[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Tough Times For Democracy
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2003


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In the last couple of months, a number of critics have been castigating the United States for botching the post war development of democracy in Iraq. Even with the capture of Saddam Hussein, they are unlikely to mute their shrill voices. At the same time, the EU constitutional convention in Brussels on December 13 ended in acrimony and without the democratic structure Germany and France had hoped to shove down the throats of the smaller European countries.

At first blush, these two appear to have little in common. But let’s look closer. For in Brussels lies a response to the American critics of our policy in Iraq.

What Brussels establishes is that the creation of democratic institutions, even among people committed in principle to this structure of governance is no mean feat. What makes this failure even more startling is that many of the countries involved have lengthy histories of democracy within their own countries.

It is no accident that in Brussels a number of key European decision makers were seen carrying books like a biography of John Adams, about the American constitutional experience at the end of the eighteenth century. The major issue for the thirteen colonies, as in Brussels, was how to strike a balance or compromise between large and small states. Substitute Virginia for Germany, Massachusetts for France, Rhode Island for Spain, and Delaware for Poland and there you have the issue.

Our colonial leaders came up with a creative solution. A bicameral legislature. Equal representation in the Senate. Proportional representation based on population in the House of Representatives. It satisfied both large and small states. They were able to achieve it in large part because men of good will were prepared to compromise in the interest of the common enterprise.

Not so in Brussels. As usual in EU matters, the Germans and French had to have it their own way. An EU they can dominate; or no EU. Ditto for Poland and Spain. An EU in which they have disproportionately large influence; or no EU. The smaller countries went into the Brussels gathering furious at France and Germany for creating new rules for themselves a month ago to avoid sanctions for excessive deficits. It remains to be seen whether either side will show a willingness to compromise in the months ahead. It is conceivable that France and Germany may abandon the concept of a large EU and try to go it alone with a handful of other countries like Holland and Belgium.

This brings us to Iraq.

Personally, I had serious doubts even when the war was being fought whether it would ever be possible to have a democratic Iraq in the sense that we have a democratic United States. It seemed a little like making a pig fly.

Historically, Iraq is not a nation in the sense that it is made up of people with a common heritage, history, religion, genetic make up or culture. Its boundaries were drawn by western powers who carved up the spoils of war.

Life in the Middle East is tribal. That fact is driven home again and again throughout the region. Animosities have raged forever among Sunni, Shia, and Kurds. There has never been a semblance of democracy within any of these communities. Let’s get real. When the war ended, there were no Thomas Jeffersons or John Adams’ waiting in the wings.

Lebanon in the twentieth century is the best example of an attempt at democracy under somewhat similar circumstances. We tried on several occasions, with great loss of American life, to keep democracy afloat in this troubled country. Each time, religious and tribal differences thwarted our effort. Democracy in Lebanon has ended up on the garbage heap of history. Syria runs the country.

From the Lebanese experience, it’s safe to say that if votes are held in Iraq, Shia will vote for Shia leaders; Sunnis for Sunnis leaders; and so forth. The largest group will control the major offices and benefit their supporters. That means the Shia. The Sunni and Kurds will feel bitter and disenfranchised.

Moreover, Iraq has one further problem. Many of the Shia are determined to have a theocracy. The principles of Islam, as they interpret them, are inconsistent with the tenets of democracy. There cannot be a democratic theocracy.

Notwithstanding all of this, I believe the lofty United States effort is worth pursuing because there is no viable alternative. I want to be wrong. Hopefully, democracy will take hold. What are our other choices? Another military strongman? A benevolent dictator? Indefinite occupation by the US? Or the UN?

As a nation, we Americans want instant solutions, and we’re quick to criticize. Bremer and our military are working hard and at great personal danger to accomplish the incredibly difficult, and perhaps unattainable job, of establishing democracy in Iraq. An objective, which many, but by no means all, Iraqis want. It’s time to cut our military people some slack. They’re trying to carry out mission impossible.