What I am about to suggest will be
shocking. It will strike at the core of a commonly accepted and
uncontested truth. To many, it will be nothing short of
full-fledged heresy. Nonetheless, it needs to be said.

Suhael Momin

As anyone who has watched a television news program in the last
18 months knows, the United States wishes to create a democracy in
Iraq as soon as possible. However, is it true that perhaps, just
maybe, Iraq would be better off without immediate democracy? In the
long run, without a doubt, Iraqis should preside over a
self-determinate and sovereign democratic state. But for now, and
until the time is right, democracy with open and universal
elections might not be the best route.

Before progressing, a clarification is in order. When one
commonly thinks of democracy, one is not thinking of simply
democracy. One is thinking of a liberal, constitutional and
representative democratic system that respects human freedom,
adheres to the rules of law and permits fair and contested
elections. The United States, Britain, Canada and France all fit
this mold. “Democracies,” such as Zimbabwe, despite
having electoral processes and popular referendums, do not. This
distinction is of paramount importance; while democracy is regarded
as a panacea of sorts, corrupt, non-liberal democracy is not a
positive force. In Iraq, democratization must only occur after the
groundwork for successful democracy exists.

The common factor that pervades virtually every true liberal
democracy is the existence of a civil society or a middle class has
a vested stake and interest in self-determination. In Britain,
major reforms towards democracy began only after the Industrial
Revolution, and the emergence of a non-aristocratic entrepreneurial
class that drew its wealth from reaping the fruits of capitalism,
not the land. Some of the world’s newest democracies, such as
South Korea and Singapore were, at creation, remarkably autocratic.
However, after economic revolutions within the past few decades,
both these nations soon turned towards democracy — only after
experiencing economic stability and growth did the process of
democratization truly begin. It seems that capitalism and economic
liberalism are the engines that drive economic growth, which in
turn fuels democratization.

When looking at Iraq, it becomes clear that the basic economic
and social groundwork for democracy does not exist. The nation, as
it emerges from decades of war and tyranny, does not appear to have
either a functional economy or defined middle class. It can be
aruged, with a good degree of certainty, that these fundamental
seeds of liberal democracy will not be adequately developed next
year, when elections are scheduled to be held. Thus, the questions
are raised: If elections are held, and democracy is created
prematurely in Iraq, what will its future be? After the United
States and United Nations leave, who will enforce the rules and
procedures essential to a functioning constitutional democracy?
Most importantly, when a government is elected, what is the
guarantee that it will rule in a manner that keeps Iraq on
continued course of freedom and liberty?

Liberal democracy, when properly implemented and respected,
offers unparalleled advantages. However, in Iraq, where even basic
peace is fleeting, the future of any democratic system created
within the next year is at best tenuous. While it may seem
paradoxical, democracy does not hold signficiant promise for Iraq
at the moment. To ensure success in Iraq, the United States needs
to abandon its plan for immediate democratization, and instead work
closely with the Governing Council in establishing stability and a
functioning economy. Only when that vital groundwork is complete
should leaders begin to seriously entertain the idea of
transferring power to a democratically-elected government in
Iraq.

Momin can be reached at
“mailto:smomin@umich.edu”>smomin@umich.edu.

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