing failure of the Americans to get the water supply and the electricity turned back on, though the ubiquity of generators indicates that the latter was always a problem. And there are appeals for more protection (difficult to provide with only 12,000 troops in a city of 6 million that has not been placed under strict martial law). But there is no fury.

Foreman argues that since most of the Iraqis are really not that mad at us we haven't done a bad job post-war. He says "the media have bizarrely high expectations about how quickly a conquered city should return to normal". Yet while some of the expectations were probably unrealistic I fail to see how it could not have been planned in advance that thousands of Military Police would have been available to enter Baghdad shortly following the soldiers. Did the US lack the logistical capability to have brought along ten or twenty thousand more soldiers? Did the US still lack that capability once the fighting at pretty much stopped? I have a hard time believing that.

Similarly, did the US lack the capacity to bring along some large electric power generators to use to get the water restored in Baghdad more quickly? Again I doubt it. A more likely explanation for the slow efforts to get water and electricity restored is that little planning work went into developing the ability to do so in advance of the start of the war. Jay Garner was given his job less than 3 months before the war started and had no time to develop and implement an elaborate post-war plan in advance of the outbreak of hostilities. While the Pentagon spent years planning an invasion of Iraq it is obvious that the Pentagon planning effort included very little in terms of how to rapidly get Iraq functioning again once the war ended. The poor post-war performance of the US military in Iraq is a demonstration of an arrogant and ultimately counterproductive "we don't do peacekeeping" attitude evident among many top US policymakers. This attitude is clearly not in the United States' best interest and undermines US attempts to transform Iraq into a secular democracy that will inspire the people in the other countries in the region.

On the bright side, the market is moving much faster than the US government.

The regulations could appear to be a footnote to the Baath Party's three-decade rule. But to the window-shoppers in towns across the country, the overnight appearance of once-outlawed goods like satellite dishes represents tangible proof that Iraq is emerging from its dark age. They may still be awaiting reliable drinking water and electricity, but they are starting to get their MTV.

Update: When you read reports of gasoline shortages in Baghdad keep in mind that there are unprecedented traffic jams in Baghdad.

Traffic is a good example of license taken too far. This city of 5 million people has broad boulevards and modern expressways, and in the past it rarely experienced traffic jams. Now they are epic. Hardly anyone has gone back to work, but they all seem to be driving around. One-way signs, stop lights, divided highways, the distinction between on-ramps and off-ramps, all are ignored at will.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 09 06:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
US Army Hires Looters To Stop The Looting

Hiring looters is an effective way to stop looting.

BAGHDAD – US Army officials in the eastern part of the Iraqi capital are taking a novel approach to stop looters - offering some of them a job that pays better than stealing government property.

In the three days since the experiment began, the number of looters in a massive multiacre warehouse and industrial stockyard run by the Iraqi power company has dropped from several hundred to zero.

I wonder if previous to this the US Army had the authority to hire local people in Iraq. The wages in Iraq are so low that hiring a bunch of them doesn't cost very much. It seems like a sensible cheap thing to do more widely.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 09 02:35 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 May 06 Tuesday
Qusay Hussein Removed $1 Billion From Baghdad Bank

The amount stolen is about twice as much as the looters stole after Baghdad fell.

Qusay Saddam Hussein, Mr. Hussein's second son, presided over the seizure of the money, along with Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, the president's personal assistant, the Iraqi official here said. The seizure took place at 4 a.m. on March 18, just hours before the first American air assault.

The money was US dollar foreign currency reserves. Saddam may think he can use it to fund efforts to undermine American rule and eventually to engineer his way back into power when the United States withdraws. Officials could be bribed. Hit men could be hired. There are a lot of ways to to use cash to cause a lot of problems.

All the bank looting by Saddam and by ordinary Iraqis presents the US with a problem: Are any of the Iraqi banks now insolvent? Will the US allow account holders to lose their deposits?

By Randall Parker    2003 May 06 02:22 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 May 04 Sunday
An Iraqi Capitalist Says It Is Time To Privatize

Most of the economic discussion about Iraq revolves around oil. The questions debated tend to be whether the oil reserves should be sold or leased to the highest bidders, whether the government oil company should split up and privatized, and whether pre-war contracts with French and Russian firms should be honored. The question of the oil industry in Iraq is an emotionally charged subject because of fears of America's intentions. It is difficult to know what the best approach is to the oil assets. But the Iraqi economy has many other parts which could be dealt with more rationally and those parts could flourish and grow under the right circumstances. New York Times reporter Patrick Graham met a Baghdad Iraqi from an old trading family who offers the strong advice that the government owned industries in Iraq should be sold off in quickly within two or three years.

His biggest worry is that the new government will revert to the old socialist system, leaving a huge public sector and a corrupt system designed to benefit a few. ''Iraq needs a privatization czar,'' he said. ''Now, the ministry of industry owns the industries. That's wrong. They should look at it like it's a hostile takeover. Buy it, crack it up, sell it off. If I had control, I'd go to the C.I.A. or whoever is in charge now and get them to put a minister of finance, the heads of the private banks and the business groups in a room and make them come up with a financial solution. They need to set up a preliminary budget, get that money that's in escrow and pay the employees in charge of services. And they have to privatize. The Chinese model is too slow. Iraq needs a quicker pace, say two or three years.''

This argument makes sense. It is better to sell off all the industries there while the American government is still in control so that the eventual native government will not be tempted to continue to pursue socialist policies.

By Randall Parker    2003 May 04 03:30 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
Fallujah Iraqis Angered At US Soldier Sunglasses

It is worth noting that currently the area with greatest visible anger toward US troop presence in Iraqi is populated by Sunni Bedouin tribesmen and not by Shias. Why this this? Is it because the Sunnis have lost status with the fall of Saddam and blame the Americans? Or are there more troublemakers from the old regime in Sunni areas (perhaps because Baathists can more easily live in Sunni areas) going into the crowds shooting at the US Army solders in order to provoke them into returning fire that kills locals?

They are so paranoid that they think US solders have the kinds of sunglasses that American boys have been fooled into believing to exist for many years.

The cultural gap between locals and US soldiers runs deep. "We have heard that the Americans' sunglasses allow them to see through our women's clothes," said a man standing across the road from the contested US headquarters. "We are very angry to think that they can see our women naked."

By Randall Parker    2003 May 04 12:34 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 29 Tuesday
Amir Taheri Reports On Competing US Factions In Iraq

Paris-based Iranian writer Amir Taheri is in Iraq and has found little in the way of anti-American sentiment among Shiites in southern Iraq. He has even found a phenomenon I've read in previous reports: Iranians hired by Mullahs allied with Iran to come in and participate in street demonstrations. If a faction has to hire political workers from another country it doesn't have many domestic supporters. At the same time, he is finding many disquieting indicators that the American agencies operating in Iraq are operating at cross-purposes that reflect splits in the Bush Administration.

Much of current American "political" activity among the Shiites consists of an extension of the fight within the Bush administration about who to promote as the interim leader for Iraq.

This leads to comical scenes. A local mullah is first approached and offered money by an American "contact" in exchange for supporting Ahmad Chalabi, a former exile leader now back in Baghdad. Later, another American "contact" calls on the same mullah and offers him money not to support Chalabi.

This boggles the mind. I expected the Bush Administration to make a lot of avoidable mistakes in administering Iraq post-war. But this is one mistake that came as a surprise. Can they be that foolish? Apparently.

The US is allowing a power vacuum in Iraq that is providing an opening for hostile forces to organize. There is reticence in the Bush Administration to admit just how heavily it has to manage Iraq. The Iraqis are expecting us to take charge. If we don't do so in a big way they will think we are politically incompetent. Also, groups with extreme views and high levels of motivation will move to fill our place.

The extent of the Bush Administration's bumbling in Iraq is demonstrated by the meetings it is holding with exile and local Iraqi leaders to organize a new administration that will start operating months from now. Put yourself in Iraqi shoes. How would you personally like to have no police protection because your political leaders were pursuing negotiations that were going to drag out for months instead of dealing with the very basics of public order first? Iraq needs order. We wiped out the previous government. We have to accept our role as the provider of the new government and we have to do it now. Failure to do so is grossly irresponsible and is strongly against our interests and against the needs of the Iraqi people.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 29 11:19 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Iraqi Exiles, Locals Split On Length Of US Involvement

The most curious thing about the split is that the local leaders favor a longer US involvement.

There were disagreements between returned exiles and those who had stayed to endure the regime's strictures. Most former exiles wanted a lesser US role, while those who had not left Iraq said they wanted more US supervision because they did not trust the returnees.

The local leaders do not want to be ruled by the exiles.

Clear differences emerged among the delegates on US involvement, with exiles generally seeking a diminished role for Washington and many locals wanting a stronger US role until elections can be held.

The exiles are seen by local leaders as potential carpetbaggers. The US government is seen as more fair relatively speaking.

At some stage in the process of creation of a new government in Iraq the US ought to consider negotiating a treaty to place the US in the position of having the legal right to intervene in Iraq to prevent any one faction from taking over and oppressing everyone else. Most of the local leaders and even many of the returned exiles must realize that the worst nightmare scenario is that they could wake up one day with a new dictatorship that is just as willing to lock up political opposition as the old regime was. Iraq needs some sort of mechanism to prevent the reestablishment of a dictatorship.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 29 10:42 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 28 Monday
Niall Ferguson Says Americans Too Impatient And Uninterested To Be Imperialists

Niall Ferguson, historian and author of Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power has written an interesting essay in the New York Times Magazine about the lack of patience of Americans to pursue reshaping of other countries for the amount of time required to make lasting beneficial changes.

The United States unquestionably has the raw economic power to build an empire -- more, indeed, than the United Kingdom ever had at its disposal. In 1913, for example, Britain's share of total world output was 8 percent, while the equivalent figure for the United States in 1998 was 22 percent. There's ''soft'' power too -- the endlessly innovative consumer culture that Joseph Nye argues is an essential component of American power -- but at its core, as we have seen in Afghanistan and now in Iraq, American power is far from soft. It can be very, very hard. The trouble is that it is ephemeral. It is not so much Power Lite as Flash Power -- here today, with a spectacular bang, but gone tomorrow.

Besides the presidential time frame -- which is limited by the four-year election cycle -- the most obvious symptom of its short-windedness is the difficulty the American empire finds in recruiting the right sort of people to run it. America's educational institutions excel at producing young men and women who are both academically and professionally very well trained. It's just that the young elites have no desire whatsoever to spend their lives running a screwed-up, sun-scorched sandpit like Iraq. America's brightest and best aspire not to govern Mesopotamia, but to manage MTV; not to rule Hejaz, but to run a hedge fund; not to be a C.B.E., or Commander of the British Empire, but to be a C.E.O. And that, of course, is one reason so many of the Americans currently in Iraq are first-generation immigrants to the United States -- men like Cpl. Kemaphoom Chanawongse.

Few Americans live abroad and most of those who do live in highly developed Western countries. The best and brightest spend little time learning about the sorts of places that American foreign policy is trying to transform. Most American intellectuals and foreign policy pundits who advocate radical transformation of Islamic countries as a major American foreign policy goal seem to have put little effort into trying to identify all the nuts and bolts elements that would have to be understood and manipulated to successfully transform the target societies. One must understand why Islamic countries are not liberal democracies already and what would be required to change them to make them into liberal democracies. But if one's own ideology is a sort of Liberal Democratic Manifest Destiny (see Fukuyama) which argues that liberal democracy naturally automatically appeals to humans then there is no need to think long and hard about why there is a Clash Of Civilizations.

Ferguson brings up Gertrude Bell whose diaries I've previously linked to. Reading her provides a view into the curious way Iraq was run by Britain and Faisal in the 1920s.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 28 02:11 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 26 Saturday
Why Deep De-Baathification Of Iraq Is Necessary

Former Soviet dissident Dr. Yuri Yarim-Agaev provides the best arguments I've found so far for a deep de-Baathification of the Iraqi government.

Second, allowing Baathists to keep their political positions would greatly undermine our credibility and ability to carry out democratic reforms. Many Iraqis would see us more as supporters of the old regime rather than liberators. This could cause the emergence of anti-Americanism among the most supportive and pro-democratic people of Iraq, and that would be the last thing we need.

Third, the Baathists are staunch ideological enemies of freedom, democracy, and capitalism. Although quite cynical about their own ideology, they deeply believe that a free market is chaos, and democracy is merely a propaganda tool for fooling the populace. They may readily pay lip service, but, if left at their positions, would actually sabotage democratic and free market reforms.

I strongly urge you to read Yarim-Agaev's full article. He makes many excellent points. He argues that there are plenty of professionals with the needed skills who are not Baath Party members. Also, many of those who rose in the Iraqi government did so because of their membership in the party and at the expense of more competent people who were not party members.

Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post reports that de-Baathification does not appear to be a priority of the US government.

De-Baathification in Iraq does not seem to be a high priority for U.S. policy. Iraqi citizens insisted it be inscribed as an important part of the 13-point statement issued at the end of the political organization meeting in Ur on April 15. They had to overcome procedural objections from U.S. organizers, who underestimate the potency of this issue.

I do not have confidence in the Bush Administration's approach to how to handle post-war Iraq. It is looking increasingly likely that they will continue to make major mistakes in their attempts to create a new order in Iraq.

The State Department is predictably more foolish that the Defense Department.

The State Department has argued that some mid- and low-level party members can and should be rehabilitated, as they have the experience to keep the country running; opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi - who has strong Pentagon support - has called for the Baath Party to be "uprooted." But some experts say an aggressive US effort to "de-Baathify" Iraq without broad international support and input could backfire.

Yet the US Defense Department, by not providing enough boots on the ground to maintain order in the absence of a real government, is creating the conditions that will increase the pressure for bringing Baathists into the post-war administration in order to restore order.

International support (or the lack thereof) is irrelevant. What is most important is to get Saddam's apparatchiks out of of power and keep them out of power.

I think the US government is taking the easiest route to dealing with a lot of the problems in Iraq. Because it lacks sufficient force on the ground to keep order it has to allow former regime police of questionable loyalties and questionable competence and fairness to go back out on the street. It also has to tolerate the rise of militias that could turn Iraq into something more like Afghanistan or like Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.

Long time exile Saddam regime opponent Kenan Makiya opposes the use of Baathists to restore order.

A U.S. general stepped forward and gave a report about how in Najaf and Kerbala, a local committee is getting the police force back on the streets. "Who are they?" asked Makiya. "Do you know who they are?" The retired general didn't have an answer. "They are all Baathists!" the exiled professor insisted. Makiya was adamant that Baathists should not be returned to positions of authority, even if it means the streets will remain unsafe.

The United States ought to recruit and train a whole new police force. It ought to do the same for the creation of a new judiciary and new staff for prosecutors and public defenders. But that would require more effort. The US is willing to spend big money to fight a war but it is probably going to squander the opportunity that the war has opened up.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 26 09:55 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Failure To Restore Order Leading To Militias In Iraq

Some Shiite religious militias are openly hostile toward the US presence.

Operating independently of the American forces, and increasingly hostile to them, to judge by the words of their leaders, are the Shiite Muslim armed groups that have sprung up in Baghdad and throughout southern Iraq over the past two weeks.

They say they take their orders from religious leaders based in the holy city of Najaf, and their prime task so far has been to impose law and order, since no central government authority yet exists.

In the absence of a central government or occupying authority to organize and control important assets local committees are organizing militias to take over and operate infrastructure.

Iraqi Shiites are organizing local committees, doling out funds to pay salaries, collecting looted property and sending militias to secure hospitals and electric plants. They have raised concerns that some may try to install a theocracy like the one next door, in Shiite-dominated Iran.

Ayad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), tells the Financial Times that failure to create security forces large enough to restore order will cause the rise of highly divisive militias.

"There are remnants of the Ba'ath party; the tribes are armed as well; there's the Badr Brigade [the armed wing of the Tehran-based Shia Muslim Sciri party], the Kurds and now other political parties with armed forces," he added.

"If you don't get rid of militias immediately, it will be disastrous."

Picture the warlordism of Afghanistan getting established in Iraq. That would be a nightmare that would lead to a low grade civil war and organized crime on a massive scale.

A Kurdish politician agrees on the need to disarm the militias.

Kurdish politician Khasro Jaf says the American military must disarm the country sooner, rather than later. Otherwise, he says there will be anarchy. "If Americans leave too soon, he says, a lot of troubles will exist because some armed militias will exist around the parties," he says.

Iraq needs a more rapid deployment of a military force sufficient to restore and maintain order. Because weapons in the US arsenal have become so powerful the US needs a smaller force to invade a country and defeat its army than it does to maintain order afterward. While some people in the US government do not want to see the US military get into the peacekeeping business the failure to do so will leave Iraq in chaos and fuel the rise of religious parties and warlords.

Update: The arms bazaars of Iraq are fueling the rise of militias.

At the plaza on the Ad Dawrah Expressway, the lawlessness that followed the capture of Baghdad by U.S. troops has merged with an anything-goes free market to produce a dangerous juncture: an arms bazaar in which weapons of war are for sale to anyone with a little cash, with no questions asked on either side and little interference from the U.S. forces.

Continued lack of law and order in Iraq will be interpreted by the Iraqis as contempt on the part of the US government toward the Iraqi people. The development of that attitude in the minds of Iraqis is well under way. If the United States takes the easy shortcut of reinstalling Baathists to return order that will also be interpreted as a sign of US contempt toward the Iraqi people. By contrast, if the US asserts order using its own forces and newly recruited Iraqis it will have a far greater chance of being seen as attempting to govern in the interest of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people will be far more receptive toward reforms that the United State introduces.

Update II: Demonstrating another potential source of lawlessness and warlordism in Iraq Turkey joins the list of neighbors trying to stir up trouble in Iraq.

Turkish Special Forces soldiers were caught trying to smuggle grenades, night-vision goggles and dozens of rifles into this oil-rich city in northern Iraq earlier this week, American military officials said today. The officials said they believed that the weapons, which were hidden in an aid convoy, were bound for Turkmen living here.

The US needs to more pervasively assert control in Iraq and make it clear that no faction inside or outside is going to control any region or part of a city there.

Shiite Muslim clerics are also stepping into the power vacuum created by a lack of government in Iraq.

Islamic administrations have already been established in a series of towns and villages in the Shia heartland of the south and east, with clerics stepping into the vacuum left by the collapse of the regime. The Shia religious authority, the Hawza, based in the holy city of Najaf, claims it is co-ordinating the takeovers.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 26 01:41 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 25 Friday
Iraqi Intelligence Files And Officials Round-Up

Pepe Escobar of Asia Times reports on Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence service business dealings with Arab and Western businesses.

The handwritten document details a series of meetings between June 2002 and March 2003 (even when war was already raging in Iraq), probably in the same safehouse, involving Mukhabarat agents and representatives of firms from many Arab countries but also from France, Russia and the Netherlands. The document should constitute additional proof that the secret services indeed operated as a parallel state in Iraq - way beyond the reach of United Nations sanctions and trade embargo. All negotiations were secret. And everything was paid in US dollars, cash.

There should be lots of juicy revelations coming out about Western business dealings with Iraq.

The Los Angeles Times has found documents on Iraqi intelligence service assassination operations.

BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi Intelligence Service established a unit to assassinate Saddam Hussein's enemies at home and abroad that claimed 66 successful "operations" between 1998 and 2000, according to documents obtained by The Times.

Juan Tamayo, who writes for the Knight-Ridder news service, has been writing some excellent dispatches from Iraq. He has an excellent story about the extent to which the Iraqi intelligence officers were burning intelligence files as US forces advanced across Iraq.

At the General Directorate of Intelligence, Iraq's equivalent of the FBI and CIA combined, one file room with 2-foot-thick concrete walls was still smoldering this week, and 3 feet of shredded papers blanketed another room.

Baghdad residents report Saddam loyalists went around torching government buildings.

"The way they burned the buildings all seemed very organized and prepared. They burned all the documents," says Ali Mansour, who watched a group of men arrive on April 10 and set fire to the Ministry of Higher Education.

US forces really blew it by not bringing a larger ground force to take Baghdad. They should have been in a position to capture and control more buildings from the first moment US forces entered the city. The hawks who are excusing this failure are missing the point: all those destroyed documents effectively deny or make more difficult major US war goals. This was an avoidable outcome.

The burning of so many files make it more important to round up former Iraqi intelligence officials and agents. Fortunately, some pretty big fish are are being rounded up. It would not be surprising to find that some of these guys hid some files for use to trade with the US to get better deals for themselves. It would also not be surprising if some lower level officials hid some files not so much protect themselves as to just get cash and perhaps the ability to move to some safer country.

An LA Times reporter managed to interview Saddam Hussein's last director of military intelligence, Gen. Zuhayr Naqib, before Naqib surrendered to US forces.

After a wide-ranging interview with The Times in which he sharply denied that he had done anything in his career that could be counted as a crime against humanity, Gen. Zuhayr Naqib, the director of military intelligence under Hussein, surrendered to U.S. forces here.

Naqib says he was just a military man following orders. Where have we heard that before?

The more of these guys that get rounded up the more pressure there will be on each of them to talk. If several know some valuable secret then only the first one to reveal it will get any sort of credit from American interrogators for the revelation.

Formerly head of Iraqi intelligence back in the early 1990s, Farouk Hijazi has also surrendered.

The capture of Farouk Hijazi, who is accused of involvement in the unsuccessful plot by Iraqi intelligence to kill the first President Bush in 1993, came a day after the surrender of Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister.

The Daily Telegraph (free registration required) reports on how Saddam Hussein's secret police tested their officers.

The chief of Saddam Hussein's secret police "151" division knew how to test the mettle of his officers.

Hazal al-Nasire handed down the Iraqi president's orders to kill political and religious opponents, praising successful assassins and ordering investigations into the motives of those who dared refuse him.

Or see The Christian Science Monitor version of the same story.

Members of a minority Sufi Muslim sect in Baghdad were discovered as members of a secret cell opposing Saddam's rule and killed in the final days of Saddam's regime.

Most of the men arrested, they said, were working in the underground organization in a bid to destabilize the Hussein regime. For years, they said, the clandestine group had avoided detection by the intelligence services. It was exposed a few days before the war started when a courier was captured by the Mukhabarat carrying incriminating letters to the north of Iraq, they said.

Here's a curious story: Kurdish cells in Baghdad grabbed control of some government buildings as the regime fell.

Fedayat said he joined an underground cell of the PUK three months ago. Since the fall of Baghdad two weeks ago, his Baghdad branch activated immediately, responding to the power vacuum by seizing a number of Baath Party buildings in the capital.

One has to wonder who directed them to seize those buildings. Kurdish leaders or US special forces or a combination of both perhaps?

I continue to think that the bombing of Mukhabarat buildings was unwise. Buildings that had intelligence files and files about weapons development programs should have been spared. The war should have been fought to maximize the intelligence gain.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 25 05:06 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Rumours Of A Deal For The Rapid Fall Of Baghdad

How did Baghdad fall so quickly? Pepe Escobar of the Asian Times offers up stories he heard in his own investigation.

So the story goes that a reward package for the "peaceful" handover of Baghdad was offered to Republican Guard commanders and, later on, the Fedayeen of Saddam. Republican Guard commanders received a lot of cash, a "secure" relocation outside of Iraq, and crucially for those not considered war criminals, the promise of a new job in post-Saddam Iraq. After all, the new American government will need cadres to run the remains of the devastated state apparatus. Top commanders were offered the option of residency in the US, for themselves and their families, and most of all the chance to play a relatively prominent role linked to some factions of the Iraqi opposition - basically the Iraqi National Congress (INC) led by the Pentagon's pet Iraqi, Ahmad Chalabi.

Why did Baghdad fall more quickly than Basra? Escobar offers a story of deals and intrigue to explain it.

The disturbing part of the story is that the US is not going to try to hunt down and discover any of the lower level members of the regime who did horrible things to the Iraqi people. Though this does hold with past patterns in dealing with fallen regimes. Few East Germans were imprisoned for what they did during the Soviet era and other similar examples can be cited.

Moral considerations of justice aside, the elements of the old regime who survive with their freedom and wealth pose a threat to the development of democracy in Iraq. Many of these people are totalitarian in mindset and they can reconstitute and organize against more liberal elements of Iraqi society. Such more liberal members of Iraqi society are already few in number in the first place and in the coming months and years they may be facing assassinations, violence, and intimidation from elements of the old regime.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 25 02:44 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
Christopher Hitchens Makes Constructive Suggestion On Iraq

After making a spirited defense of Ahmad Chalabi Christopher Hitchens makes a practical constructive suggestion to the legions of people who exerted so much energy opposing the war in Iraq.

What if one-tenth of the energy of the anti-war movement was now diverted to helping the secular and democratic forces in Iraq and Kurdistan? To giving assistance to a free press, helping to sponsor political prisoners and searches for the missing, providing money and materials for human rights and women's groups? Maybe a few of the human shields and witnesses for peace could return and pitch in with the reconstruction? I know a few such volunteers, chiefly medical ones, but not many when compared to the amazing expenditure of time and effort that went on postponing the liberation. It's just a thought. Maybe something will come of it.

There are probably all manner of groups in Iraq that would do with a small printing press, xerox machine, fax machine, paper, and other supplied need to set up newspapers, political parties, and activist groups. There are no doubt Iraqi intellectuals who would like to devote themselves to investigating the past activities of Saddam's regime. Small amounts of money wisely directly could go a long well toward helping to build a civil society in Iraq.

While this may seem odd I'm reminded of the web site where people can order pizzas for Israeli soldiers. What is needed is for some organization to form to accept donations of equipment and cash to deliver to groups and individuals in Iraq who are trying to build a civil society. In fact, one can easily imagine the formation of different groups that direct their money toward people of different ideological persuasions and for different causes. For example, imagine something equivalent to Emily's List that directs money toward feminist politicians and feminist political activists in Iraq.

To staff the boards of such groups well known public figures whose political views are well understood and whose integrity is unquestioned are needed to volunteer their names and some time to do oversight to assure that the donated money and equipment are all going toward their intended purposes. Perhaps a few really big name bloggers could volunteer their own time as directors and also to help promote these organizations.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 25 01:41 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 April 24 Thursday
De-Nazification Compared To De-Baathification

Writing in the Opinion Journal Daniel Johnson describes the process of de-Nazification in the aftermath of World War II.

In the U.S. zone, where de-Nazification was pursued most vigorously, three million out of 13 million who filled out the form were followed up. Former Nazis were divided into four categories, ranging from senior officials with a high degree of culpability to mere fellow-travelers. Punishments ranged from prison or labor camp (to which 9,000 were sentenced) to confiscation of property (25,000), exclusion from public office (22,000) or fines (more than 500,000). By 1948, when de-Nazification was phased out except for about 30,000 senior Nazis, the Americans had prosecuted nearly a million Germans, of whom more than 600,000 were penalized. In the British zone, only about two million were investigated, of whom 350,000 were excluded from positions of responsibility.

To make this process work in Iraq the United States would have to commit to an occupation period that would last for years. At this point the Bush Administration is unwilling to commit (at least publically) to such a long occupation. For this and other reasons mentioned in Johnson's essay de-Baathification is unlikely to be pursued to even remotely near the extent that de-Nazification was pursued in Germany.

Iraq is harder to reform into a democracy than Germany was at the end of World War II. Yet the United States is not going to try has hard in Iraq as it did in Germany. Success in reshaping Iraq seems unlikely.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 24 04:40 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 23 Wednesday
US Officials Surprised, Worried By Radical Shiites In Iraq

Writing in the Washington Post Glenn Kessler and Dana Priest report that Bush Administration officials are beginning to wake up to the threat of radical Shia Islam as an illiberal political force in post-war Iraq.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.

It is disheartening that so many Bush Administration officials have been in a daze about how easy it would be to change the politics of post-war Iraq. The evidence was there to see for anyone who wasn't wearing rose colored glasses. Muslim societies are anti-Enlightenment societies. Any successful attempt to transform them (assuming this is even possible) will take a long time.

The WaPo article notes that US officials want to create a secular education system in Iraq. It is good that they recognize the importance of this. Well, they will face an uphill battle on that front. Islamists can recognize institutions that are a threat to their beliefs and Islamists in Afghanistan are physically attacking secular schools.

During the Taliban regime, Afghan girls were not allowed to go to school, and boys were educated in Islam. When the Taliban fell 18 months ago and schools opened their doors to all children, not everyone supported such equality. Last fall, schools for girls in Wardak province, near Kabul, were attacked.

Boys' schools had been safe. But in the past two months in Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold, seven of the schools were attacked and burned, including the one in Sheik Mohammadi, about six miles south of Kandahar. The schools have been accused of teaching Western thought and relying on Western money.

We have already suffered setbacks in our efforts to reform Iraq. There was a need to prosecute the war in a way to enhance US ability to remold Iraq post-war. Some serious mistakes have already been made in the execution of the war. Many hawks have dismissed these mistakes as inconsequential or unavoidable because they see that war was conducted so well by conventional military measures and that various predictions of disaster made by doves were found to be unwarranted. But it would be a mistake to assume that just because the United States has enormous military power and that its leaders are capable of using that power to rapidly win a conventional war that the level of capability available to reform Iraq post-war equals that available to prosecute a conventional war. War-making and cultural transformation are two very different tasks. The bigger battle is with Islamism as a political force and that can not be defeated with smart bombs and highly competent soldiers.

The war in Iraq should be thought of as more like a military campaign in a larger battle. That military campaign was necessary in part because the strategy of preemption as necessary. We have delayed Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction. But if we can not transform the patterns of thinking of Iraq's people into a relatively more liberal view then our prospects for doing so to the larger Arab and Muslim world are grim. Without that larger transformation continued advances in technology combined with a hostile illiberal religious ideology promise to cause a steady growth in the threat of catastrophic terrorism emanating from the Muslim world.

Also see also my previous post Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs.

(Afghan schools getting torched found on Little Green Footballs)

By Randall Parker    2003 April 23 11:49 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 21 Monday
Baath Party Members Will Hold Many Positions In New Iraq Government

So many were Baath Party members that Iraq can not operate without former Baathists.

The resurrection of the Ba'ath is, in part, acknowledgment of the daunting reality of governing a country as complex and battered as Iraq. Under Saddam membership was mandatory for teachers, police, the army, and senior posts in hospitals, universities, banks and the civil service.

The article argues that the looting and lawlessness after the fall of the old regime has increased the appeal of parts of the old regime's apparatus of government. This seems plausible. By not bringing a larger force to Baghdad and by not moving more rapidly to assert order as the new sheriff in charge of Baghdad the US lost some credibility as a deliverer of a new order. This has provided an opening for a lot of other groups to argue claim other sources of legitimacy for power.

The lawlessness has provided an opening for Mullahs to organize forces to maintain order.

In the power vacuum, that is just what they are doing. And rather than the free, secular power that Washington wants, the mullahs' authority is being asserted most forcefully. Vigilantes roam suburban streets and the mosques are organising club-brandishing crowds to set up road blocks at which they confiscate the looters' booty.

This ability of the Mullahs to organize a response to the lawlessness is helping to legitimize the Mullahs as political players. To the extent that religious leaders become political leaders the plans of the United States to turn Iraq into a democracy on more secular lines are undermined.

Still, there are other new players. Some are trying to get power by making decisions, giving orders, and posturing as if they have power.

Zubaidi, a Shiite Muslim dissident who has spent the past 24 years in exile and is a top official of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, said he was selected last week by a 22-member council of businessmen, clerics and intellectuals to run this city of 5 million people. Although his name elicits befuddled stares on the streets of Baghdad and his appointment has not been recognized by the U.S. military, he insisted he is the city's new leader.

It would not surprise me at all to see US administrators increasingly turn toward ex-Baathists as a counterweight against Islamists who will be making a play for power.

The battle in post-Saddam Iraq is going to be between semi-liberal democracy of the Turkish Ataturk model and theocracy based on the Iranian model. The question is whether the US has the willingness and determination to support the development of secular Iraqi Kemalists to do battle for decades against Muslim theocrats. The US could enhance the appeal of a Kemalist approach if it more vigorously maintained order and also cultivated the education and promotion of a secular elite. However, it is far from clear that the Bush Administration is willing to acknowledge the extent to which Iraq's development as a democracy depends on keeping the Mullahs out of politics.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 21 01:26 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 19 Saturday
US Soldiers Well Trained In Peacekeeping Operations

Reports in the New York Times and the Financial Times both show that the US soldiers in Iraq are well trained for peacekeeping operations.

Captain Robbins said his Kosovo tour gave him and his men some useful background in working with Muslims and in protecting American soldiers against potential threats in cities. It made them more familiar with a nation with minimal services and a damaged infrastructure. It also gave troops experience in how to forge links with a foreign population and form a civil leadership out of the ruins of an old order. "Every neighborhood has a big shot," he said. "You have to identify these folk, learn how to deal with them and get them on your side so they will not cause trouble for you and will report the bad guys."

One problem is that the soldiers do not appear to be getting enough support from higher ups to allow them to do small favors for the local populace.

I find the 101st soldiers have been well drilled on observing local customs and generally have very good judgment about dealing with civilians. Even without their officers and NCOs watching them, they are well behaved and understand their mission of peacekeeping. The frustrating thing is their inability to offer any sort of aid to the public, to get the electricity turned back on, for example. One Lieutenant from the company said the higher these requests go up the chain of command, the less interested the military brass is in hearing them "They're always saying 'there are bigger problems'. But what we see is that its the little things that make the most difference to these communities".

When invading a country to overthrow the government it ought to be considered a valid military objective to be able to very rapidly provide a large range of types of visible help to the local populace. The logistics capability of the military ought to be made sufficient to be able to bring up supplies for civilians as fast as the main body of the invading force advances. Also, the military should advance with sufficient force and resources to be able to instantly deploy a police force to maintain order in each populated area that is captured.

In conventional military terms the invasion of Iraq is an unqualified success. With a population of 24 million people and a land area of 171,000 square miles Iraq is territorially slightly larger than California (which is 163,707 square miles) but with approximately 70% of California's population. It was captured in under 3 weeks by less than four divisions and with less than 200 deaths in coalition forces. The rapid collapse of the regime in Baghdad even allowed a much lower number of civilian casualties than expected. However, as Daniel Pipes writes, military campaigns are no longer judged by the historical standards for war.

In the aggregate, these changes amount to a transformation of warfare. In important ways, Western operations against non-Western states resemble police raids more than warfare. Western governments are the police, local tyrants are the criminals and the subject populations are the victims. Note the parallels: Like gangland capos, Mullah Omar and Saddam Hussein disappeared (will Arafat be next?). The outcome of these operations is not in doubt. The rights of victims are as important as the safety of police. Not using excessive force is a paramount concern. And the Left goes easy on the criminals.

Expectations have risen in part because it has become possible for the United States to fight wars in ways less injurious to civilian populations and in part because the goals of war have changed. Expansion of empire and capture of the wealth of distant lands are no longer legitimate goals of war. Enemy civilians are no longer demonized. The opposite is the case one justification offered for war is to free and improve the lives of the populaces ruled by enemy regimes. If wars are going to be justifed in part because of their beneficial effects upon invaded countries then those populaces must be treated in ways that convince them that the invading forces have come to their lands to deliver real benefits to them. Also, those benefits must come in ways that the populaces can easily and quickly understand.

The populace of an Arab Muslim country which has both ethnic and sectarian religious divisions and which has been ruled by a brutal totalitarian dictatorship lacks the beliefs and habits needed to support a liberal democracy. At the same time, the populaces of countries in the Middle East have been fed a steady diet of arguments for distrusting US intentions. For these reasons a quick withdrawal of the invading forces will lead to the rise of a new repressive and hostile regime whose character and behavior will defeat all the purposes for which the war was fought in the first place. Therefore long term involvement of the invading powers is a necessity if all war aims are to be achieved.

To achieve all the objectives of a war against a regime such as Saddam Hussein's the US military must conduct itself in a way that builds goodwill and trust in the populace of an invaded country. Without that goodwill and trust the populace will be more resistant to the occupying forces. As a consequence any political reforms introduced by the occupying powers will be seen as lacking in legitimacy and will not be embraced and supported by the occupied populace.

Keep in mind that many values which Westerners hold highly such as freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech and assembly are - to the extent that they are accepted at all - still not accorded the same importance by ordinary Iraqis as they are by people in most Western countries. Any behavior by US and other coalition forces that tarnishes the image that Iraqis have of those forces will provide an opening for demagogues to argue that the coalition is hypocritical, duplicitous, unjust, and not benevolent. The demagogues will then have a more receptive audience for their arguments against Western values and in favor of older and more familiar values which have characterised their society for many centuries. Well-intentioned reforms will fail as the values which provide the justification for those reforms are rejected by a populace whose doubts develop into a deep cynicism toward the coalition rulers. A populace made cynical will then either turn toward Islamist political values or toward the pursuit of advance for family and tribe and other selfish concerns. Keep in mind that the illiberal message the Islamists are delivering is a message that comes right out of the Koran and they are delivering it to believing Muslims.

"The theory and practice of jihad was not concocted in the Pentagon," said Ibn Warraq, a speaker at the conference on Islam sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism at the Capitol Hilton. "It was taken from the Koran, the Hadith [additional sayings of Muhammad] and Islamic tradition. Western liberals, especially humanists, find it hard to believe this. The trouble with Western liberals is they are pathologically nice. They think that everyone thinks like them, including the Islamic fundamentalists.

"For humanists, terrorists are frustrated angels forever thwarted by the United States of America," he said.

In our efforts to remake Iraq we are opposed by a very formidable religious ideology. Its believers will ruthlessly exploit any mistakes that we make.

So far I would give the US military a "B-" grade in terms of how well it has acted as a police force and as an agent of humanitarian aid to the Iraqis. The logistics train that followed the military advance turned out to be (in spite of all criticism to the contrary while the military campaign was under way) big enough to keep the fighting forces well supplied. The underestimated resistance of the Baathists and Fedayaeen did not greatly slow the advance. But the logistics train was not big enough to support a larger medical assistance effort to the Iraqi civilians while the advance was on-going and in its immediate aftermath when the medical help was most needed.

Also, the lack of ability to enforce order (with the resulting looting and probably rape and other crimes that were less publicised) in many cities, the sustained period without electric power, and the lack of help to make their hospitals immediately able to do emergency treatment for the inevitable civilian casualties (e.g. electric generators to at least provide electricity to the hospitals) all represent lost opportunities for the invading forces to make a great first impression. While a larger ground force turned out not to be necessary for conventional fighting purposes it certainly would have been helpful for policing purposes and, as Daniel Pipes argued above, this invasion was more like a police operation than like a conventional military operation. That fact should have had a bigger impact on military planning.

The need to turn to the police of the old regime for help in policing also has weakened the transformative power of the occupying force. The conventional Iraqi police did not have a good reputation with the populace. Putting the old regime's police back on the streets gives the impression to the populace of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

This lost opportunity to make a better initial impression is very unfortunate because, while American and coalition performance will certainly improve, first impressions are very important. A population that has been fed a steady diet of anti-American and anti-Western demagoguery will naturally look at an invading force with considerable doubt and suspicion. That does not make it impossible to win them over. After all, the Iraqis know that their regime has lied to them about a great many things. But the effort to change their opinions of America and its allies would have been greatly helped by a exemplary performance by the military forces in terms of protecting and helping the Iraqis from the very moment of the collapse of regime control.

Another loss that came from the failure to be able to take over policing of Baghdad more quickly was a loss in intelligence information. The looting of many government buildings likely caused an intelligence loss as files and computers were walked out of the door by looters who desired the filing cabinets and computers for their market value. Also, some Iraqis whose relatives were taken away by Saddam's regime took files and ransacked thru files looking for information about their lost relatives. Those crucial early days as the US troops made their first forays into Baghdad were a period where a larger ground force could have taken control of more buildings more quickly and in the process prevented intelligence losses due to theft and fires.

Arguments that emphasise the performance of the US military in comparison to previous conventional military campaigns in history miss the point that the war was justified by an additional set of objectives beyond defeat of a hostile force. Conventional conquest was explicitly disavowed as a motive for the war. The war was justified in order to achieve a set of political objectives and the handling of its conduct and immediate aftermath should be measured in terms of how well that handling furthers the achievement of those political objectives.

The war's objectives were for the benefit of American security and more generally the security of the world. The prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a major justification. Certainly in the short to medium run as a result of this war Iraq will not be a source of WMD. But the war was also justified as part of a mission to democratize the Middle East, and in so doing, to change the Middle East in a way that will reduce the ability and the desire of its peoples and governments to support terrorism. To achieve that war aim requires that the US conduct itself in ways that demonstrate its goodwill toward the highly suspicious and distrusting populaces of Iraq and other countries in the region. Also, only liberal transformation of Iraqi political culture holds the prospect of permanently removing the desire for Iraq to develop WMD further in the future.

Keep in mind that I am not arguing that efforts to remake Iraqi into a Western-style democracy are going to succeed even if American management of post-war Iraqi is exemplary. I really think the odds are against a successful transformation of Iraqi society and politics to make an even semi-liberal democracy. But because the odds are so heavily against success and the costs and duration of an effort to achieve sustainable democratization will be considerable we need to do an absolutely first class job in all aspects of our intervention in Iraq to optimize our ability to affect the political development of that country.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 19 07:29 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 18 Friday
Why Baghdad Electric Power Off For So Long

If you want to know why the electricity has been off for so long in Baghdad then go read all these articles. The power plants have not been hit and are all functional. The natural gas pipeline flow from Kirkuk was interrupted but no one seems to know why. The distribution grid is rickety in the best of times and was inadvertently damaged in the bombing. But it is hard to turn the power back on because nobody seems to know why it went off in the first place.

U.S. military officials have insisted that coalition forces did not knowingly bomb any significant part of Iraq's electrical infrastructure. Matti said no other plant directors in Baghdad have reported taking a direct hit, but he said they reported that the bombing campaign had damaged the country's highly sensitive transmission grid.

It is possible that Saddam's regime ordered it turned off or possibly the distribution grid collapsed. It seems surprising that at this point the cause of of the outage should remain a mystery.

Another story adds support for the theory that cuts in the natural gas pipeline are the main cause of the power outage.

Janan Behnam, chief engineer of Baghdad's key power plant, says he knows nothing of any shutdown order. The problem, he and others at the south Baghdad plant say, was breaks in the lines that supply fuel to the plant.

They need a large surge of electric power into some of the Baghdad plants to activate them.

The military Friday plans to fly Iraqi engineers by helicopter along the transmission lines that run from Kirkuk. They will inspect the lines with the idea using the Kirkuk power to jump-start the Baghdad plants.

While the biggest power plant in Baghdad may be on within a day it may take as long as 10 days for power to return to all parts of the city.

Yesterday, Iraqi electrical workers said they hoped to have the city's biggest power plant going by tomorrow, or even today -- allowing the plant, in turn, to kick start the country's largest power plant, to the south.

Sounds like the power will be on in some parts of the city this weekend. This will also return water to many parts of the city since it is the lack of electricity to run water pumping stations that is keeping the water supply turned off.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 18 03:28 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 15 Tuesday
Jim Hoagland Defends Ahmad Chalabi

Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland, who has known Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi for 30 years, says he's a good man and that his association with the neoconservatives and Pentagon is due to their being convinced his analysis rather than to his being their puppet. Hoagland also says that the State Department attacks him because he's a Shiite and the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states do not like him for that reason and the Sunni states have convinced the State Department of their view of Chalabi.

Today it is Vice President Cheney, some Pentagon planners and neoconservative intellectuals (among others) who have absorbed his analysis of Iraq. That fact is offered as prima facie evidence that Chalabi is their creation and must be stopped. But that is the kind of guilt-by-association politics that Cheney once practiced in denouncing Nelson Mandela's African National Congress because it took support from Moscow and Moammar Gaddafi when American help was not available.

That a prominent columnist can advance such arguments demonstrates how many factors are at work in deciding who to back or oppose for new Iraqi leadership. Whether Chalabi turns out to be a wise choice for a leader in a future Iraq provisional government remains to be seen.

It is difficult to know what to make of this. Chalabi says he is not seeking a position in the Iraqi government.

"I am not a candidate for any post," Mr. Chalabi said in an interview with France's Le Monde daily. He will not attend today's opposition meeting, preferring to send a representative instead.

Is this just posturing? Does he want to just act as an adviser to Jay Garner while avoiding an official title? Does he want to stay out of the provisional government in order to make a run for elected office when elections are held?

Chalabi is seen as important enough that an assassination attempt has already been made against him.

“They attacked a camp of Chalabi’s devotees, leaving a number of them killed,” Abdul Amir El-Rakabi, an Iraqi exile, told on Saturday, April 12.

“They narrowly missed Chalabi,” he added.

Chalabi opposes a big role for the UN in governing Iraq.

“I do not believe the UN would be able to play a central role in Iraq. It has become a de facto ally of Saddam Hussein,” he said in an interview in Le Monde.

An article about the Iraqi city of Kut near the Iranian border portrays an Iraqi Shiite cleric paying Iranians to do a street protest against Chalabi. The US Marines are disarming the clerics followers and the Marines believe that Chalabi is liked by most of the people in Kut.

Marines say they aren't sure what Abbas was doing before the government fell, and they say he has the support of only 10 percent of the local population, with the rest supporting Chalabi.

While newscasts continue to focus on snipers and the remaining fighting in Iraq it is time to turn our attention toward the political sentiments of the various factions of the Iraqi populace and the new parties and factions that are very rapidly forming and competing for influence and power. Clerics are clearly going to try to make power plays backed up by their most fanatical followers. Small intensely motivated minorities can succeed in intimidating the rest of the population if their efforts are not checked by opposition forces. At least in Kut the US Marines have already demonstrated a willingness to block that type of play for power. Lets hope the US occupation forces prove equally wise in the rest of Iraq.

Update: Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports on Ahmad Chalabi's efforts to build support inside Iraq.

Mindful of the task, Chalabi has spent almost every waking moment assiduously courting legions of Iraqis, from leaders of tribes with hundreds of thousands of members to individual torture victims. Many are invited to the club for one-on-one meetings in a small lounge. Others show up at the gates unannounced, hoping for a glimpse of the man they are certain will be Iraq's next president. Some come to take the measure of a figure they have only heard about on shortwave radio broadcasts. Some want to curry favor, subtly asking for jobs or cash handouts.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 15 09:58 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 April 14 Monday
Iraq Needs Order And Effective Policing

Writing in the Washington Post, R. Jeffrey Smith has written an excellent article on the problems of bringing law and order to post-war Iraq.

Security gaps stemming from this inadequacy had damaging consequences during peacekeeping deployments in Kosovo, Bosnia and Somalia, among other places, where criminal activity only increased after foreign forces arrived. After a year and a half serving in the top U.N. job in Kosovo, French physician Bernard Kouchner told me his most important lesson was that peacekeepers must bring along a law-and-order "kit" of trained police officers, judges and prosecutors armed with draconian security laws. Britain's Paddy Ashdown, the top international official in Bosnia, has similarly told me that the international community mistakenly emphasized reconstruction and democratic elections there, instead of moving to aggressively implant the rule of law through credible statutes, fair courts and uncorrupted police.

The former secret police and torturers of ex-totalitarian states invariably become the core of new organized crime groups in the era that follows the downfall of the old order. Russia provides an instructive example. There is no civil society. Anything above the level of family commands no loyalty. Large parts of society have become corrupt in order to survive. Others have engaged in smuggling and other activities with official support of the old regime as it worked around sanctions and barriers put in place against it by other countries.

The easiest part of rebuilding post-war Iraq is the physical reconstruction. Western construction firms can bring in needed equipment and repair the physical infrastructure. It is far harder to create a judiciary and police that are fair, diligent, competent, and uncorrupt. In some ways Iraq is an even tougher challenge than Russia because Iraq has tribal loyalties that create bigger competing family groups.

In the short run some efforts are being made to provide basic policing in Iraq.

The US State Department said Friday that 1,200 police and judicial experts would soon be sent to Iraq to advise on how to set up a new police force. And in Baghdad itself seven Iraqi police officers and some 150 professionals turned up Saturday in response to a US appeal to help restore order and services.

An opposition militia will also be used to help maintain order.

OUTSIDE NASIRIYAH, Iraq. April 13 -- The Pentagon has ordered U.S. forces here to quickly deploy a U.S.-sponsored opposition militia to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, American and Iraqi exile sources said today.

To recruit and train a new police force will probably take a couple of years before its fully staffed and able to fulfill all of its duties. Even the regular police in Iraq were corrupt and venal. To train a new judiciary requires even more time. The creation of a healthy civil society is the most difficult task of all.

For more on Iraq post-war reconstruction see my Reconstruction And Reformation Archives.

Update: Some of the remaining Iraqi police may still have Baath Party loyalties.

Maj. Frank Simone, one of the civil affairs officers, told the Associated Press that the difficulty lies in distinguishing between police officers who could present a danger to U.S. forces -- by informing on them to die-hard Hussein loyalists -- and others who could be useful in meeting residents' pleas for increased security and a resumption of municipal functions.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 14 01:38 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 April 08 Tuesday
Paul Wolfowitz Achieving His First Goal In Iraq

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, biggest proponent of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, is the subject of a Washington Post article entitled For Wolfowitz, a Vision May Be Realized.

For the moment, he seems to be thinking about much more modest changes, along the lines of those that the Reagan administration urged on Marcos before his fall from power. He described his philosophy as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary." Egypt does not have to hold free elections tomorrow, he said, but it could make a start by not throwing prominent human rights activists in jail.

Wolfowitz was a big proponent of some sort of democratic evolution in the Philippines before Marcos fell and he played a role in formulating Reagan Administration policy toward the Philippines during that period. His interest in promoting democracy extends well beyond the Arab Middle Eastern countries. He has many critics and defenders and is playing a key role in formulation of US policy toward the Middle East. Whether his optimism is justified on the question of whether Iraq can be turned into a decent sort of democracy remains to be seen. It is worth a read to see what such a pivotal figure thinks.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 08 12:51 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 April 07 Monday
New American Ruler Of Iraq Guarded By Gurkhas

Am I the only one who finds the historical parallels here quite amusing?

The Pentagon's administrator for Iraq, Gen Jay Garner, will arrive in the southern port of Umm Qasr as early as tomorrow, guarded by a squad of British Army Gurkhas.

After all, Stanley Kurtz is already citing the British Raj as a model for how to liberalize and create the conditions for democracy in Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2003 April 07 04:12 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 March 27 Thursday
Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs

Writing in the Times of London Michael Binyon argues that the liberal secular forces in the Middle East blame the United States for the lack of democracy in the region.

Those Arab liberals who most want to rid the Middle East of Saddam, and the ugly image of repression, dictatorship and aggression that he spreads across all Arab politics, are often those who are most vociferous in condemning America. They complain that it is only thanks to US support that so many undemocratic regimes remain in place — largely because they have made their peace with Washington, which turns a blind eye to their human rights records. Liberals feel they are patronised by a West that does not see Arabs as capable of decent government.

The problem is that we are blamed as much for the status quo as we are for attempts to change the status quo. This can be used as an argument for imposing democracy on Middle Eastern countries. If we are going to be blamed anyhow then we might as well as at least try to do something that will improve matters. However, as we try to change Arab societies keep in mnd that for reasons inherent to Arab societies their democracies tend to fail. If we impose democracies and the democracies are corrupt, venal, and perhaps eventually overthrown many Arabs will still blame us for their failures. But at least a portion of the Middle Eastern people will figure out that they and their fellow countrymen are to blame (btw, I use "countrymen" rather than "citizens" because I think one needs a strong nationalism and a real nation-state in order to have real citizens).

Most of the Middle Eastern despots would not be overthrown if they totally lost all US support. After all, many regimes (e.g. in Syria, Iraq, Libya) are already not supported by the United States and yet their populations have not risen up and overthrown their governments - let alone put liberal democraies in their place. This reveals a flaw in the argument of the Middle Eastern liberals and assorted American and European critics who blame the US for the lack of democracy in the Middle East. They offer no explanation for why even the regimes that have never had close relations with the United States are oppressive, corrupt, and undemocratic.

It will take the actual conquest of Iraq to have even a chance of imposing a real liberal democracy there. Still, even if the conquest of Iraq is followed by a realistic plan to reform the nature of Iraqi society to make it more compatible with liberal democracy the odds would still be against a successful transformation. But those odds will be made far worse if the US and other interested parties pursue policies even more likely to fail in Iraq. For instance, currently Tony Blair is attempting to lobby George W. Bush and European government in order to get European and UN involvement in a post-war administration of Iraqi society.

"It is important that whatever administration takes over in Iraq has the authority of the U.N. behind it," Blair asserted, expressing a view widely held in Europe. "That is going to be important for the coalition forces, for the Iraqi people, for the international community," the prime minister said.

Tony Blair, still a believer in the United Nations and the European Union, is lobbying George Bush for a bigger role for the UN in the post-war administration of Iraq. Blair is probably not going to succeed in convincing Bush to allow the UN to appoint a post-war administrator and to bring in UN staff to run Iraq. While there are many in Washington DC and elsewhere arguing that it would look bad to have a US general as ruler of Iraq for two or three years the idea of putting the UN in charge is not going to appeal to the Bush Administration, especially not after the problems that the UN Security Council caused for US over Iraq.

Henry Kissinger was just on the Fox TV news show Hannity & Colmes tonight saying that at most the UN should have a role in delivering humanitarian aid to post-war Iraq. Kissinger also thought that a force to rule Iraq should be put together from those countries (the so-called "coalition of the willing") which actively supported the war effort. He mentioned Spain and Italy as examples. My guess is that Kissinger's thinking is not far from the internal thinking of the Bush Administration.

Blair isn't being helpful here. A bunch of UN bureaucrats would be subject to meddling by all the usual suspects such as France, Russia, China. These and other and governments would attempt to use the UN administration of Iraq to advance their own interests in Iraq at the expense of building democratic institutions. The development of an Iraqi administration by the "coalition of the willing" countries would have a much better chance of pursuing a liberal democratic agenda in Iraq.

Tony Blair does not have to fight for a British role in post-war Iraq. As this excellent (meaning you really should go read it) Heritage Foundation analysis by Nile Gardiner and John Hulsman argues British forces make an excellent choice for the leadership role for command of the security forces in post-war Iraq.

There is a strong case to be made for Britain taking the command of the security element of a post-war force, under the overall command of General Tommy Franks. The British have a broad and highly successful record of non-combat operations in a number of theatres across the globe, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland, and would be ideally suited to running the highly complex post-war Iraq security operation. The British have an in-depth knowledge of Iraq and the region, and have close diplomatic and historical ties with much of the Arab world. A British-led military operation would be less likely to inflame tensions and complicate Bush Administration plans for democratization in the Middle East. In addition, it would allow the United States to free up much-needed resources to other parts of the world for the wider war against terrorism.

Tony Blair is reacting to reports such as the Wall Street Journal report Trent Telenko pointed to of Bush Administration plans to have US companies contracted to the US government to do all the post-war Iraq physical infrastructure reconstruction. The Bush Administration sees the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and the UN as meddlesome enemies who would slow reconstruction and take the credit for what will be done. Basically the Bush Administration sees UN and NGO involvement as a net liability. Better to build popularity with the Iraqi population by bringing an American can-do attitude and sending in large US engineering companies to do the work.

While the Bush Administration approach on physical reconstruction and humanitarian aid seems likely to succeed more rapidly and with more credit to America in the minds of the Iraqi people there is another part of the reconstruction and reformation of Iraq that is getting far less attention: the social and political transformation of Iraq into a society capable of supporting democracy.

One problem with the post-war Iraq reconstruction debate is that it has become dominated by a fight between factions in the West motivated by battles over the future of the West. The Iraq reconstruction debate is only too rarely about what it would take to transform Iraq into a sustainable uncorrupt liberal democracy. Debates rage about the power of the United States and the danger of US occupation of another country, the legitimacy and role of the United Nations, the political development of the European Union, the future of NATO, and assorted other Western disputes. I have opinions about all these debates within the West. For instance, its great that the US government will contract to US companies to do rebuilding as it will greatly accelerate rebuilding while also giving the US much more credit for the result. Also, the UN is a contemptible organization and I'd be happy to see the United States withdraw from it. Also, as Henry Kissinger has pointed out, with the French and Germans actively operating against the US on an issue as important as Iraq the future of NATO in its present form is questionable (and Michael Ledeen even lays blame on France and Germany for threatening to keep Turkey out of the EU if Turkey helped the US attack Iraq). Also, the European Union's further political integration may well make it into a bigger bloc that the Germans and French can use to force other countries in Europe to take anti-US stances.

These are all important topics. In the context of the Iraq reconstruction debate these topics are important because they are influencing what will be done with Iraq post-war. But we need to ask basic questions undistracted by these debates. We need to look at Iraq and ask ourselves what it would take to transform Iraqi society so that it provides a supportive environment for a uncorrupt liberal secular democracy. If we can come up with answers for how to transform Iraqi society we will be able to more wisely decide what positions to take on the struggles within the West over acceptable forms of involvement of various countries and transnational institutions in shaping the future of Iraq.

Some liberals and neoconservatives claim that democracy is so universally attractive that setting up a democracy in Iraq will not be especially difficult (one can call this line of argument the Fukuyama Manifest Destiny Theory Of Democracy). Others claim that the people of Iraq, having suffered a military defeat, will be shocked out of their historical patterns of thought and therefore will be amenable to and properly supportive of having a democratic form of government imposed upon them. Germany and Japan are cited as precedents. However, Stanley Kurtz has rather persuasively argued that Japan and Germany had more of the qualities needed for transformation into industrialized democracies.

There are a number of reasons why military defeat will not leave the populace of Iraq shocked into supporting a transformation of their society in a more Western direction. First of all, the Gulf War II looks to be far less traumatic to the people of Iraq than World War II was to Japan and Germany. Second, the Iraqi people do not as strongly identify with their governments (having loyalties to Islam and to tribe) as did the German and Japanese people of World War II and therefore will not feel as defeated personally. Since the first Gulf War the influence of tribes has been increasing. The influence of Islamism has been increasing as well. These are not exactly hopeful signs for the possibilities of a better post-war Iraq.

Another problem is that the US and its allies are far more reluctant to actively rule a conquered nation for years in order to reshape it. The time period quoted for US military rule of Iraq is widely quoted as being on the order of three to six months and even such a short time period elicits criticism in many circles. Our society does not have the confidence that the World War II generation had about the moral superiority of our society and the legitimacy of our rule to support extending it over a period of years. But another reason for the reticence is the view that US rule may motivate more Iraqis to embrace fundamentalist Islamism. The presence of a still powerful competing religious ideology is a distinguishing feature that separtes post-war Iraq from post-WWII Japan and Germany.

To have a chance of successfully transforming another society one needs a belief in the superiority of one's own society and culture combined with a strong set of ideas for what to change and how to change the other society. As Joe Katzman points out, some people have begun to put forward arguments to justify some form of neocolonialism. To make the argument one must possess the confidence that some societies embrace beliefs and values that are morally superior than those embraced in other societies. The Left in the West has been attacking the West over this belief for such a long time that the argument for colonial rule has been absent from mainstream discussion for decades. But the post-colonial period has run far enough with enough failures of governance in former colonies that can not be attributed to long-gone colonial rulers that the colonial era has begun to seem like a golden age of rule of law for many former colonies.

The bigger problem with most arguments for neocolonialism is that they still do not as yet articulate exactly how failed societies can be transformed. Are the failures due to a lack of history of rule of fairly consistent law? Therefore do the people in Iraq most need an extended period of rule of law? Is a single sect of Islam to blame or is Islam broadly incompatible with secular liberal democracy? Is the practice of consanguineous marriage a bigger problem than Islam? Should consanguinity be opposed with strong policies to discourage the practice? Do Iraqis need to develop a tradition of toleration for free-wheeling debate by having an extended period during which outsiders protect political speech no matter what its content? What beliefs most need changing in Iraq and how best can they be changed?

Of course, it is sometimes possible to fix a problem or at least make a problem less severe without knowing exactly what causes it. But a debate about the causes of brutal regimes, lack of freedom, and lack of respect for the rights of others would be helpful for coming up with ideas for how to try to change the Middle East to make it less of a threat to the West.

Suppose that neocolonialism grows in popularity and it becomes possible for Western nations to take over the administration of some failed states for some period of time. Could a transformation of an undemocratic illiberal repressive society somehow be done quickly? After all, satellites beam images around the world almost instantly and lots of Western cultural ideas are packaged in all sorts of appealing movies and songs. Can't Western culture somehow permeate into the Middle East and bring with it ideas that make people more supportive of the values and concepts that support a democracy? As appealing as this sounds as an easy fix it seems unlikely. The reason is simple: lots of changes in values and in behavior require a new generation to come along who aren't yet fixed in their beliefs who will absorb new ideas. People are far more amenable to radical changes in their values and beliefs when they are young.

Moral values and political beliefs are not the only beliefs that change mainly across new generations. Look at esthetic preferences in music. Parents were outraged by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and assorted other musicians who introduced types of music that were not like what they listened to when they were young. This pattern of outrage toward the new generation's music has even repeated in later generations. Also, someone raised listening to Country music is far more likely to prefer Country and someone raised listening to Rock is far more likely to like Rock. A lot of what people like is the result of their formative experiences. Some aspects of what people like in governments is similarly as much a result of their exposure as is their tastes in music.

Even in countries that have undergone major changes in their political cultures many elements are very enduring. For instance, does anyone doubt that Germans have greater respect for rules and laws than do Italians and that this difference is one of long duration and that it creates differences in the kinds of governments that the Italians and Germans have? Could it be that these sorts of attitudes toward government vary enough between cultures that there are cultures that have attitudes that would be very hard to change that do not provide enough support for a liberal democracy to function in them?

We need to start talking about practical ideas for transforming repressive illiberal undemocratic societies. See a previous post for some preliminary ideas on how to transform Iraqi society. Also see my general Reconstruction And Reformation archives.

Update: Stanley Kurtz has an important essay (which means: read it) in the April 2003 issue of Policy Review where he argues for elements of the British imperial rule of India as a model for how to develop democracy in Iraq. The essay is entitled Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint.

The lesson in all this is that a slow process of English-medium education in modern and liberal ideas has the potential to transform a traditional non-Western society into a modern democracy. (Because of its status as the world’s lingua franca, by the way, even Sweden now makes English a compulsory second language.) To work, such an education needs to be followed by actual experience in legal, administrative, and legislative institutions constructed along liberal lines. India’s English-speaking bureaucratic class made up only 1 or 2 percent of the population. Yet that class was sufficient to manage a modern democracy and slowly transmit modern and liberal ideas to the larger populace. So the route to modernization is not a direct transformation of the traditional social system, but an attempt to build up a new and reformist sector. Several problems with this scenario as a model for a postwar Iraq are immediately apparent. For one thing, it took just over 100 years to move from the establishment of English-language education in India to independence and democracy. We don’t have that kind of time in Iraq, where our purpose is to liberalize the culture quickly enough to undercut the growth of terrorism and anti-Western ideologies.

Further on in the essay there is a fascinating section where he describes land reform attempts that had been advocated by James Mills. In another example of how few ideas are truly original Kurtz mentions as an aside the parallel between these reform attempts and the ideas advocated by Hernando de Soto (see, for instance, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else). Kurtz sees a large web of beliefs and family and societal structures wielding a great deal of influence how a society will react to changes in land law and other property law.

The real barrier to modernity in the non-Western world lies in the pervasive and recalcitrant structures of everyday life — structures few Westerners understand. In India, the key barriers to modernization are the joint family system and caste. The counterparts in Iraq are the patriarchal family system, the bonds of lineage and tribe, and related conceptions of collective honor.3 Traditional social practices like these can sometimes adapt themselves to modernity. Yet a direct attempt to overthrow these structures is difficult to manage and unlikely to succeed.

Kurtz comments on his essay in a National Review blog post in The Corner.

The most important lesson of the British imperial experience for our own occupation of Iraq is that, while it is possible to bring democracy to non-Western societies, the process cannot be rushed. Building liberal institutions is the key. Elections must follow, not precede, that social groundwork.

Be sure to read Kurtz's essay. He reiterates that the problem is that people change slowly and that changes values and attitudes requires new generations to come along that have been trained in a different set of ideas than those characteristic of an undemocratic society.

The roles that Edmund Burke, James Mill, and his famous son John Stuart Mill played in early British colonial administration may come as a surprise. But they brought their views of political philosophy to the formulation of policies for the administration of British imperial India.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 27 03:16 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2003 March 13 Thursday
US Military Will Rule Iraq For Only A Few Months

The US military wants to conduct the war in Iraq in a way that minimizes destruction and loss of civilian life so that rebuilding is easier.

Faced with reconstructing the country, American planners say they do not want to destroy any more of Iraq than is necessary. The images the allies want to see on the world's television networks when they venture into Basra are joyous Iraqis cheering the liberation of the Shia-dominated south from a authoritarian regime in Baghdad, not the faces of bereaved mothers mourning the deaths of sons conscripted into a war that they care little about and lamenting the errant bombs that pulverized their homes.

In an interview with Amir Taheri influential neocon hawk Richard Perle makes the US role in reforming Iraq as limited and of very short duration.

Taheri: Do you plan to impose a military occupation of Iraq?

Perle: No. Our first task is to topple the dictatorship and destroy its weapons. We shall then have the task of ensuring security and law and order for a brief period during which the new Iraqi government establishes itself and rebuilds its police and armed forces. The Iraqis will have the opportunity to have a new constitution, hold elections and produce a government of their own choosing. Once that government asks us to leave, we shall leave.

A reformation of Iraq that would be deep enough to create the conditions under which liberal democracy would flourish is not something that can be accomplished in a short period of time. If Perle's attitude typifies the thinking of the Bush Administration then the US is not going to succeed in turning Iraqi into an even semi-liberal democrary.

From a March 11, 2003 Pentagon briefing entitled Backgrounder on Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Post-War.

Our goal from day one has been to put together as solid set of plans that we could implement with a goal of going into country, implementing those plans, staying as long as necessary to be able to stand up a government in Iraq and get out as fast as we can. And our goal is to turn Iraq over to the Iraqi people, but with a government that expresses the free will of the people of Iraq. We intend to immediately start turning some things over, and every day, we'll turn over more things. I believe that's our plan.

From that same briefing note that the Iraqis currently living in the United States who will be hired to go over to Iraq to work in the US military administration will go for 90 to 180 days. Again, this is another indication that the US will be backing off of its control of the Iraqi government fairly quickly.

Now that process -- I had great hopes for that process, but that's not going to -- it'll happen, but it's not going as fast as I wanted. We've hired several free Iraqis, but we need to hire over a hundred, and we haven't approached that number yet.

We're putting them under contract, and they are for a short period of time, somewhere between 90 and, at the most, 180 days.

What we're doing is we're -- the reason we're bringing them in is because they have lived in a democratic country now. They understand the democratic process. And as we use them to facilitate what's going on, we think that that's a good recipe -- to have people that were born and raised in those provinces but now have lived in a democracy. And they can explain things to the people there, who have been oppressed for the last 30 or so years. These coordinators will then set up committees in each of the provinces. Like I said before, those provinces will nominate to us work that they want to see done.

Now, as you know, this is a very labor-intensive business when you get into this type thing. So one of our goals is to take a good portion of the Iraqi regular army -- I'm not talking about the Republican Guards, the special Republican Guards, but I'm talking about the regular army -- and the regular army has the skill sets to match the work that needs to be done in construction. So our thought is to take them and they can help rebuild their own country. We'd continue to pay them. And these committees will nominate work for them to do, do things like engineering, road construction, work on bridges, remove rubble, demine, pick up unexploded ordnance, construction work, et cetera, et cetera.

That also allows us -- and using army allows us not to demobilize it immediately and put a lot of unemployed people on the street. So it works a pretty good process. They're working to rebuild their country. It's reestablishing some of the prestige that the regular army has lost over the years, and it allows us to get a lot of good things done for the country.

The other thing we're trying to do with free Iraqis is bring in two to three with the right skill sets for each of the 21 or 22 ministries; say, from public health, bring in a free Iraqi that's an expert in public health.

Now in the ministries, the Iraqis are going to continue to run the ministries, as -- they run it now. And we're going to have them keep running it and we're going to pay them, pay them their salaries. But what we want to do is bring in a free Iraqi who understands the democratic process to help us facilitate making that ministry more efficient.

The time frame right now is to be ready to go when called or when directed. Our time frame in country is to get in there as soon as we can and begin this work, and end it as fast as possible, but at the same returning to the Iraqi people a set of things that weren't as good when we got them and are better now and begin the democratic process and to have, like I said, a government that represents the free will of the people

What comes after the initial US military administration? John O'Sullivan examines some of the ideas for how to operate the Iraqi government before elections are held.

Should the United Nations, then, provide the formal governing authority for postwar Iraq? Not even Frechette favors that -- for the prudent reason again that U.N. bureaucrats would then find themselves taking highly controversial decisions on war crime trials, oil contracts and the new political structures of a democratic Iraq. Whatever hapless U.N. civil servant was appointed high commissioner would then find himself engaged in a series of running battles with his colleagues back in New York, various member-states of the United Nations such as the Saudis, and a powerful U.S. ambassador over everything from training the police to holding local elections. Frechette may have seen such a job coming her way-and ducked.

That leaves an ad hoc governing body rooted in the legitimacy of conquest -- in other words an Allied Control Commission on the post-war German model. This would be composed of political and military representatives of the major allied powers -- the United States, Britain, Spain, etc. But it should also include a strong and growing representation of Iraqi democrats of all stripes. And the local U.N. mission might either be a constituent part of this body -- or empowered to work closely with it.

It is not clear from all the proposals being discussed when an elected government would be created. There is a stage after the US military administration and before the formation of an elected government and that intermediate stage might last for years.

Stanley Kurtz argues that we can not afford to fail to transform the Middle East.

The pressure of the war itself — the sobering effect of defeat on the Muslim world — could conceivably create enough space for a democratic experiment to succeed in one of the newly conquered Muslim states, or perhaps in Iran after an anti-fundamentalist revolution. But given the profound social and cultural barriers to modernization in the Middle East, it's equally possible that our experiments in democratization will fall flat, leaving us mired in a Middle Eastern mess. And unlike Vietnam, the ongoing threat of terrorism will make it impossible for us to entirely wash our hands of that mess.

Stanley Kurtz points out some of the reasons why reformation of Japan was easier than it will be for Iraq.

Also, Iraq is only a part of a larger Arab-Muslim world. Conquering Iraq without conquering the rest of the Arab world will leave many Anti-American cultural and political counter-currents at play. Already, extensive immigration across the Arab world gives it a kind of unity that goes beyond national boundaries. That means that our rule in Iraq will not be quite comparable to MacArthur’s total domination of a defeated Japan, where all competing centers of cultural influences were wiped out. When you add all that to what I believe are some very deep cultural barriers to democracy, it means that we’ve at least got a bigger problem on our hands than we may realize, even if it’s ultimately solvable.

Read more from Kurtz on why reformation of Iraq will be harder than the reformation of post-WWII Germany and Japan.

Update: For other posts on the topic of reconstruction of Iraq and reformation of the Middle East see my Reconstruction and Reformation archive. Also, on the general theme of "why they hate us" and the nature of the clash between the West and Islam see my Clash of Civilizations archive. On the subject of why the strategy of preemption is necessary see my Preemption, Deterrence, and Containment archive. In the right hand column of blog main page there is a list of other category archives that may be of interest. The exact choice of category for each post is not always an easy decision. So I can't guarantee you will always find a topic filed where you might expect it.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 13 02:27 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 March 06 Thursday
Turkey's Iraq Vote Harms Its Interests; Kurds May Benefit

James Dunnigan argues that Turkey's claim that it will economically suffer from a war is not accurate since the result of the war will be to end the UN embargo on Iraq and therefore greatly increase trade between Eastern Turkey and Iraq. At the same time, Turkey's refusal to allow US troops to pass thru to the northern Iraq front will cost Turkey billions in lost aid.

Saddam's refusal to get rid of his chemical, nuclear and biological weapons has kept the UN embargo on Iraq, which has crippled the Iraqi economy and much of the economy in eastern Turkey, which depends on trade with Iraq. The Turks have been complaining about this since 1991, but they don't want Iraq to get nuclear weapons, and don't want to go in and remove Saddam themselves.

There are upsides to Turkey's refusal to cooperate. First, it will save US taxpayers a lot of foreign aid money. Second, it will allow the Kurds in northern Iraq to be more free of Turkish influence and control. The United States ought to take the opportunity to give the Kurds a better deal in the post-war political settlement in Iraq.

Thr Kurdish region contains both Turkish troops and Shiite Arabs supported by Iran.

No one in northern Iraq is welcoming Hakim's men with any discernible warmth. "We hate Arabs sent by Iran to come in and learn information about our Kurdistan," says Mahmoud Amin, spokesman for the Kurdistan Social Democratic Party in Darbandikhan, a Kurdish town near the Kani Chinara camp. He says the presence of the soldiers reflects Iran's aim to "occupy" Kurdish areas. "We accept them on the condition they do not betray us."

Iran is funding forces in western Afghanistan. It is possible that Iran will similarly try to make a portion of Iraq autonomous from the central government in the post-war political order. Iran will probably face more resistance from the US in Iraq than it does in Afghanistan because for the US more is at stake in Iraq and the US will have a much larger post-war force in Iraq.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 06 01:00 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 March 01 Saturday
Islamist Forces Challenge To Post-War Iraq Reconstruction

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports that Islam is growing as a political force in Iraq.

He had hundreds of mosques built all over the Iraq. He established a fully-fledged Islamic university, called, of course, Saddam University, where only Islamic theology is taught and where Sunni Islam is promoted, while the beliefs of the majority Shi'ites are ignored. Dancing clubs were closed, casinos were shut down, prostitution was strictly banned and bars became a part of history (liquor shops are still allowed, but drinking at public places is forbidden). In a parliament of 250 members, 12 Islamic scholars were inducted.

Since the first Gulf War Saddam Hussein has been attempting to use Islam to bolster the support for his regime. His own Islamic university is teaching the writings of Sayyid Qutb (spelled Sayed Qutub in the article) and it is believed that there are underground cells of the Muslim Brotherhood operating throughout Iraq. This is bad news.

Once Saddam is gone and the US is in control of Iraq the most militant clerics and activists will have greater freedom with which to promote their ideas. Also, it seems likely that Saudi money will flow in to fund mosques and schools in Iraq that promote the Saudi Wahhabi sect of Islam.

The growth of militant Islam is not the only trend in Iraq that is going to make post-war occupation and reform of Iraqi society and politics difficult. Saddam Hussein has also been promoting the role of the tribes. See also the previous post Tribalism Is Alive And Well In Iraq. Islam combined with consanguinity in marriage further enhanced with the state promotion of the role of tribes makes Iraq far less tractable for would-be modernisers.

The coming American conquest of Iraq seems necessary in the battle against terrorism and against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But the neoconservatives and liberals who think the aftermath of Saddam's removal will create the conditions that will allow the spread of liberal democracy into the Middle East are greatly underestimating the size of the task. Few participants in the public debate about spreading democracy in the Middle East show any recognition of the size of the obstacles in the task the United States is taking on to try to reshape Iraq into a liberal democracy.

Syed Saleem Shahzad also reports that many Sufi Muslims in Iraq greatly admire Osama Bin Laden.

However, this correspondent, after spending time in Iraq, has a different perspective: Osama bin Laden, the Salafi icon who theoretically should be branded an infidel by Sufis, is a living legend for the Sufis of Baghdad, and even further afield.

Why does this matter? There are those who argue that the West's conflict with Islam is a result of the influence of the Saudi Wahhabi (a.k.a. Salafi) sect on the rest of Islam. Even many Muslims see Salafi Islam as a intolerant, primitive and misguided. Stephen Schwartz, convert to Sufi Islam and author of The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror , argues that Wahhabi Islam is the largest cause of Islamic terrorism today.

Wahhabism has always attacked the traditional, spiritual Islam or Sufism that dominates Islam in the Balkans, Turkey, Central Asia, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Wahhabism and neo-Wahhabism (the latter being the doctrines of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistani Islamists) are the main source of Islamic extremist violence in the world today. Wahhabism represents a distinct, ultraradical form of Islamism. Wahhabism is completely subsidized by the Saudi regime, using oil income.

Schwartz even says that Wahhabism is deeply unpopular in Iraq:

As to other Middle Eastern regions and states: Saddam Hussein has used Wahhabism to give his regime an Islamic cover, but Wahhabism is deeply unpopular in Iraq.

If Wahhabism is as unpopular in Iraq as Schwartz claims and if Sufi Islam is so inherently more tolerant then why is Osama Bin Laden so popular among Sufi Muslims in Baghdad?

Andrew G. Bostom takes issue with Schwartz's view and argues that the problems with Islam's attitude toward non-believers stretch back thru its entire history.

Sadly, both Schwartz's recent NRO contributions and his book reflect two persistent currents widespread among the Muslim intelligentsia: historical negationism and silent hypocrisy. To these two trends, Schwartz adds a third: misleading reductionism. If we would only neutralize "Wahhabism," he claims — presumably by some combination of military means, promoting the "true Islam," and perhaps having the world switch to a hydrogen-based fuel economy — all Islamic terror and injustice will disappear. But the reality is that, for nearly 1,400 years, across three continents, from Portugal to India, non-Muslims have experienced the horrors of the institutionalized jihad war ideology and its ugly corollary institution, dhimmitude.

Also see a previous post about Roger Scruton's book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. In order to successfully transfer Iraq the culture of that country will have to change sufficiently to support what Scruton calls an Impersonal State. To create the conditions that make such a state possible requires changes that literally take decades or even centuries to accomplish. The transformation in outlook needed to make this possible is of a profound nature.

Update: For all posts on the problem of reconstruction and reformation of conquered countries see the Parapundit Reconstruction and Reformation archives.

By Randall Parker    2003 March 01 12:39 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 February 26 Wednesday
Ideological Iraq War Debate And Reconstruction

Richard Cohen examines arguments being made by anti-war Left in the United States and finds a blatant disregard for the truth.

Because something truly awful has happened. The looming war has already become deeply and biliously ideological. By that I mean that the extremes on both sides -- but particularly the war's opponents -- no longer feel compelled to prove a case or stick to the facts. As with Vietnam, this is becoming an emotional battle between ideologues who, as usual, don't give a damn about the truth.

What is remakable about the article is to find Cohen essentially agreeing with the likes of Richard Perle that a Democratic Congressman and other ideologues are making arguments against the war that are outright lies.

The Guardian in the UK, hostile to the coming war, quotes a former cabinet minister approvingly that "the evidence is not yet compelling".

The nub of yesterday's exchanges came when Mr Smith told Mr Blair that, as a candid friend, Britain must tell the US that "the evidence is not yet compelling, that the work of the inspectors is not yet done, and the moral case for war, with all its consequences, has not yet been made."

The "case hasn't been made" argument has as its purpose to say that a war should never be fought. The people who make this argument believe there is no set of facts that could be found about Iraq that would make a case for war. Weapons found? That shows inspections are working. Weapons not found? That shows there are no weapons to be found. But of course the weapons are there and well hidden. There is no way short of war to achieve a level of control of the country sufficient to compel the hiders of the weapons and the weapons labs to reveal where they are hidden. This was true before the UN sent in inspectors. It is true now. It will be true months from now if an attack is not conducted. Inspectors lack sufficient investigative power to find the weapons and weapons labs.

Arguing about the coming war (and it is quite inevitable that the war will be fought) seems tiresome at this point. Most of the loudest political opponents are ideologues who have little interest in the truth about Iraqi weapons programs or potential ways that those weapons programs can contribute to a threat to the rest of the world. Claims that the inspections need to be given more time to work are not sincere. Most who make those claims either do not want the inspections to work or are indifferent to the efficacy of the inspections.

The Iraq war debate is mostly still about whether we should have a war and why. The "why" inevitably leads to the question of how the war will affect the governance of Iraq once Saddam is gone.

There are opponents whose reason for opposition are at least intellectually serious. One serious reason to oppose the war is the argument that it will be very difficult to reform Iraqi society afterwards. There are aspects of Arab culture that make the introduction of Western style democracy (replete with free press, free speech, and limts to corruption) very difficult. Many war hawks are so intent upon discrediting all arguments against the war that they do not take seriously the difficulty of reforming Iraqi society afterward. My own view is that we have such a compelling need to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that we need to invade solely for that reason even if we can not install a sustainable democratic and free political system afterward. Furthermore, in the aftermath we need to make a serious effort to try to establish a liberal democracy in order to demonstrate our good will toward the Arab societies as a whole.

Among the hawks those who argue for creating a democracy in Iraq after the war writers like David Pryce-Jones argue that of course Arabs are able to enjoy freedom.

It is shocking to discover how deep lies the prejudice against Arabs being able to enjoy freedom. It is to be found in some surprising places other than the demonstration in Hyde Park: the CIA, for example, and the US State Department have long taken the view that Iraq is so tribal and retrograde a country that only a brutal dictator like Saddam could control it.

It is cheap and easy to strike a moral pose about one's own greater concern for the cause of freedom in Arab lands. But the question is not whether the Arabs are capable of enjoying freedom. The question is whether they have the set of beliefs needed to support a secular liberal democracy. A free society does not just depend on each individual being willing to do whatever they want to do for themself. It also depends on the willingness of people to make serious efforts to protect the rights of others in one's own society to also be free. Different cultures do not all equally embrace the values that make secular liberal democracy possible. This has to be acknowledged or we will not even begin to try to address the magnitude of the task inherent in any attempt to make Iraq compatible with secular liberal democracy.

In an interview with Nicholas Lemann current Bush Administration Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith relates the Bush Administration position that the Arab countries do not face any particular incompatibility between either their religion or their culture and democracy.

"Then, you have the phenomenon that this greater freedom that came to Latin America, that came to various parts of Asia, largely missed the Middle East. And there is all kinds of writing on the subject, on whether there is anything inherently incompatible between either Muslim culture, or Arab culture, and this kind of freer government. This Administration does not believe there is an inherent incompatibility. And if Iraq had a government like that, and if that government could create some of those institutions of democracy, that might be inspirational for people throughout the Middle East to try to increase the amount of freedom that they have, and they would benefit both politically and economically by doing so."

The problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it discourages the Administration from looking seriously at the elements in Islam and in Arab society that have retarded the development of liberal democracy in the Middle East. This rhetoric sounds so nice to those who embrace the language of multiculturalism. It allows the speakers of such rhetoric to strike a high moral pose. But in reality its intellectually bankrupt.

Feith's reference to the spread of democracy in Latin America leaves one with the impression that he thinks democracy in Latin America is a success story. Yet the events unfolding in Venezuela are not a democratic success story. Also, the problem is not limited to Venezuela. Limits on freedom of the press and freedom of speech and other forms of freedom are still widespread in Latin America. See the UN Human Development Report 2002 (warning 2.7 Megabyte PDF file) starting on page 38. The UN uses a whole series of indexes where lower is better including Civil Liberties (7 to 1), Political Rights (7 to 1), and Press Freedom (100 to 0). On these Mexico scores 3, 2, and 46 respectively. That's a pretty bad press freedom score. But it is better than Colombia (4, 4, 60), better than Peru (3, 3, 54) and better and worse than Venezuela (5, 3, 34).

To get an accurate picture of how democracy is faring the world over we have to look at details that go beyond the simple question of whether countries hold elections with competing candidates. We need to ask whether they have managed to develop secular liberal democracies in the Western style with restraints on government, firm protection and popular respect for freedoms of press and speech, effective control of corruption (which more than anything depends on the values civil servants bring to the job), provide widespread access to the legal system for protecting property rights (see Hernando de Soto's writings on the importance of accessibility of property rights legal systems), and rule of law for all then the picture in many parts of the world suddenly becomes much worse. Much of the discussion going on about how to transform Iraqi political culture and society as Germany and Japan were transformed after WWII is enormously naive about history and about the details of what is required to succeed in creating a successful secular liberal democracy.

While some writers have expressed the hope that Westernized Iraqis will return home to Iraq to settle and form a new elite with more enlightened attitudes Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is pitching to Iraqi residents in the US that service with the US occupation force could be a fast track to US citizenship.

"As a reservist you would be mobilised to serve in Iraq but would return to civilian status in the US," he said.

"You may be eligible for accelerated US citizenship if you are not a citizen already, and your civilian job would be protected while you are mobilised," he said.

Some argue that the US military administration should quickly give way to an Iraqi civilian administration.

Mr. Chalabi raised the alarm again last week, with an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Telegraph warning that “the proposed U.S. occupation and military administration of Iraq is unworkable and unwise,” and asserting, “the liberation of our country and its reintegration into the world community is ultimately a task that we Iraqis must shoulder.”

Others argue that a UN administration should quickly take over.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman says appointing an American to oversee Iraq after President Saddam Hussein is removed from power would be a serious mistake.

The Democratic senator, in a speech prepared for Wednesday delivery to the Council on Foreign Relations, calls on the Bush administration to work with the United Nations to name an international administrator to oversee reconstruction.

Many people making arguments about post-war Iraq seem more obsessed by the outward forms of government. What they lack is an appreciation of what is the biggest reconstruction task: to create the kind of society that will actively support and defend a secular liberal democracy. It is foolish to think that our major problem is to choose the right guy to put in charge, draw up the forms of a government with a written constitution, work quickly toward having elections, and that then all will be well. Whether a US general, a UN administrator or an appointed Iraqi civilian becomes ruler is really besides the point. Unless the populace goes thru such a transformation in values and beliefs that it feels less loyalty to extended familiy and tribe and more loyalty to the values of a liberal democratic society it does not matter who is placed in charge. What we should be discussing is what a post-war administration should try in order to help develop the beliefs that will sustain a positive change in Iraqi culture.

By Randall Parker    2003 February 26 03:38 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 February 16 Sunday
Iraq After The Liberation

John F. Burns has an excellent story on Iraqis living in Jordan who want the United States to overthrow Saddam even though they have very hostile feelings toward the United States. Its entitled "When the Enemy Is a Liberator"

The men refused to accept that their image of the United States might be distorted by the rigidly controlled Iraqi news media, which offer as unreal a picture of America as they do of Iraq. But when it was suggested that they could hardly wish to be liberated by a country they distrusted so much — that they might prefer President Bush to extend the United Nations weapons inspections and stand down the armada he has massed on Iraq's frontiers — they erupted in dismay.

"No, no, no!" one man said excitedly, and he seemed to speak for all. Iraqis, they said, wanted their freedom, and wanted it now. The message for Mr. Bush, they said, was that he should press ahead with war, but on conditions that spared ordinary Iraqis.

The US is going to have a hard time managing post-war Iraq. Creation of a stable, non-corrupt, liberal democracy will be extremely difficult. The population will not trust the US and the warm feelings that the initial liberation will generate will not last for long.

Burns says many Arab leaders secretly hope that in the aftermath of the liberation and when the full extent of Saddam's barbarity can be plainly seen that the populace of their countries will swing away from their deep hostility toward the United States. But until that time comes leaders of such countries as Egypt will side with their populaces in their public statements about the coming war.

Update: If you haven't already, be sure to read Stanley Kurtz on the problems in Arab and Muslim societies and his views on the problem of what to do with Iraq after the war. Also, read Fouad Ajami on the potential of a conquered Iraq.

Update II: Lee Harris says its very important how a society attributes blame for failure. A society that blames itself and criticises itself is going to be far more successful than one that blames others for its failures. Harris argues that the Arab myths tend to shift blame toward others.

In fact, they hate us because we are the bad guys in the black hats that the Arab world so desperately needs to comfort themselves for their own failures and defeats.

Only the Story Line that the Arab is employing is not drawn from novels of Scott or the Fairly Tales of the Brothers Grimm, but from the enchanted world of The Thousand and One Nights. And, according to this Story Line, America is cast not simply as a bad guy, but as an all powerful evil genie that the virtuous Aladdin of the Arab world must destroy.

By Randall Parker    2003 February 16 12:45 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2003 January 21 Tuesday
Democracy Requires A Supporting Set Of Beliefs

Fawaz A. Gerges says there can't be democracy without democrats.

Anti-Americanism in the Arab world has become a tool used by all political factions handicapping its politics and slowing any move toward democracy.

Clearly there is a general misunderstanding of the potential US role in furthering democracy among Arabs and Muslims as well as of the required conditions for it. On the one hand, Muslim liberals believe that the US possesses a magic wand that can easily open Muslim eyes to democratic paradise. On the other hand, Islamists and leftists more or less subscribe to a conspiracy theory holding Washington mainly responsible for the absence of democracy in the Arab world. Both positions indirectly imply that Arabs and Muslims aren't to blame for the dismal political and economic situation in which they live - that it's the fault of the US.

Neither the US nor any external power can do the work for Arabs and Muslims by exporting a well-tailored democratic model. Democracy can't be offered on a silver platter - nor can it be achieved without democrats.

Many of America's critics on the Left along with many in the Muslim countries hold that there is not democracy in the Muslim countries because America has prevented it from developing. The easiest way to refute that theory is to look at the Muslim countries that do not have a history of alliance with the United States (e.g. Syria, Algeria, Tunisia) or which used to ally with the US and which broke away (e.g. Iran) and ask whether countries with which the US was not involved became any more democratic than the rest. The countries which have not had close relations with America are just as undemocratic as those which have various forms of American involvement. Given that Muslim majority countries have such a wide range of relations (or lack thereof) with the United States and that they all have little or no democracy and little of the political culture that supports a democracy its hard to argue that the United States is the cause of this lack of democracy and lack of freedom.

The tendency to blame America for the lack of democracy in some parts of the world is part of a larger problem with reflexive anti-Americans: they imagine the United States to have more power and more influence than it possesses. The occasional dramatic demonstration of American power combined with a need to find fault with capitalism, democracy, secularism, or any other symbol that America represents leads to an exaggerated sense of what that power causes or prevents.

On the other hand, there are Panglossian democracy advocates who argue that democracy is so appealing and so successful that it is destined to spread and eliminate the cause of wars, political oppression, corruption, and various other political problems. They also overestimate American power while underestimating the influence of local conditions and of cultural characteristics and religious beliefs.

Be sure to read Stanley Kurtz on the reasons why the creation of liberal democracy in Islamic lands is so problematic.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 21 07:55 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 January 15 Wednesday
Stanley Kurtz: After the War

In an important essay Stanley Kurtz describes in considerable detail why the creation of a functioning sustainable democracy and effective state in Iraq is enormously more difficult than it was in Japan after World War II. He details factors from Japan's history that made possible a bureaucractic state with a low level of corruption and describes all the helpful factors that were present in Japan that are absent from Iraq.

Nothing comparable to Japan’s liberal intellectual tradition and modern, public-spirited bureaucratic class exists in Iraq or in any Arab country. The influence of fundamentalist Islam in the Arab world reflects a culture deeply inhospitable to democratic and liberal principles. In a perceptive recent National Interest article, Adam Garfinkle explains that, whereas democracies take as bedrock assumptions that political authority lies with society, that the majority rules, and that citizens are equal before the law, Arab societies vest political authority in the Qur’an, rest decision-making on consensus, and understand law and authority as essentially hierarchical. They lack such essential cultural preconditions for democracy as the idea of a loyal opposition or the rule of law or the separation of church and state. No surprise, given their nonmodern political beliefs, that not one Arab Muslim country qualifies as “free” in Freedom House’s annual survey, and that a disproportionate number of Arab regimes qualify in the “worst of the worst” category—the least free and least democratic on earth.

Arab Muslim societies remain un-modern and un-democratic not just in their attitudes toward political authority and law but also in their social organization. For men and women living within a universe where tribal identity, the duties and benefits of extended kinship networks, and conceptions of collective honor organize the relations of everyday life, democratic principles will be incomprehensible.

And therefore democracy would be impossible.

This is a very important essay and I strongly urge you all to read it in full. Kurtz views the British model of educating an English language liberal-minded elite in India as the appropriate historical parallel for what would be required to liberalize Iraq. He is not optimistic that such an attempt would succeed and has serious doubts (which I fully share) that the United States would have the patience to spend the number of decades required to create a liberal elite in Iraq.

Update: To read more on why Kurtz sees tribal family structure and cousin marriage as germane to why the Middle East is such infertile ground for the spread of liberal democracy be sure to read "Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development".

Update II: If Stanley Kurtz is correct (and I believe he is) then US intervention in Iraq to create a liberal democratic elite would require decades of sustained direct control of educational institutions and of the recruitment process into the bureaucracies to yield the desired outcome. Therefore the odds of the development of a liberal democracy in Middle Eastern countries that are not subject to US conquest and occupation are somewhere between slim to none. This presents an enormous problem for the United States and to the West as a whole. Many commentators are calling for the development of democracy in the Middle East as the solution that will spur economic development, increase freedom, and, as an expected consequence, decrease resentment and anger toward the West among Middle Eastern Muslim populations. But that approach has tough odds of even being tested as a solution anywhere outside of Iraq (since to test it requires direct control of key institutions ala the British Raj in India). In Iraq the attempt to establish a liberal secular democratic state will take decades to play out and then only if the US has the patience and the wisdom to pursue and sustain that course (and it is unlikely that it does). Democracy is not a short or medium term solution for the problems of Middle Eastern terrorism and WMD proliferation.

Update III: Be sure to read Stanley Kurtz's follow-up article from the April 2003 issue of Policy Review: Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint.

The British Raj does indeed represent a useful countermodel for any American venture in Iraq. Yet the experience of India under the British was by no means entirely negative. In fact, the very movement of Indians to free themselves from British rule was a product of British influence. Above all, the British cultural legacy explains why post-independence India took a democratic turn. Nor was the emergence of Indian democracy an entirely unintended consequence of British imperial domination. Despite the many problems and conflicts of empire, several critical threads of British imperial policy were intended to bring about eventual democratic self-rule in India. When India finally did attain independence and democracy, it was in no small part due to those policies.

The problem is that the development of liberal democratic values takes a lot of time but the Bush Administration and a large number of optimistic advocates of democracy in Iraq (including but not limited to most of the prominent neoconservative hawks) are acting as if everyone holds the set of values that are needed to support a democracy. This belief in the universal appeal of democracy is dangerously naive.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 15 12:15 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2003 January 02 Thursday
Practical Suggestions For Reforming Iraqi Society

I recently read someone (and now can't find the quote; anyone know which essay I'm referring to and by whom?) arguing that one element that will be missing once the US and its allies conquer Iraq that was present when the allies conquered Japan and Germany in World War II is the devastation that the World War II conquests brought. The Iraqis will not suffer the way the Germans and Japanese did and will not see ruin and death on a scale that the surviving Germans and Japanese witnessed. He therefore argued that the Iraqis will not see as clearly the failure of the old order and will therefore be less malleable for democracy-building purposes. The author (rightly) did not see that it would be morally acceptable to take that as a reason to cause massive devastation in Iraq. He merely argued that our coming attempt to create a viable democracy in Iraq will be made harder because the people in Iraq will not see the old regime as having led to as much total pain and destruction to Iraq as the Germans and Japanese saw. Therefore the old order will not be seen to have been as totally discredited as the Nazis and the militarist emperor-worshippers were in Germany and Japan at the end of WWII.

While the argument sounds incredibly hard-nosed and realpolitik it is naive because it fails to comprehend the nature of Iraqi and Arab society. As is the case in other Arab countries where loyalty to the government and nation is weak the Iraqi people do not identify with or feel much loyalty toward Iraq as a nation-state in the way that Westerners feel loyalty toward governments and nations. Because the Iraqis and Arabs in other Middle Eastern states do not feel that loyalty they will not feel that they are the ones being conquered and defeated. To them it what is about to happen in Iraq will be a defeat of Saddam Hussein, his extended family and his top level servants. It will be seen as a change at the top where one elite takes out another elite. The bulk of Iraqis will feel more like spectators. The reason for this feeling is that they do not feel allegiance to the abstraction (which exists in the minds of Westerners far more than in the minds of Iraqis) that is supposedly being defeated.

The Iraqis have loyalties that compete strongly with their feelings of loyalty to the Iraqi government. The highest loyalty is to their extended families and beyond that to Islam and also to the larger Arab culture. So out of 4 possible loyalties only one of them is being defeated and it is not their chief or even likely their second loyalty that is being defeated. This is not going to cause them to radically reexamine their loyalties. They will not see this coming change in regime as a reason to transfer loyalties to the new democracy that the United States will try to create in Iraq.

If the United States government wants to pursue policies in Iraq that would help foster a change in the culture of Iraq so that its people become capable of having significant loyalties to a nation-state then it is family structure that has to be tackled first and foremost. With that in mind here are some suggestions for how to accomplish that change:

  • Change school cirricula to teach the genetic risks of defects that come from marrying cousins and second cousins. Children should be taught that marrying outside of the extended family is a wiser choice that will result in healthier and smarter offspring.
  • Run documentaries and commercials on Iraqi radio and television that teach the genetic risks of marrying within the family and strongly exhort people to marry outside of their extended families. Develop strongly propagandistic documentaries replete with pictures of defective babies and babies that died at birth as a result of inbreeding. There should be characters that are dumber, uglier, and less happy who are the products of inbreeding and then characters that are smarter, handsome and better looking who are the result of marriages that were made outside of families. Lay the propaganda on thick.
  • Enact laws that outlaw marriage to first cousins. Though this might cause a great deal of opposition that would make the occupation of Iraq harder to maintain.
  • Have preferences in government job hiring and military officer promotion for top positions where those who are not married to their relatives would be favored for jobs. This will simultaneously serve to discourage inbreeding while also will create an officer corps and civil servant corps that will feel less desire to be nepotistic and corrupt.
  • Mandatory education to a higher age. This can delay marriage and might decrease the likelihood that the marriages that are entered into will not be arranged and hence will be less likely to be within families. It can also provide more time to teach against cousin marriage.
  • Enact laws that set higher minimum ages for getting married (there may not even be any minimum now).
  • The US occupation administration should take an active role in selecting state-funded Mullahs with an eye toward choosing clerics that will preach a strong anti-inbreeding message.

These suggestions would undoubtedly take decades to reduce family and tribal loyalties enough to make Iraq even as capable of liberal democracy as Turkey is today. But there is no fast and easy way to change the characteristics of Arab societies that do so much to hold back political development of the Arab countries.

If you find these suggestions to constitute an excessive and illiberal intervention in the culture of another society and yet if you still favor the overthrow of Saddam's regime and installation of democracy you need to find another way that has real prospects for success to accomplish the changes that are required to make an Arab society capable of supporting a non-corrupt liberal democracy.

By Randall Parker    2003 January 02 08:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 October 22 Tuesday
Sebastian Mallaby On Iraq Reconstruction

Sebastian Mallaby argues that since MacArthur's rule of Japan was too much like colonialism it will not be seen as acceptable to have an American General ruling Iraq for several years. However, I fail to see how his preferred alternative, a new international institution whose purpose is to rule conquered nations, will avoid any of the same accusations that will be hurdled at a pure US administration for Iraq. As long as the ruling Administration of Iraq is following American guidance it will be labelled a tool of American imperialism:

A really bold administration would not accept these weaknesses. It would think up a new international institution that could match MacArthur's vigor while avoiding an anti-imperialist backlash. This new institution -- call it the International Reconstruction Fund -- should be governed like the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund: It should have an American-led board rather than a system of squad vetoes like the U.N. Security Council. It should assemble the expertise and resources needed to put countries back together, including experts in constitutions and truth commissions, as well as a roster of peacekeepers and police officers from different countries who have been trained to work together. The reconstruction fund should amount to a pre-assembled, non-American MacArthur -- and thereby serve American interests far better than the American version.

The US will be damned no matter what it does. It is better for the US to do what will be most effective. At least that way we will derive some benefit in spite of the condemnations from all the usual suspects.

Update: For all posts on the problem of reconstruction and reformation of conquered countries see the Parapundit Reconstruction and Reformation archives.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 22 06:20 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2002 October 16 Wednesday
Hardest Part Of Iraq War Is Reconstruction

Sebastian Mallaby, in a Washington Post essay entitled "War, Then It Gets Hard" discusses a new report from The Washington Institute For Near Eastern Policy about the difficulties post-war Iraq political reconstruction:

Moreover, the destruction of civil society under Hussein has left few viable institutions other than the army. That doesn't augur well for the democracy that Bush promises.

A future Iraqi government, what's more, is likely to be dangerous as well as military-autocratic. It is likely to be anti-American, because American-backed sanctions are blamed (albeit unfairly) for reducing a once prosperous society to misery, and because Iraq's leaders traditionally have sought to quell ethnic tensions at home by espousing radical Arab nationalism. A future Iraqi government is almost bound to want nuclear weapons, because Iran is building them.

The report is entitled How To Build A New Iraq After Saddam edited by Patrick Clawson. This report argues that the US should fight the war in a way that creates better conditions for political reconstruction. You can read the whole introduction that I've excerpted here:

Although achieving battlefield success against the Iraqi military would not be easy, ensuring a stable and friendly post-Saddam Iraq would pose even greater challenges. Therefore, this more difficult task should guide the formation of military strategy. A strategy that ensured victory over the Iraqi military would be of little value if it prevented the United States and its allies from achieving their larger goal-stability and responsible leadership for Iraq. Military planners should therefore devote special attention to the potential influence that their operations could have on a post-Saddam Iraq.

As discussed in the previous section, a strategy that targeted the RG and SRG while bypassing the regular army could prove to be of enormous value, despite its risks. An even more ambitious strategy, however, would be to give Iraqis themselves as much credit as possible for the defeat of Saddam's forces, allowing them to feel greatly responsible for his overthrow-in other words, a strategy of liberation rather than occupation. The more pride that Iraqis felt about removing Saddam, the more likely they would be to identify with the government that replaced him. Such a government would have much stronger nationalist credentials than a government imposed by outsiders. For example, consider the role played by French Resistance forces during the Nazi occupation of their country. Although they had little military impact on the eventual liberation of France, their postwar sociopolitical impact was considerable.

A liberation strategy would in part be a matter of presentation, that is, of assigning credit to whatever Iraqi forces participated in the fight against Saddam, even if their role were actually marginal. Such a strategy suggests that the U.S. military role on the ground should be kept as small and discreet as possible, with significant attention devoted to encouraging the defection of Iraqi army units.

Update: For all posts on the problem of reconstruction and reformation of conquered countries see the Parapundit Reconstruction and Reformation archives.

By Randall Parker    2002 October 16 01:03 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2002 September 10 Tuesday
Challenges for Iraq occupation army has a good article up on the costs and challenges of occupying Iraq.

Since the Special Forces have been studying the post World War II occupations for over half a century, they have come up with a lot of new ideas to expedite the process. However, they will face one major problem that was not found in post-World War II Germany or Japan; rampant corruption and factionalism.

The article has some numbers on the costs per soldier in occupying armies. The UN pays less because it uses Third World soldiers who are paid little and given spartan support. Luckily for the US the Iraqi oil fields will be able to fund the US occupation costs.

(yes, ParaPundit considers the occupation of Iraq by the US to be a foregone conclusion)

By Randall Parker    2002 September 10 05:53 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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