Why did America fail in Iraq?
July 16, 2007
The failure in Iraq is becoming more and more apparent and realistic as more and more American voters start to realise the outcome of their misadventure. But how many Americans have understood the real reasons behind this failure? How many Iranians, or others, have understood the real reasons behind this failure? Was it because the Americans actually wanted to destroy Iraq and this is probably as close as it gets to the intended conspiracy anyway and everybody is actually happy within the neo-con circle and they are just pretending that they are unhappy about the whole debacle? Conspiracy theorists will always find explanations.
Let me mention some of the conspiracies that circulated about the Iraq war that are less prevalent nowadays. First, mostly among Muslims, Iranians, Iraqis and many Arabs, it was said that Saddam and George Bush are hand-in-hand working together to do this and that, and that it's all just a public show! Saddam got executed by an Iraqi tribunal. That was indeed a public show, but Saddam could have been the worst possible accomplice to plan his own execution and the destruction of his whole family. Then, it was said that all America wanted was to get hold of the Iraqi oil. Americans came and spent billions and billions of their own dollars and never saw any oil bounty, not even to recover a fraction of their costs. However conspiracies always find new ways and appear in different types and forms.
Let's go back to the failure, and the reasons behind it! It was not America's intention to get into Iraq, lose American soldiers and cause the death and injury of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, destroy Iraqi properties, spend and waste billions of taxpayers' money, and have a failure at the end by leaving (more and more predictable) in tatters! However failure is of course closer than ever, and everybody is starting to realise it. And here comes the same question again. Why? Why did America fail in Iraq? There was no conspiracy. It makes no sense.
America simply failed in Iraq. Iraq did not turn into a functional democracy. Bang! This is it. This is the whole point that many people do not see. Probably because it is simply too obvious. Iraq did not turn into anything close to a functional democracy after almost four years of trying. This is the reason, the real and simple and obvious reason behind America's failure in Iraq. Democracy was not achieved. Anything else is just marginal and little relevant. A functional democracy could have taken care of everything else. A functional democracy could have created the institutions, or at least the most important ones that are the army and the security system, and the whole country could have turned into an acceptably functional state in which people could go on with their lives, and thank America for the good job.
But the realities are there, and they are not pretty. There is no functional state. There is no security. There is no functional policing. There is no authority to be feared by the thugs and the terrorists! Why? Because democracy has not worked even a bit. And America can blame the Iraqis for it, but that is just cheap talk because Iraqis did not rise up against Saddam asking for democracy, America did. Therefore America cannot blame Iraqis for being incompetent democrats! American politicians who are blaming Iraqis of incompetence in their so-called democratic process are nothing but big demagogues, simply because so long as Iraqis never wanted democracy you cannot blame them for not handling it.
Beside all this it is worth analysing why Iraqis are incapable of sorting out a democracy for themselves while they probably have their best chance ever! The American army could protect Iraq against foreign (non-American) intervention and interference while they create their democracy. This is theoretically correct, but again, the realities on the ground defy the theory. Iraqi democracy has not worked a bit. Iraq's parliament has not worked. Iraq's government has not worked. The problem is that out of about 25 million Iraqis there are not even a couple of hundred individuals who could get along and decide on issues and implement them. Not only that these few hundreds of high-ranking officials (members of parliament and government) are unable of agreeing on important issues, they are actually completely incapable of communicating, discussing, or even meeting. Even members of government fail to agree on issues, let alone members of parliament who are more numerous.
Obviously there is a need for a dictator! A ruthless and fearsome man is missing. Some-one who could get things done, cut some heads off, throw some blood on the scene and make things happen! I bet even the Americans agree, but wait a minute, didn't they just get rid of the same perfect dictator? Yes, and what a waste of time, lives and money it was! Putting cynicism aside, Saddam was indeed an evil man who did a lot of wrong, and although he was just the dictator that could get things done in Iraq, he was also a threat to the region and his own people. It probably wasn't the worst idea to get rid of Saddam. But it was a very bad idea to try to impose democracy on Iraq. This has already been proven, so you don't need to be a genius to notice it. It could have been something to say all this before the failure became clear, and some people actually did, even before the war began, and I remember there were enough of them in the UK.
And the question that normally comes to any curious mind is why couldn't Iraq handle a democracy? Why can't there be found a few hundred honourable patriotic Iraqi citizens who, for the sake of Iraq, could come together and decide on issues, pass laws and supervise their execution and completion? Well, when we look through history, especially the Middle East, which is much more suitable for the realities of Iraq, we can see Iran, let alone other countries! Although Iranians and Iraqis are quite different, and the similarities of the names are nothing but a simple coincidence in translation into English, there are clues to Iraq's realities of today when we look at the realities of Iran one century ago.
A century ago there was no foreign intervention to impose democracy on Iran, but Iranians themselves, especially the peoples of the north and north-west of Iran, rose up to create a constitutional democracy. After they did rise up, the Iranians happily chose the parliamentarians, and the new officials who were supposed to rule the country collectively failed to do so. They were unable to get along and decide on issues. It was as simple as that. What happened next? Civil war, regional disintegration, chaos, and even famine. The chaos took a while until a strongman appeared who tidied up things, crowned himself king, cut some heads off, and finally fixed up the country!
As it can be seen it is not just Iraq that is unable to handle a democracy. And it is not all about democracy. It is also about good governance. Iran and Iraq have been incapable of having almost any good governance. All the regimes have been corrupt, dysfunctional or too much of a dictatorship for their people's taste. And this is not just about these two countries. The same can also be applied for Afghanistan, Syria (too much religious and ethnic animosities, just like Iraq) and many other countries in the region or outside.
There are also relatively well-governed countries (at least for Middle-Eastern standards) such as the Emirates in the Persian Gulf. One other far-flung example of an even more backward (used to be) country that has performed well is Botswana, in Africa. It seems that for countries to be both backward (uneducated citizens and very poor infrastructure) and able to be governed well there are some fundamental criteria that need to be met. First of all either the country itself, or it being an autonomous region within a larger country or federation (such as many regions, or states, in India), needs to be small (especially the population).
Secondly, the country or the autonomous region needs to be united, or at least the vast majority of the population needs to have a strong sense of belonging either to an ethnic group or to a common ideal. Thirdly the surrounding countries or states need not to be excessively hostile, active and proactive in creating instability, division or chaos. There are indeed few places in the world where all these criteria are met. But examples are there. The most prosperous large country in the world being America is a functional democracy thanks to having a decentralised federation where states can be run in small size while the federal government offers the protection that is needed. The larger, more populated and centralised a country, the less likely it is to be either well-governed or to have any chance of being a functional democracy.
One huge problem that centralised big countries have is that various regions within those countries have their own different needs, stages and ideals and their respective peoples inevitably sense these (because after-all they are the ones who aspire both the ideals and the needs) differences. So, in case there would be any election to send people to come together and rule the whole country collectively there would be some fundamental difficulties in reaching common agreements. And there comes the role of the strongman, or the dictator. And it is much better to have a dictator than thugs, bandits, or terrorists, ruling the streets. Under a dictatorship you can at least survive to the next day if you are good, but you don't have the same chances under the rule of some invisible unknown street-roamers.
The long-term way to tackle large-scale corruption, public mismanagement, and finally ruthless tyranny, is to have small countries, or autonomous regions within countries, with relatively small, similar and peaceful populations (who can get along and live with each others' differences). Comment