Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Iraq Lessons

A.H. Cemendtaur

Allow me to put forth, in the spirit of perennial optimism, a few
valuable lessons we can all take from the Iraq debacle. And when I
say all of us I really mean all of us: the conquerors, the common
folks of the invading nation, the autocrats of the Third World, and
the masses living under despotic rules.

The lesson for the conquerors is very simple: That war is too risky an enterprise to have a predictable long-term result. That running over a smaller country may appear to be a cakewalk, but because of the intrinsicly chaotic nature of violence, this apparent runaway can easily go awry.

The populace of powerful nations should learn that in times of solicitude, con artists will try to fool them, and the tricksters have an excellent chance of getting away with it. That the way a nation can be duped into making unfavorable decisions when it is in a state of anxiety is not very different from the scenario when a pickpocket pushes you to make you lose your balance, making it easier for them to steal from you.

Whereas the idea of exporting democracy to the Middle East had been on the books for a long time, the tragedy of 9/11/2001 provided the necessary environment in which an ideological theory--blissfully accompanied by greed--could be put to the test. Americans were easily tricked by the Neocons into believing that Saddam Hussein was another face of Al Qaeda and that the invasion of Iraq was the only way to avoid the next 9/11. The Neocons, willingly duped by a group of Iraqi Americans, were sure that the Iraqis' gratitude for their liberators would be perpetual and
that during Iraq's transformation into the Japan of the Middle East, its oil will flow freely towards the West—-a win-win situation for all. Too bad the Iraqis refused to play along.

The lesson for the tyrants is obvious and they can see it on TV in the fate of Saddam Hussein. The Iraq fiasco must convince Third World dictators of their precarious hold on power. That they may fool themselves about their popularity and how they live in the hearts and minds of their countrymen, but only a popular vote through democracy is a true indicator of a nation's trust in its leader.

And the greatest Iraq lesson is for the people presently living under dictators and unrepresentative governments. Watching the misery of Iraqis, they need to understand that they have to be serious about their governments--they are responsible for the deeds of people governing them. That it is not OK for people to live a complacent life of neatly fitting in a niche, working one day at a time, and not worrying about the bigger system supporting them, their lives, their
jobs, and everything around them.

Following the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Iraq descended into chaos because all the power had been concentrated in the deposed leader. A long dictatorship had left Iraqi society hollow. There were no strong institutions that could pull the whole society together in the absence of central authority. People living under dictators must apprehend this hollowness and must work to correct this situation. Institutions live longer than people. That is why there is great merit in building
strong institutions. It is easy to kill a man but very hard to destroy an institution. A strong institution is capable of replenishing its human resources.

It is understandable that in trying situations, self-appointed reformists, especially those with military power, will try to take over a country, but people must put up stiff resistance to such aberrations, knowing that such shortcuts could have disastrous results down the road.

A decentralized democratic government supported by a generally educated public and run by a tolerant secular administration espousing laissez faire has proven to be the best prescription for a country to gain strength. This is the medicine one is inclined to write for everyone, at least until someone comes up with a better idea and demonstrates a working model of their theory.

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