Monday, January 31, 2005

Democracy in Iraq

I won't go into deep detail about the heartening sight of Iraqi's voting and celebrating and thrusting their blue fingers in the air because others have been doing it better and longer. Instead, I will simply say that, since September 11, 2001, under the leadership of President Bush, the United States has helped the people of Afghanistan and Iraq by overthrowing despotic governments and setting them on the path of self-rule. Yes, it was messy, everything didn't go as planned, mistakes were made...and in the end, people in two Islamic countries have voted. Wasn't this impossible? Aren't Muslims unsuited for democracy because it isn't part of their "cultural heritage"? It seems that the cynics on the Left and Right need to go back and reshape and hone their rhetoric. It seems the insurgents and terrorists will need to either give up or continue their dead-end cause. It seems that the warnings seen and heard for the last few months in the mainstream press and by the international elite that the Iraqi people will not vote were unfounded. The people of Iraq (60% of them or so, at least) have voted for the first time, under the threat of violence and despite all of the doubts. They have a right to be proud, and so does the United States.

Another benefit of the election is that the Iraqi people have moved from political victimhood to political self-determination. Democracy is a loaded word. It is an ongoing experiment and has resulted in ill (Hitler was voted into power) and good (the "American Experiment"). However, regardless of specific examples, one virtue of democracy is its flexibility. Democracy in America (a Republic) is not the same as in Great Britain (Parliamentary system), but both ultimately allow the people of their nations to decide the course to be taken. As a result, the population is ultimately held responsible for their choices. Thus, it is not some outside force, some hegemony, that has oppressed a given nation. Instead, it is up to the polity of a nation to decide, take responsibility, and if necessary change the course of a nation. It is what mature nations do. Iraq has taken its first steps and has a way to go before it is up and running, but it has something that the U.S. didn't have, it has another nation, the U.S., interested in helping Iraq succeed. Yes, if asked the United States will physically depart Iraq. Yet, the example we have set and the advice we can give, if asked, can only help. After all, we must not forget that the U.S. had to figure out a lot about democracy on its own. Luckily for Iraq, they have examples, the U.S., Great Britain, France, etc., from which they can pick and choose and design a system that they believe will give them the best chance for success. Democratic Iraq is not a motherless child, instead it has been born into a family of nations willing to help. It has but to ask.

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