Viewpoint gets caught up in faulty perceptions of Iraq


To the Daily:

In his article, Iraq’s Fork in the Road (04/05/2005), Brian Slade misses a couple important points concerning the situation in Iraq. He writes, “It seems that the world’s most authoritarian region has exploded into shockwaves of democracy from Beirut to Baghdad, Cairo to Damascus.” The important word here is “seems.”

Although he prefaces this statement by saying that mainstream media sources have been blasting the public with the idea that democracy has finally hit the Middle East, he never challenges this image of Iraq and Afghanistan as catalysts for democracy in the region. In fact, as University History professor Juan Cole has pointed out in his weblog, Informed Comment (, this is not the case. The situation in Beirut must be seen in the context of a long and complex history, and the recent assassination of the former anti-Syrian prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Many other developments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria cannot be seen as anything even remotely close to democracy, and, as many political observers have noted, the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, while a move in the right direction, were not truly democratic.

Another point that I’d like to address here is related to the motivations of the neoconservative war in Iraq. He writes, “The Bush administration, which now has four years free of re-election pressures, is in a position to do what is genuinely right for Iraq.” Unfortunately, that is not what this war is about. Conservatives and liberals alike should recognize that U.S. foreign policy, during a Democratic or Republican presidency, is not intended to do what is genuinely right for other nations. Although that has sometimes been a byproduct, it has historically never been the main goal — think Haiti, Guatemala, Venezuela, etc. If President Bush were concerned with doing away with authoritarian leaders, we’d expect interventions in places like Zimbabwe, where voter fraud and intimidation is expected. This war is not about Iraqi freedom — nor American security for that matter — and so we should not expect the Bush administration to “do what is genuinely right for Iraq.” The fact that this administration has four years free of re-election pressure should be a scary thing for those concerned with the safety and well-being of the people in Iraq, both foreigners and Iraqi citizens.

Finally, I must comment on the two possible legacies of the war in Iraq that are offered at the end of the article. “Will it be 1,500 American soldiers who died in vain, or the brilliant foreign policy move that stabilized the Middle East?” It will be neither. First, the costs of the war have run much deeper than 1,500 American casualties. Malnutrition rates among children, as well as poverty levels, have increased drastically since the occupation began. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have died along with a handful of foreigners and the rebel attacks continue to get more frequent and intense. As for the second scenario, the Middle East will not be stable, and American policy will not be seen as focused on democracy until real progress is seen in Israel/Palestine. The United States continues to allow Israel to develop in the West Bank, the site of a future Palestinian state — 3,500 new units have been approved for construction this year. Until these types of policies change, we should not simply accept the media’s portrayal of our foreign policy as a valiant crusade for democracy that “seems” to be working.

Brendan Hart

LSA senior

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