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Legitimate Deliberate Democracy in Transition: Failure in the Democratization of Iraq by the United States from 2003-2014

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Legitimate Deliberate Democracy in Transition: Failure in the Democratization of Iraq by the United States from 2003-2014

Daniel Tyler Brooks

"The first principle of republicanism is that the lex majoris partis is the fundamental law of every society of individuals of equal rights; to consider the will of the society enounced[i] by the majority of a single vote as sacred as if unanimous is the first of all lessons in importance, yet the last which is thoroughly learnt. This law once disregarded, no other remains but that of force, which ends necessarily in military despotism." --Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1817. ME 15:127

"Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:318[ii]

Why did Democratization fail in Iraq?  This question is important because as the United States continues to maintain a preponderance of power in the world, it is expected that the US will continue to pursue the development of democracies throughout the world in accordance with ideas contained in the Bush Doctrine informed by Democratic Peace Theory (Fiala, 2007, p. 28).  Understanding how the democratization of Iraq failed could be instructive to future endeavors towards democratization throughout the world, and provide an understanding of some of the factors that contributed to the rise Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) which may be useful in resolving the current regional crisis.   Legitimacy Theory of Deliberate Democracy states that for a government to be considered legitimate,[iii] it must be inclusive of all social groups, and additionally that legitimacy is a prerequisite for a democracy to succeed (Cohen, 1997, p. 69).  My specific thesis is that in order for the democracy in Iraq to succeed (Dependent Variable, or DV) post-US occupation, the Iraqi government (GoI) must be inclusive (Independent Variable, or IV) of all interest groups in Iraq, specifically the ethno-sectarian groups that represent the Shia, Sunni Arab, and Sunni Kurdish populations in Iraq.  My assumption is as follows: As of August, 2014, Democratization of Iraq has in fact failed in Iraq with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a regional power. 

The first major decision point for US Policy Makers following the successful defeat of Saddam Hussein’s Army was what to do with the defeated Iraqi military forces.  Prior to the invasion of Iraq, then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, along with planners in the Office of Special Plans, developed the occupation strategy of De-Ba’athification upon defeat of all Iraqi military forces (Rathmell, 2005, p. 1021).  The logic behind this policy was rooted in the idea that for the sake of legitimacy of democracy in the post Saddam Iraq, the Ba’athist regime had to be totally dismantled from top to bottom (Terrill, 2012, p. XII).  The ruling elite in Iraq was predominately Sunni Arab (approximately a 15-20% minority); however, it was in this group of people that the preponderance of the education, institutional knowledge, infrastructure support, political elite, and security forces resided (Stradiotto, 2004, p. 18).  Upon disbanding the Iraqi military, police force, and the firing of Ba’athist Party members (the majority of which was made up of Arab Sunnis) in GOI positions, suddenly, the former ruling elite found themselves unemployed (Terrill, 2012, p. 39).  As democratic government is a matter of majority rule, Sunnis across Iraq feared that any democratic system would always divide upon sectarian lines with the formerly oppressed Shiite majority (approximately 60-70%) creating a new, oppressive rule in the opposite direction (Eland, 2005, p. 47).  Immediately following de-ba’athification and disbanding of the Iraqi police and military, looting and chaos immediately followed (Green, 2009, p. 614).[iv]  US ground forces were ill-equipped at maintaining key infrastructure and rule of law in the state of anarchy that was created, and US military commanders had to immediately resort to martial law.  Newly unemployed, Arab Sunnis felt disenfranchised by the new democratic political system being developed by the transitional government, and with political and military expertise and military caches at their disposal, the Sunnis turned to the only avenue they felt could resolve their grievances: insurgency (Damluji, 2010, p. 73).

Consequently, when the first Parliamentary elections occurred in 2005, Arab Sunnis, under the influence of tribal sheiks, boycotted the elections, with only 2% of Sunnis in Anbar Province voting compared to a 60-70% Shiite voter turnout throughout Iraq (Mingus, 2012, p. 679).  There was a strong sense of cynicism throughout Sunni tribes that the new government was not going to be representative of them because of their status as not only a minority, but also as the previous oppressors of the Shiite who now had the majority power in the new status quo (Mingus, 2012, p. 679).  The unfortunate result was a self-fulfilling prophecy, as few Sunni leaders were elected to positions of political power, and the GoI, under the majority rule of the Shiite elected leaders, favored polices that favored Shiite over Sunni ones even in the formation of the Iraqi Constitution, which was not imposed by the US Government and was drafted and was voted on by an Iraqi Constitutional Review Committee (Hamoudi, 2007, p. 1316).  As time progressed, blood feuds took hold between Shiite and Arab Sunni communities, leading to an uptick in sectarian violence (Green, 2009, p. 612).  The most prominent factions of the Sunni insurgency aligned itself with Al Qaeda in order to obtain external support and funding, creating Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Damluji, 2010, p. 74). Meanwhile, the most prominent radical Islamic Shiite militias banded together into the Jeesh Al Mahdi (JAM), under Imam Muqtada Al-Sadr and supported externally by Iranian Quds force, in an effort to regionally balance Sunni AQI and fight against what some radical Shiites saw as Western Cultural Imperialism through the US democratization of Iraq (Eland, 2005, p. 47).

The amount of violence in Iraq reached an all-time peak by 2005 (Green, 2009, p. 614).  Sunni tribesmen in Anbar Province began to cry out to their sheiks to do something about the rising ethno-sectarian violence.  Sunni tribal sheiks affiliated with the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade began coming in conflict with Sunni members of AQI in a turf war over criminal activity.[v]  These sheiks reached out to local US army commanders for parlay, and the results was the beginning of the Sunni Awakening (Sahwa) Councils which sought a local grassroots security solution for the sectarian violence (Green, 2009, p. 617).  The Sahwa councils gave way to security partnerships between US Commanders and Sunni tribal sheiks, as well as paving the way for the end of Sunni boycotts of future GoI elections.  The popular movement was to be the catalyst for an amazing turn around in favor of US COIN efforts, as the ideas generated in Anbar province began to spread among Sunni tribes across Iraq with the implementation of the US Surge advocated by General David Petraeus (Biddle, 2012, p. 10).

By December, 2006, Field Manual 3-24 (Counterinsurgency), which had made significant circulation throughout the Army and Marine Corps in draft form up to this point, was finally published.  The work was supervised by a research team headed by none other than General David Petraeus.  Gen Petraeus, capitalizing on the success in Anbar Province with the Sahwa councils, decided that the best way to bring the disenfranchised, unemployed, former Ba’athist Sunnis back into the fold was to create Sunni dependency on the local GoI.  The primary method was to pay local Sunni sheiks to provide militias at the rate of $300 per guard a month to pull local security on their own villages (Biddle, 2012, p. 12).  Even the name of this new force, “Sons of Iraq” (following the name “Concerned Local Citizens”) was a master stroke, as it invoked images of patriotism likened to the US Revolutionary War organization, “The Sons of Liberty (Biddle, 2012, p. 12).” In spite of criticisms that the strategy essentially paid AQI leaders “protection” money, the true genius of the technique was that it created a system of accountability among sheiks and local US commanders in the form of using money as leverage, or as US Army doctrine called it, “Money As A Weapon System” (MAAWS) (Petraeus, 2009, Para 1-153).[vi]   When an incident of violence occurred in a tribal Sunni sheik’s area of responsibility, US commanders simply threatened to cut the pay of the sheik’s tribesmen, or to cancel the contract and go to a rival.[vii] Gen Petraeus doubled down on the early indicators of success caused by the SoIz and was able to convince a skeptical US Congress to authorize funding for the US Surge in 2007 (Khedery, 2014, p. 1).  With the additional US troops and SoIz, Gen Petraeus focused combat power on securing the local national population in conjunction with the reconstituted Iraqi national army (IA) and police force (IP).  The result was a staggering reduction in violence across all of Iraq (Biddle, 2012, p. 12).

By 2009, there was a sense in Iraq that Democracy might actually take hold and work.  Iraqi security forces were gaining prestige among the population, rule of law was beginning to provide an alternative to ethno-sectarian violence, and Sunni politicians were getting elected and passing more representative laws and furthering more inclusive policies.   Sunni voter turnout percentages exceeded that of the Shiite for the 2010 Parliamentary elections, as the Sunnis learned from their mistake in boycotting the 2005 elections, and supported the more moderate Iraqi National Movement Party led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi against the incumbent State of Law Coalition under Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki (Mingus, 2012, p. 684).[viii]  During the formation of the new government, Ayad Allawi had the largest number of seats, with 91 parliamentary seats verses PM Maliki’s 89 (Dodge, 2013, p. 248).  Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki refused to step down and stalled the Iraqi parliament into deliberations to form a new government for the nine months that followed.

For several reasons, the US government chose to not pressure PM Maliki to step down, and the result was the disillusionment of the Sunni population who had been willing to give democracy a chance (Khedery, 2014).[ix]  I conducted an interview with former US Ambassador to Iraq (2009-2010) Christopher Hill, the current Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and asked him about the various reasons why the US did not pressure PM Maliki to concede to PM Allawi.[x]  Dean Hill asserted that it is a mischaracterization of US policy, and his position in particular, to suggest that the US wanted PM Maliki to remain in power following the 2010 election (Hill, 2014).  In fact, US leaders in Iraq actively tried to two avenues to effect a democratic change in leadership in Iraq.  The first of which was encouraging PM Allawi to petition the smaller Shia parties to achieve majority support against PM Maliki’s party (Hill, 2014).  Iraqi parliament was not controlled by a two party system, with a total number of seats exceeding 300, resulting in neither PM Allawi nor PM Maliki from having an actual majority; unfortunately, the Iraqi Constitution did not sufficiently describe what method Parliament should pursue in the formation of a government without a single party achieving a solid majority (Hill, 2014).  Consequently, the solution generated from within parliament was ad hoc, and the result was that PM Maliki garnered majority support from the smaller Shia controlled parties for his party to retain power while PM Allawi squandered his time and political capital protesting abroad (Hill, 2014).  US leaders pursued a second option of attempting to find another leader within Maliki’s Dawa party that could relieve PM Maliki, but no suitable alternative existed that could garner the party’s political support (Hill, 2014).  There was no “top cover” from the Obama Administration to resort to any coercive or incentive methods to entice PM Maliki to concede and retire from politics, and with PM Maliki’s confidence in his ability to secure third party support, he had little to reason to feel as though he needed to step down and accept any US offer (Hill, 2014).  Ultimately, Former Ambassador Hill suggested that the Iraqi constitution was ill-conceived, and did not provide a sufficient system to protect Sunni rights and give them sufficient influence to effect a peaceful regime change (Hill, 2014).

The Democratization of Iraq failed on 22 December, 2010 when Iraqi parliament approved PM Maliki’s new government in spite of  PM Allawi’s party having the most seats.  From the 2010 elections until US forces redeployed from Iraq in December of 2011, PM Maliki successfully expanded the powers in the office of Prime Minister by consolidating control of Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense under the office of the PM, effectively turning the IA and IP into his own praetorian guard (Dodge, 2013, p.7).  PM Maliki then returned to a policy of de-ba’athification through purges of Sunni leadership throughout the GoI, looking back to previous US De-ba’athification efforts and Iraqi de-ba’athiciation law as justification for banning prominent Sunni politicians from running for government office and arrested some on charges of sedition (Terrill, 2012, p. 53-54).    Additionally, PM Maliki failed to honor promises made to integrate SoIz into government security and civilian jobs.  The Sunnis felt betrayed by democracy, and turned back to violence, except this time, instead of turning to AQI, the Sunni turned to an even more radical organization: The Islamic State in Iraq (ISI), led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a former AQI leader released in 2009 from Bucca following the US decision to turn the prison system over to the GoI (McLaughlin, 2014, p. 1).[xi]  The “Democracy” of Iraq no longer maintained legitimacy with the Sunni population. 

An alternative hypothesis is that democratization in Iraq failed because Radical Islamist ideologies dominated the local culture of Iraq post de-ba’athfication and that a Western democratic system would never have worked in the country due to being incompatible with regional cultural mores that naturally rebel against Globalization.  My research suggests that this hypothesis is insufficient to suggest a necessary outcome, and ironically, fears among US policy makers regarding Muslim perceptions of Western Cultural Imperialism actually retarded US efforts to establishing a sustainable democratic system in Iraq (Pei, 2003, p. 54).  In policy discussions, the Bush Administration made comparisons that Iraq would become a model for democracy throughout the Middle East, much as Post-WWII Germany and Japan had for Europe and Asia (Dobbins, 2006, p. 153).  Some academics criticize this comparison due Iraq’s lack of a homogenized national identity, and lack of established institutions (Bellin, 2004, p. 598).  Regardless of the criticism from academics on the validity of the comparison between post-WWII Japan/Germany with Iraq the historical lessons those two occupations provided were not actually followed in the occupation and democratization of Iraq in several critical ways; the first of which was that in Iraq, the US did not establish the authoritarian leadership of a US Occupation commander as the de facto head interim government (Bellin, 2004, p. 603).[xii]  General Douglas MacArthur and General George S. Patton, in Japan and Germany respectfully, served as the provisional head of government for both of their regions until satisfactory democratic constitutions could be established.  Both generals additionally had the wisdom to use the privilege of their position to resist the insistences of politicians back in Washington DC to seek revenge against party members from the former regimes.  Following the Potsdam Declaration, Gen MacArthur left the Japanese emperor in power, while placing only key members of his staff on trial for war crimes, leaving critical government institutions and infrastructure running (Thompson, 2008, p. 177).  General Patton in Bavaria-Germany, who was infamously questioned as to why he did not aggressively pursue de-nazification, compared the US Democratic and Republican parties (choosing one or the other is the political reality of being an American) to the Nazi party (the only political reality of being a German) and implied that not all Nazis were complicit in atrocities (Blumenson, 1974, p. 780-787).[xiii]  Gen Patton went on to suggest that these former Nazis were necessary partners in post war development (Blumenson, 1974, p. 780-787).

Even in those days, such pragmatism came at a cost, as General Patton was relieved by General Eisenhower shortly after making his politically chaffing statements (Blumenson, 1974, p. 780-787).  Both Gen MacArthur and Gen Patton understood that for democracy to take root in their countries, the first thing that had to be maintained was security and infrastructure, and if that meant keeping the status quo in power for the short term to avoid alienating the key power brokers, so be it.  Secondly, came the forming of a constitution and democratic deliberations.  In the development of the Japanese constitution, Gen MacArthur had originally hoped that the Japanese people would frame a sufficiently democratic constitution on their own; however, after several drafts continued to mimic the Meiji Constitution of 1889, General MacArthur vetoed the document for the final time, and appointed two US legal officers from his staff to draft the constitution unilaterally and presented it to the Japanese leadership (Bellin, 2004, p. 603).  The lesson here is that the occupying commander had to force the democratic system to be followed until it was internalized by the Japanese people.  Cultural differences are just a matter of tailoring language and messaging; MacArthur understood how to be a forceful Shogun to the point of imposing democracy, and was revered as if he were a “god” by the Japanese people for it (Manchester, 1978, p. 550-552).

In any discussion about Imperialism and Globalization, there inevitably comes a point where assumptions about mores and relative values of certain Western beliefs concerning the development of other countries become a focal point.  There is a sense in the academic literature that Western paternalism and exceptionalism is amoral at best and immoral at worst in the sense that it seeks to impose values of one powerful culture on another less powerful culture (Thompson, 2008, p. 163).  While it is understandable when anthropologists (who are very concerned with the appreciation of cultural aesthetics, job security, and the preservation of untainted populations to study) mourn the death of cultures, there is a temptation in the study of comparative Culture, Politics, Religion, Philosophy, etc to suggest that all views are of equal moral validity, a practice commonly referred to as Moral Relativism.  The pitfall in this line of reasoning is that in situations like Iraq, decision makers (and the academics who advise them) sometimes place too much value on respecting the culture of the host nation.  I recognize this statement is offensive to some and counter-intuitive for most.  What must be remembered, above all is that development is not an end unto itself, but instead a means to an end.  In the case of post-invasion Iraq, the end was to stabilize the region by ending anarchy and martial law within the state of Iraq, establishing a democratic government, and creating a state that could defend itself militarily from regional external influencers.[xiv]  To talk about means without ends, we are not talking about strategy, and the “Build it and they will come” mentality in practice becomes “Build it, and it will become a ruin that testifies to your lack of purpose.”[xv]

Within members of the State Department and among some senior commanders, there was a certain cognitive dissonance in that the US shouldn’t force Western ideas of how to do democracy on the Iraqis, but instead let them make their own decisions in regard to the development of their own democratic government.  There was a lack of self-awareness among decision makers and academics in that the very act of imposing democracy upon a culture that was used to authoritarian regimes, was to impose cultural values (Thompson, 2008, p. 175-176).  To pursue a course of action that involves imposing a system of government without imposing the mores that underpin it is to act in an immoral manner by spending blood and national treasure to establish a society that is doomed to fail from the very start.  There are several moral underpinnings of a democratic society (verses an authoritarian one) that must be accepted by the governed as a minimum in order for a democratic system to survive and properly function: [1] Inclusive government (all sects can effect change by effective non-violent avenues) (Stradiotto, 2004, p. 8); [2] Tolerance of opposing ideas (freedom of expression) (Cohen, 1997, p. 75); [3] Willingness regularly to change status quo (democracy is dynamic) (Gutmann, 2009, p. 6); [4] Subjugation of public will to majority rule (Brooks, 2009, p. 52); [5] Minority Rights (Brooks, 2009, p. 52); [6] Military subordination to civilians and allegiance to the ideals of the state (rather than the state head);[xvi] [7] Fair Enforcement of Rule of Law (“blind” justice) (Moon, 2009, p. 121); [8] Right to Property (Locke, 1690; Chap V-24); and [9] Separation of church and state.[xvii]

Systematically, these mores have to be embedded into the charter (or Constitution) of a democratic country, and maintained by a system of checks and balances (Moon, 2009, p. 121).  The residual of these mores suggests a system of democracy that is not actually democracy, but instead a Constitutional Republic.[xviii]  Additionally, these values must be reinforced by whatever instruction is provided by the occupying nation through advisement, or imposition when the “correct” conclusion isn’t drawn by the host nation partner on their own accord (Bellin, 2004, p. 606).[xix]  Failure to do so, however morally reprehensible the imposition of values on another may seem, is to build a democracy on a foundation of sand.  The Founding Fathers of the United States Government in their Enlightenment philosophy, were successful in distilling the justification for democracy into a set of three universal principles: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”[xx]  If you had asked a random Iraqi on the street what he really cares about, it generally comes down to “I want to be able to make a decent living for my family, and I want my children to be safe and happy.”  This common ground between Westerners and Iraqi citizens was where the strategy of getting the Iraqi population to internalize Western mores should have begun.

There is a Western moralist assumption, and one may call it Western arrogance, but explicitly stated, the Western assumption is that cultures that infringe on individual liberty and human rights any more than is necessary to prevent anarchy are immoral.[xxi]  The assumption may be challenged, but the challenger must identify a more palliative, practical moral alternative assumption before asserting alternative moral imperatives.[xxii]  Consequently, to whatever extent possible, when it aligns with Western national interests, the West should seek to influence the cultural mores of states and societies that are historically oppressive, and the United States should seek to ensure that cultural backings of tyranny are neutralized.  Much to the dismay of the anthropologists who may see the assimilation of tribal and national cultures into a Western ideal as a bad thing, to the extent that it creates peace, the imposition of Western values on “Less Developed” cultures (to the extent that they are not Westernized) is worth the cost.  The word “impose” has a negative connotation in the context of cultural imperialism, but if the democratization of Germany and Japan made the world safer by gutting their need and desire to seek world domination, all while advancing human rights and freedom within those countries, then whatever “evil” is in the slaying of their previous nationalist leanings is worth whatever weight the act adds on the Western collective conscience.  In Japan, the successful democratization of the country was in large part due to the imposition of democracy under the watchful, and benevolent eye of the totalitarian leadership of the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur (Stradiotto, 2004, p. 10). Likewise, dismantling sectarianism in Iraq, or at least creating a system that reigns it in or marginalizes it through tribal inclusion in non-violent government institutions, is worth the imposition of Western mores on tribal identities and traditions. One method of the imposition could have been to create a House of Commons and a House of Sheiks (or House of Lords) as a bicameral legislature when the parliamentary system was designed with the creation of the Iraqi Constitution, and until mores were internalized, the US could have maintained oversight with a “SCAP” in place with veto power to be used in extreme cases.  

In Iraq, does United States Imperialism make the world any better off than the forms of Imperialism that preceded it?  Insofar is as US foreign policy advances individual liberty and human rights throughout the world in its pursuit of national interests by using democratization where applicable, the answer is yes.  Whether or not the invasion of Iraq was in US National interests or the Middle Eastern Regional interests is a question for a different article, but the point is that once the deed was done and Saddam was overthrown, democratization in the aftermath was in the best interests of regional and international peace strategy for the US.[xxiii]  By democratization, a stable Republic would have been sufficient, as long as all sectarian groups maintained an ability to resolve grievances and effect legislative change.  An ideal measure of effective governance in the case of Iraq would have been once popular vote resulted in a peaceful regime change in favor of minority sects; e.g. the measure for Iraq was the 2010 elections.

Does the United States always advance individual liberty and human rights in the pursuit of its national interests?  Democratization is part of the solution to questions of US moral superiority in Imperialist and Globalization models, not part of the problem.  Historically, US Imperialist policies have on occasion preferred pro-US dictatorships over Anti-US democracies in the pursuit of national interest, which, empirically, has the power to potentially overthrow Democratic Peace Theory[xxiv] as a sound predictive model.  However, in and of itself, this historical evidence is insufficient to damage the justification of the US using democratization as a sound strategy for promoting human rights in its pursuit of global primacy and hegemony.[xxv]  In its moral application for the sake of world stability, the Bush Doctrine, when examined as an imperialist doctrine, should have been advanced as more of a political and economic endeavor rather than military one.  Military imperialism is not a sound strategy for any great power in a world of nuclear proliferation, and is certainly not a moral one regardless of intentions when viewed with an eye toward the historical military endeavors of world domination.[xxvi]  US influence of Globalization and the transition from global institutions and societies to a future global democratic government should be the strategic aims of the Bush Doctrine in application by the US.  Imperialism is no more evil than a kitchen knife is evil; it is how imperialism is pursued and what end state the individual using it as a strategy has as the ultimate objective that can be considered just or unjust.  The Cold War of the 21st century is a battle between three things: 1. Control over the structure of a World Government emerging out of International institutions, 2. Political Influencers of said emerging world government, and 3. Ideologies that threaten to undo emerging world government by pushing the world back towards international anarchy.

In conclusion, the democratization of Iraq failed for two critical reasons: US failure to legitimize the democratic government with the Sunni Arab population of Iraq, and US failure to impose forcefully western cultural mores that are prerequisites for deliberate democracy.  Had the United States taken a more pragmatic approach to maintaining the Sunni status quo in the short term following the defeat of Saddam’s army, the US could have prevented the Sunni insurgency from arising in the form of AQI.  Additionally, US failure to force Iraqi leadership to follow the Iraqi constitution in regard to the 2010 election doomed the government to lose the legitimacy the US had fought hard to secure following the Sunni awakening and surge.  Had the US government appointed a “SCAP” like in post-WWII Japan, with the power to oversee and have final editorial and veto power over the Iraqi constitution and its enforcement, the democratization of Iraq may have succeeded given the time and patience required for Iraqis to internalize democratic mores.  If the timeline seems open ended, one should consider instead the course of action that was actually taken in Iraq; it has yet to be seen exactly how many years the US spends in the Iraq region before the current conflict is resolved.  Did the US ever even have such a man with the wisdom and civic virtue necessary to perform such a task in the manner of General Douglas MacArthur?  Perhaps General David Petraeus could have provided the appropriate leadership had he been appointed to such a position. 

The Arab Spring erupted not long after US withdrawal to Kuwait in December of 2011, and revolutions throughout the Middle East further destabilized authoritarian governments in places like Libya and Syria.  Without strong US leadership in response to these popular uprisings, power vacuums developed, and Syria became a haven for Al Baghdadi’s Islamic State to seize territory, and gain legitimacy among Sunnis in Iraq who are seeking a means of autonomy from the failed democracy in Iraq.  With Al Baghdadi’s self-appointment as caliph and successful seizure of territory across the Middle East, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is emerging as a power competing for legitimacy in the region.  While understanding the events that gave rise to this new “state” is informative for understanding its motives and aspirations, what we don’t know now is to what extent the structure of the Iraqi government contained in the Iraqi Constitution has contributed to the creation of ISIL and what the past has to offer in regard to how US policy should address the emerging threat of ISIL.  Even now, as General Austin discusses attempting to create a new Sahwa in Anbar province as a strategy against ISIL, US policy makers must consider how the breach of trust between the US/GoI and the Anbar Sunnis following the disbanding of the SoIz and the 2010 election presents a formidable challenge to regaining the social capital necessary to replicate the success of the Sahwa (Barnes, 2014).  Additionally, policy makers must consider how the 2006 Sahwa also benefited from General David Petraeus’ Surge Campaign, which is currently not an option for the battle with ISIL under President Obama’s “No boots on the ground” policy.  As the US begins another long conflict in the Middle East, perhaps if we wish to continue the Bush Doctrine’s method of democratization under the leadership of the Obama administration, we must consider what went wrong in the last application, verses perhaps learning the wrong lessons by assuming that the democratization of Iraq was doomed from the outset.  Otherwise, any half measures we take in dealing with this threat may simply create the next one.


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End Notes

[i] Enounced: v. 1.  To utter or pronounce; 2.  To state a proposition or theory in definite terms.  Origin: early 19th century: from French énoncer, from Latin enuntiare (see enunciate).

[ii]Both Thomas Jefferson quotes were Obtained from ; 16 Sep, 2014

[iii] I define legitimacy here as “consent of the governed.”  This is not to say that consent cannot be obtained through coercion.  In fact, in Counterinsurgency (COIN), consent of the governed is obtained through two primary methods: coercion and providing a non-violent avenue for resolving grievances.  The win-condition of COIN through democratization is to progress from the former to the latter method.  The focus of this paper is how “inclusiveness” is crucial to the win-con.

[iv] The execution of De-ba’athification initially fell on US military commanders and the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA).  At first, US Army Commanders, such as then Major General David Petraeus in his capacity as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, limited the scope of De-Ba’athification in order to maintain security and key infrastructure upon surrender of Saddam Hussein’s army.  The US Civilian head of the Coalition Provision Authority (CPA), Paul Bremer, under the direction of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz, went against the advisement of US military commanders on the ground and expanded De-ba’athification to include practically all Iraqi security and government officials under the first several orders of the CPA in 2003 (Terrill, 2012, p.  13-15).

[v] The 1920s Revolutionary Brigade was a criminal element separate from AQI; however, there was much cross pollination in regards to membership.  Ultimately, member loyalty to tribe was stronger than loyalty to AQI, and US exploitation of this drove the crucial wedge in isolating AQI from the Iraqi Sunni population.  Of interests, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade’s namesake harkens back to the 1920s Iraqi revolution against British Colonization.  Ironically, the time period from 1921-58 was the closest Iraq had ever been to having a historical precedent for democracy (Dawisha, 2005, p. 11).  After the Sahwa, the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade resumed more modest levels of criminal activity, and maintained their illegal operations at discrete, acceptable levels that were tolerated by US commanders.

[vi] MAAWS was the later doctrinal term.  In FM 3-24, it was described as “money is ammunition.”  Discretionary funds for SOIz salary was funded through the “Commanders Emergency Response Program.” (CERP) that was used for a wide variety of low budget infrastructure, economic, and security programs managed by tactical commanders.

[vii] From OCT 2008 until the transition of SoIz to Iraqi Government control in 2009, I was the pay agent for CERP in the Ka’nan Nahia of Diyala Province.  During this time, I managed a contract for approximately 250 SoIz, and became intimately familiar with the politics of managing SoIz relations with Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army, and Local Nahia Government that was predominately Shiite controlled.  I also had the significant challenge of finding ways to negotiate integration of the SoIz into civilian employment upon the transition of the organization to Iraqi government control.  When SoIz lacked professional skills or desirability for government employment, my default solution was using CERP to fund small business Micro-Grants as a “severance.”  Each micro-grant added up to approximately $5,000 in two monthly payments (2-3 years SoIz salary, depending on the generosity of the militiaman’s sheik).  The micro-grant program under CERP was highly criticized by State Department representatives on PRTs, as they argued the program in general incentivized local national entrepreneurs into not taking small business loans from local banks, thus hurting the economy.  By the end of 2009, the CERP program as a whole came under severe criticism of abuse and misuse in an environment of little oversight over tactical commanders and pay agents.  Shortly thereafter, the program was shut down, and many half-finished projects were cancelled when the GoI did not continue them following the hand over.  Some members of the PRTs saw CERP as US commanders circumventing GOI bureaucratic system, often when Shiite GoI leaders refused to support/maintain projects in Sunni communities, and as such, failed to create capacity and GoI legitimacy.  The validity of this criticism varied wildly dependent on the US commander in question, and the amount of by-in he received from GoI on a given project.  Additionally, in the example of the SoIz “severance,” analysis of the 2nd and 3rd order effects of the program really depended on the analyst understanding how and why the money was being used, and to what purpose, which wasn’t always immediately obvious to those further removed from the execution of the program.  Additionally, add to this legal advisors conservatively interpreting the MAAWS SOP in ways that resulted in disapproval of projects due to subjective reasons that were specifically listed as “commander’s discretion.”  Yet commanders, once given legal advice from a SJA, will rarely question it or seek a second opinion.  An example of this would be disapproving a SoIz micro-grant due to proximity to a similar establishment or disapproving a micro-grant for a “rent-a-dj” business for a disabled SoIz because the MAAWS says “funds will not be used for entertainment purposes,” the intent of which is for business owners to not abuse the funds by buying frivolous items for personal use, instead of suggesting that commanders can’t fund businesses that are an entertainment service.  Another example would be an Internet Café micro-grant getting disapproved as “entertainment,” when the intent is to provide Iraqi civilians internet access to free press (furthering US information operations) and small business owners access to expand into digital markets.  These examples are actual cases.

[viii] Not only did the Sunnis learn to vote, they also learned to ally with the Kurdish voting block to gain parity against the Shiite majority who supported PM Maliki.  Not only that, but the Sunnis took advantage of the fact that the Shiite vote itself was somewhat split, as the Iraqi Nation Accord had garnered some of the Shiite vote as well.   A good explanation for why the Sunnis attitudes towards voting shifted is the counter-argument to the “Stealth Democracy Thesis.”  The “Stealth Democracy Thesis” asserts that voters become apathetic due to cynicism towards democracy.  The Counter-argument is that in fact, voters are less apathetic when corruption is high and overt (Neblo, 2010, p. 570).  The 2005 and 2010 Iraqi elections are evidence for both respectively; although the 2005 Sunni boycott was a deliberate act, and not a function of apathy.

[x] Dean Christopher Hill was gracious enough to share an hour of this time with me discussing his time in Iraq as Ambassador.  He suggested that two major failures made the reinstatement of PM Maliki inevitable:  1. The Iraqi Constitution did not specify the method of a run off between two leading parties without a majority of seats.  Dean Hill suggested that what might have benefited Iraq would have been if the situation had be resolved in a similar fashion to the 2013 Israeli Elections that resulted in a similar situation for PM Benjamin Netanyahu.   In the Israeli case, the party with the most seats (but not the majority) was allowed to form the new government.  Additionally, the Constitution of Iraq was not constructed in such a way as to have a bi-cameral legislature.  During his tenure in Iraq, Dean Hill and others attempted to form something akin to a “House of Lords” or “House of Sheiks” in order to provide a Sunni balance to the Shia Majority (in what would become a “House of Commons”) and give teeth to attempts at Iraqi Federalism.  Unfortunately, these measures were not in the Iraqi Constitution, as these power-sharing concerns were overlooked at the time the constitution was conceived, and these new attempts never really took hold.  2.  Reconciliation Efforts of the US post-surge were not internalized by neither the Shia population as a whole, nor in key Shia leadership such as PM Maliki.  Consequently, as the US left Iraq, the Shia controlled Iraq felt few moral qualms against discriminating against Sunnis who were seen as having blood on their hands from the Ba’athist regime and the 2003-05 insurgency.  Dean Hill suggested that what the country needed during reconciliation was something akin to the Truth Commission of South Africa, where those Sunni (and Shia militia members) who had done wrong simply confessed their sins and were forgiven (and the offending individual or a third party like the US paid proper retinue as restitution to victims families).  The unfortunate problem was that PM Maliki was neither a Nelson Mandela nor George Washington, and lacked the civic virtue to forgive and forget past wrongs, personal or otherwise, when integrating the SoIz and Sunni population following the exit of the US in December 2011.  Dean Hill also mentioned that Iraq was significantly difficult to dominate politically by the US because Local Nationals, Shia especially but also the Sunni, did not see themselves as defeated by the US because they distanced themselves so much from Saddam Hussein. This self-perception would have been a major obstacle to a relationship similar to the one enjoyed by General Douglas MacArthur in Post-WWII Japan where the US had destroyed two major cities with an atomic bomb, and the population willingly acknowledged their complicity with the Emperor Hirohito. 

[xi] In 2011, ISI was a primary Sunni terrorist organization on the rise in Iraq.  Al-Baghdadi was a person of interest so to speak.  Unfortunately, following the June, 30 2009 security agreement, US tactical commanders were ordered to stay out of the cities. Additionally, Brigade Combat Teams still in theater renamed themselves “Advise and Assist Brigades” in order to meet political objectives and legal definitions of US national level leadership.  As such, by 2011, the sorts of operations tactical commanders could conduct to effect an organization such as ISI were limited.  Consequently, tactical focus at the Brigade level and below at this point shifted mostly to preservation of combat power as logistics officers focused on redeploying equipment and transitioning US forward operating bases (FOBs) over to Iraqi control, eventually leading to the final US withdrawal in December, 2011 after PM Maliki refused to renew the SOFA agreement on acceptable terms to the US.  The June 30th agreement was a symbolic event, signifying a return to Iraqi sovereignty, and marked the transition from the US Surge Campaign to “Operation New Dawn.”

[xii] The closest the US came to this was the CPA under Paul Bremer.   The transitional period was very short lived (2003-05) ending with the ratification of the Iraqi Constitution, which was generated by mostly by Shiite and Kurdish representatives, was heavily influenced by US De-ba’athification policy, and was rushed to ratification due to pressure by the US without solving the inequities generated by lack of Sunni buy-in due to the Sunni Boycott.  A much more equitable government could have been formed had it just been drafted by impartial US occupiers and presented to the Iraqis.  Occupations by nature are military operations, not diplomatic ones, and therefore should be run by a non-partisan military commander with very wide authoritative latitude as a representative of the conquering nation.

[xiv] I was deployed as a United States Army officer in Iraq from SEP 2008 – SEP 2009 (Kan’an Nahia in Diyala Province) and JUL 2011 – DEC 2011 (Diwaniyah), and this was my understanding of higher intent.

[xv] The quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” was commonly used by field commanders in Iraq; my critique of it is a reference to Niccolò Machiavelli’s definition of strategy as being the matching of means to ends in his work “The Prince.”  Not all development in Iraq was conducted with a specific objective in mind.  On many occasions it was development for development sake, commanders, Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) experts from the US Department of State, and organizations like USAID not grasping the implications of power dynamics and second and third order effects on the goal of legitimizing the Democratic Government in Iraq.  An example of this would be how PRTs would push building schools and soccer fields as “low hanging fruit.”  Oftentimes, there were plenty of buildings/homes schools could be operated out of, and a vast abundance of dirt sufficiently fertilized with raw human sewage runoff for soccer fields and garbage in the street to use as goal posts.  The real problems are always harder to fix, but that doesn’t mean solving easy non-existing problems is the solution.  Another example is using Commander’s and PRTs pushing to use CERP funds to dig wells and installing gas pumps for sheiks without buy in from the Nahia water managers; such projects reduced local national dependency on the government for essential services, and consequently, delegitimized the government while giving sectarian sheiks more power and influence.  Such decisions were very easy, feel good “low hanging fruit” projects because “at least the people are getting clean water.”  The interpretation of “The Prince” is inspired by class lectures from DR Paul Viotti, Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

[xvi] From the US Military Officer Commissioning Oath (DA Form 71, 1 August 1959) 


[xvii] From the United States Bill of Rights

[xviii] In the original draft of this paper, I Implied an American Style government; however, at the suggestion of DR Paul Viotti, Professor of Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, I have explicitly stated the type of government I have in mind.  Democracy in the style of Greek City State Direct Democracy is not be the only form of government considered in the democratization of undeveloped nations, as the term “democratization” seems to suggest.  In the case of Iraq, what would have worked best pre-2010 was a Constitutional, Federalist, Republic with a bicameral legislature.  Since the Iraqi government settled on a parliamentary system, it would have been better to split the legislative body into a popular house (House of Commons) and a house of sheiks (House of Lords) to ensure sectarian minority rights.  The Iraqi government in fact was established in a federalist system, with the Provinces mimicking what could be compared to US States, but the legislature was not designed with minority protections in mind, nor with any incorporation of sheik leadership in an official capacity.  The formation of the US constitution took these factors into consideration when compromising with having both the House of Representatives and Senate.  The point is that post-enlightenment political philosophy approached democracy from an analysis of human nature, not European or American nature, and the principles that informed the Founding Fathers of the US government drove their decisions as they created the structure of the US government.  The US Founding Fathers neither reinvented the wheel, nor created a system on non-universalizing principles. 

[xix] Granted, US military commanders forcing Iraqi leaders to “democratically” do things a certain way is not in the spirit of true democracy; however, in transition, such measures are often necessary until the mores are internalized.

[xx] From the United States “Declaration of Independence”

[xxi] Members of the US Libertarian parties would probably argue that not even the United States Government lives up to this lofty ideal, but the ability of the party members to field a party and make this claim openly and peacefully is evidence enough that there is some truth to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s statement that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

[xxii] Further discussion in this vein devolves into the realm of Epistemology.  This line of reasoning, while it appears tangential, is not, if one approaches rationality from a Coherency Theory of Justification.  Suffice to say, logical/rational systems of belief are founded on assumptions, which are beliefs rooted in faith.  Philosophy of Science is captive to this, even if an empiricist is an agnostic or atheist (the example being that non-belief or absentia from belief in deity is a belief founded entirely on faith). 

[xxiii] Within the scope of this article; the invasion of Iraq is not a moral application of the Bush Doctrine, as explained in the following paragraph.

[xxiv] Defined as the idea in International Relations that democracies do not go to war with one another.

[xxv] The problem Kenneth Waltz identifies with anarchy in “War, the State, and Man” is that anarchy at the international level creates uncertainty.  One interpretation is that in a system of uncertainty, war erupts in an effort by states to mitigate risk.  Remove uncertainty, and one greatly reduces the incidence of war.  One method for removing uncertainty is the monopolization of force by a single governing entity, thus all wars become civil wars and COIN.  In the current world system, at best are self-enforcing international institutions, but this is the starting point for evolving the international system into one of international governance.  World governance is not inherently evil; it is the specific structure of a given system that may or may not be.

[xxvi] “Be careful when you fight with monsters, lest you become one.”  -Fredrick Nietzsche


About the Author(s)

Daniel Tyler Brooks is a U.S. Army Captain with a MA in International Security at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He is currently a student at CGSC.  CPT Brooks made 2 deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Spartan Shield.  His opinions expressed here are his own, and do not represent any official positions of the US Army, DoD, or the US Government.


Brian Utermahlen

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 11:25am

Your article in SWJ was both enlightening and challenging. The discussion you generated both in the Journal and LinkedIn was informative and irenic. Keep at your studies and keep publishing.

My own take on the US attempt to create a ‘democracy’ in Iraq was that it appeared to be unfocused and unplanned – basically “cobbled together” like Indiana Jones trying to get back the Ark from the Nazis (“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m making it up as I go along”). The goal of creating a ‘democracy’ in Iraq was doomed from the beginning.

The initial combat phase of the Iraq War went extremely well; the political aftermath seemed to catch the US government totally by surprise – not really unforeseen by most casual observers because the American public witnessed an almost nightly change in the reason we were going to invade Iraq. It alternated between: destroying weapons of mass destruction to creating a democratic country in the region to regime change to saving the Iraqi people from oppression to protecting our national interests to removing terrorists training bases ... and on and on.

It seems to me that most, if not all, of the failures you relate in your article are based on an apparent lack of understanding on the part of our government (the political arm, not the military) about the people of Iraq – their history and culture.

You conclude the article by saying: ‘In conclusion, the democratization of Iraq failed for two critical reasons: (1) US failure to legitimize the democratic government with the Sunni Arab population of Iraq, and (2) US failure to impose forcefully western cultural mores that are prerequisites for deliberate democracy.’

I agree, especially with your second point.

But the problem is this: Western cultural mores are rooted in Christianity, and from that comes the concept of freedom – INDIVIDUAL freedom of thought, expression, worship, relationships – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Iraqi cultural mores are rooted in Islam, which means ‘submission’ or ‘surrender’. The Muslim submits himself to Islam in all its religious, cultural, relational, judicial, political manifestations. While both Christianity and Islam are monotheistic, the similarities essentially end there.

I have to conclude that ‘imposing’ the Western more of ‘individual freedom’ (by edict or fiat) is not only an oxymoron but a political and religious impossibility (Stanley Wiechnik’s 1,725 to 1 odds). Why? Because a culture based on submission of self to the Quran and the corpus of the Hadith (reports of the teachings, deeds and sayings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad) manifests a society that is not free because the individuals aren’t free. It is monolithic – strict, inflexible, rigid, uncompromising, unchanging, and has been for 1400 years. Western culture is the antithesis of that.

Therefore, I must conclude that Iraq could never be “made” a democracy (or a representative republic which is what the U.S. Constitution envisioned for us). I am surprised that our political leaders didn't understand that.

The only way to 'impose' democratic principles would be the Japan / Germany post-WWII scenario you and others described. But in my opinion, a form of democracy / representative republicanism could not be imposed on a society that was composed of people culturally, religiously, economically and politically incapable of freely ruling themselves. The "top down" way we went about it ensured it was a bridge too far.

In this day and age, we can assist other freedom loving people when they ask us by our moral and economic support. We can even help them militarily – again, when they invite us in.

Our building democratic nations for others for them to step into without winning it for themselves will never work.


Wed, 01/07/2015 - 8:03am

CPT Brooks, you write "the Iraqi government (GoI) must be inclusive (Independent Variable, or IV) of all interest groups in Iraq, specifically the ethno-sectarian groups that represent the Shia, Sunni Arab, and Sunni Kurdish populations in Iraq." I would argue that you basic error lies here. Inclusive government is not an "Independent" variable and you even note as much in your paper. It is dependent on the the beliefs of the individual. There are the cultural changes you want us to force - destroying the beliefs in the validity, or legitimacy, of a tribal cultural system and replacing it with one that believes in humans as independent actors not tied to a tribe. But this belief is also a dependent variable, tied to the economic and political independence of the individual in society. So then we are now at the level of individual economic independence and security. But these are not independent variables. They are dependent on the overall wealth and wealth distribution of the nation. So now you have to included economic analysis that you have almost completely overlooked. I could go on, but I won't. For a contrasting view, see…

Bill also criticizes you for your belief in universal human values. I agree with him that human values are not universal but conditional. For my arguments on that see

Finally, all of this is just academic unless you can convince the Army to make the doctrinal changes necessary to implement your ideas. I wish you luck with that fight.


Wed, 01/07/2015 - 10:00pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I will try. My point is that creating a democracy in a post conflict situation, which I argue includes governmental collapse, is not dependent on the type of unconditional surrender seen in WWII. What it is dependent upon is a society willing to adjust to cultural norms and standards accociated with individualism. The willingness to do this will be largely dependent on the economic situation post conflict. That is about as plain as I can say it.

It is worth noting that these are the same preconditions that existed in all other countries that have successfully transitioned to and remained democracies. Sometimes the cultural transitions are slow, taking hundreds of years, followed by a rapid chain of events that allow the transfer. Sometimes it only takes a generation. Even after the transition, democratic consolidation does not always occur. This failure is more likely where there are weak economic opportunities and/or a fractional social structure.

Bill C.

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 6:43pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon


I believe I am somewhat confused.

You said that you do not believe that it is a requirement to "bring a society to its knees" for democracy to succeed in a "post-conflict environment."


a. In the case of Germany and Japan that we reference, these states and societies were, indeed, "brought to their knees" by our, and other's, efforts during World War II. (Their "return to democracy" not likely to be achieved minus this preliminary effort/requirement.) And

b. In the case of East Germany and Eastern Europe that you cite, there was, per se, no "post-conflict environment" of the nature we are discussing (to wit: an occupation following a hot war).

Can you help me out a little bit more here?


Wed, 01/07/2015 - 6:18pm

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon

I am also disheartened to see that the Author has not come on line to defend his thesis.


Wed, 01/07/2015 - 6:17pm

In reply to by Bill C.


I am not sure the point you are trying to make. That may be because I failed to make my point very well in the previous post. I don’t believe that it is a requirement to bring a society to its knees for democracy to succeed in a post conflict environment. You use the examples of Japan and Germany post WWII. I would argue that our success in establishing functioning democratic societies in those two countries were due to factors that are not related to total victory. They include:

1. each country had a prior history with self-imposed democracy. It did not succeed, but there was a period in their history where democracy was attempted.

2. both Japan and Germany were post-industrial societies. They had a well developed and diverse economy. They were not dependent on a single natural resource that was controlled by a central government (like oil). As a result, these countries quickly developed their own politically and economically independent middle classes.

3. Japan and Germany are mostly ethnically and religiously homogenous. The period of historic conflict had ended and no one was in a hurry to reopen those wounds. Factionalism is fatal to a fledgling democracy, particularly where there is no history of democratic governance.

4. The greatest gift we received in Japan was that the emperor survived and instructed his people to obey the new occupying authority. Similarly, Germany surrendered with some functioning elements still intact. There was a clear transfer of power to the occupiers that “legitimized” the occupation. I believe our biggest mistake was not to secure Al Sustani, since he was amenable to a new democratic government and could have been someone who could have been the Iraq’s Nelson Mandela. As it was, we allowed Al Sadr to kill him.

None of these required the complete destruction of the prior culture or government. In fact, #4 takes the opposite position.

I would go so far as to say that what you describe as a prerequisite, I find to be a coincidence that has no bearing on the success of the endeavors. Therefore, it would have no affect on the potential for democratization in Iraq ... or Afghanistan, which, incidentally, I see no way of succeeding in turning into a democracy since it has no stable economy of its own and it totally dependent on outside charity to maintain the little government it has. True democracy is only affordable by countries with a per-capita GDP of over $10,000 US.

Bill C.

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 11:29am

In reply to by TheCurmudgeon


Would you say that we IMPOSED our way of life, our way of governance and our underlying values, attitudes and beliefs on the populations of East Germany and Eastern Europe; this, in the same way and via the same process as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Likewise would you say that this way of life, way of governance, etc. -- that we sought to see the people living in East Germany and Eastern Europe embrace -- this such way of life, etc., was considered both as alien and as profane, to the populations living in East Germany and Eastern Europe, as they were to the populations living in Iraq and Afghanistan?

These questions to be entertained in consideration of, for example, the following:

"Iraq was possibly the worst place on the planet to attempt to create a democracy. One researcher, taking into account the conditions in Iraq at the time of the invasion, estimated the odds of success at 1,725 to 1. In addition to these social factors, a significant portion of the population of Iraq embraced a tribal value system that was antithetical to democratic legitimacy. The values necessary to embrace power sharing and individual rights were largely absent. Values can change, but that takes time."…

Thus, re: contrary states and societies, to distinguish between:

a. "The worst places on the planet to attempt to create democracy" (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) and

b. Places on the planet which are much more likely to embrace democracy (East Germany, Eastern Europe, etc.)?

And, re: "the worst places on the planet to attempt to create democracy" (to wit: the places that we are mostly likely to have to go to war?), to understand that the utter destruction of these states and their societies -- the bringing of these states and societies literally to their knees -- this must be understood as the normal/necessary precondition for IMPOSING our alien/profane way of life, our alien/profane way of governance and our alien and profane values, attitudes and beliefs on others?

This such understanding to inform both:

1. Our foreign policy direction and approach -- re: these "worst places" states and societies and

2. Our decisions as to when, where, how and if -- and to what end -- to go to war against such "worst places" states and their societies?


Tue, 01/06/2015 - 6:35pm

In reply to by Bill C.

I disagree with your conclusion. We did not need to totally destroy East Germany in order to install a government that was alien/profane to the philosophy and government that had existed before. The same could be said for much of Eastern Europe.

I believe the social, cultural, and economic reality that influence legitimacy is far more complicated than either you or the author acknowledge. The Author believes in the universal values you rightly complain about. He thinks that we can simply force a set of values on a society. This makes coercion as valid as legitimacy.

"In conclusion, the democratization of Iraq failed for two critical reasons: US failure to legitimize the democratic government with the Sunni Arab population of Iraq, and US failure to impose forcefully western cultural mores that are prerequisites for deliberate democracy."

What seems to be missing from this analysis -- and especially re: the comparison of (1) Germany and Japan then to (2) Iraq and Afghanistan today -- is the fact that Germany and Japan were utterly destroyed in World War II; what little remained of these states and their societies, thereby, being totally at our mercy.

This was not the case with Iraq and Afghanistan recently; wherein, neither these states, nor their societies, were similarly brought to their knees.

Get this first part wrong (utterly destroying the contrary state and its societies; totally and completely bringing these states and their societies to their knees), and you probably will not be able to get the second part right (forced transition to alien/profane political, economic and social norms -- and forced transition to equally alien/profane values, attitudes and beliefs.)

So: Why did Democratization fail in Iraq?

Because, post-the Cold War, the United States political elite got caught up in the idea of "the end of history" and "universal values."

These such concepts telling them that the utter destruction of a state and its societies were no longer necessary for transforming these entities more along modern western political, economic and social lines.

These such beliefs (end of history; universal values) causing the U.S. to:

a. Take on wars that it otherwise might have avoided. And

b. To pursue such wars only to the extent of regime change.

(Herein, the U.S. believing that the populations, liberated from their oppressive regimes, would -- due to universal values and the end of history -- quickly, easily and mostly on their own, transition to democracy and other western ideas, values and norms.)

Lesson learned?

The utter destruction of contrary states and their societies -- the bringing of these contrary states and their societies literally to their knees -- this still should be considered the normal and necessary prerequisite for imposing ones alien/profane way of life, one's alien/profane way of governance and one's underlying alien and profane values, attitudes and beliefs on others.

This such knowledge to:

a. Inform/re-inform our foreign policy direction and approach and

b. Inform/re-inform our decisions as to when, where and how -- and to what end -- to go to war.


Mon, 01/05/2015 - 6:53pm

While I agree with some of your observations and suggestions, like the need for a post conflict occupational authority with total governmental control similar to those used at the conclusion of WWII in Germany and Japan, I think you make a number of errors in your assumptions or how to transition a society to democracy. I will offer more comments once I have a chance to pull and read your references, I will say that you probably won't find much argument that we failed at our mission objective of installing a free, democratic government in Iraq. The question is:
1. what changes in the way the Army does occupations are needed to succeed in forcing the transition;
2. what type of timelines and resource committments are realistic;
3. what doctrinal changes are required; and
4. is any of this practical considering that the military is not seen as the experts on civil government?