Democracy Ain't Easy

It may just be me, but when I hear people say - "Americans are not happy with the progress in Iraq, but we still want to win" - I have to resist the urge to shout: "You are confusing the question!"

Of course Americans want to win, winning is imprinted onto our DNA.  It is part of who we are, it is what we mean when we say we strive for "a more perfect union".  What Americans need to know is not whether we want to win or not - that goes without saying.  What Americans need to know is how can we win in Iraq?  Can we win with the same strategy George W. Bush was put in place - instead under the guidance of John McCain - or do we need a new strategy altogether?  Do we need something that places us on a completely different vector to reach our stated goal?

Aside: this debate is not about how one side wants to win and the other side wants to lose; no - this debate is about how one side believes we can win by doing what we have been doing and how our side believes that to win we need to "think outside the box."

Pardon my descent into consultant-ese; sometimes these cliches are useful.

By attempting to create a democratic state in the heart of the Muslim world, this administration has embarked upon the grandest of nation-building efforts the world has ever known and at the same time they have professed to be able to do so without the involvement, counsel or assistance of respected subject-matter experts.  Interesting.

This approach - experts, who needs 'em - has never been the recipe for success on any of the countless consulting engagements on which I have either worked or studied and the results to-date confirm the wrongheadedness of this strategy (or lack thereof).  Experts are called experts for a reason and it is not because they always know what works, but because they always know what are the proper indicators of success.  They know what to look for to see if your actions are proceeding in your desired direction.  This is helpful so that you do not wander so far off course and waste so many millions of dollars, before someone shouts: "Stop!"

It seems like it would be so easy to find experts on creating democratic nations - especially in a country that has its history as being the first democratic republic in the modern world.  We should be able to receive an answer just by shouting to the heavens: "what worked for us?"

First, we also needed the assistance of a major power - the French - to defeat those who saw our Declaration of Independence as the bleating of a minor ewe.  So if we accept the framework that claims the citizens of Iraq longed to be free of the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein, then we know from jump that the catalyst for freedom is indeed present.

Second, how did the French help us in our fight and how can we model our actions on theirs?  The French augmented our ground forces; they had a battle-tested army with a professional officers core.  We had a ragtag bunch of volunteers with heart and little else.  Additionally, the French had a rather useful Navy - which was useful as our embryonic republic had not one.  Our modern Air Force is providing much the same type of service for both our ground troops as well as those of the incipient Iraqi Army.

Finally - and this is perhaps most important - once the British were defeated, the French withdrew.  They did not establish enduring or permanent or 'choose-the-adjective-which-best-suits-your-mood' bases amidst our hinterlands.  Of course there were many concerns on the potential for trouble to befall our fledgeling confederation (please open your texts to War, French and Indian).  It was well understood by all of the actors on the world stage that this new nation was going to face troubles both large and small and it was by no means certain that we would survive and prosper.  France still laid claim to vast swaths of territories to our West and Northwest; deadly skirmishes were still being waged with indigent Amerindian populations; and the Spanish Empire was just to our South as well as occupying territory sweeping so far across our western flank as to reach the Pacific Ocean.  And yet, with all of the perils in which they were ensconced, the founders of our republic knew that they must prevail or perish of their own accord.

So must this new nation of Iraq.

None of us know what the future holds in store for either us or them; they may survive as a republic, evolve into an independent confederation of states, return to the tyranny of a dictatorship or be swallowed up in parts by their neighbors.  Whatever their future calls for, only the people of Iraq can call it into being.

That is what democracy means.  

This is the essence of self-determination.

If we truly believe in the power of free peoples and free states to determine their own path, then we must leave the Iraqi people to seek theirs.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: