When I served in Iraq, I saw a few beautiful homes that rivaled some of the moderately stylish homes in America. But mostly I saw a haphazard hodge podge of adobe shacks. The thing that surprised me most about those little mud hovels was that many of them had a satellite dish on the roof. In 2003, chafing under the oppression of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis were ripe for democracy. Seven years later those dreams have taken a setback.
In her book Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East, Robin Wright points out how American aggression in Iraq has put a damper on the hopes for democracy there.
The disastrous miscalculations in Iraq will further slow and complicate the process [of bringing democracy to the Middle East]. The American intervention was, in the end, often counterproductive to the cause of democracy [not just in Iraq but] in the region. [Intervention] disillusioned many about both the costs and benefits [of democracy].
Dreams and Shadows, p. 10
That's unfortunate, considering that the alleged replacement mission for us American and coalition troops that went there was to build democracy. We messed it up.
There was much more hatred in Iraq four years after Coalition Forces occupied Iraq, and it's likely that there is still more hatred today than there was in 2003. There is much more poverty there than in 2003. There are far fewer people living there today. There are far fewer Christians in Iraq than there were before. In 2008, the situation was worse for Christians in Iraq than it had ever been, and it doesn't seem to have gotten better in the last two years. All because we thought that Democracy could be enforced from the barrel of am M-1 Abrams tank. It can't.
Democracy must be wanted. It can never be forced. Never before in the history of the world is it so easy to persuade the world that democracy is the answer. Never before, then, is war less of an answer than now.
How is technology the answer? In some Middle Eastern countries, nearly 70% of youth use the internet on a regular basis. Despite the best efforts of their governments to censor what they see, they still easily gain access to the outside world through the internet. Even better, satellite dishes bring news, movies, and cultural programming into even some of the poorest Iraqi homes. By 2005, the United States Institute of Peace was reporting that
It is the satellite channels that show the greatest potential for ushering in political change in the region...No matter how hard they try, regimes can no longer control the information environment.Yet amidst all of this ground fertile for the gradual implementation of liberty and democracy, the United States had to poison it by unleashing the dogs of war.
The sooner we admit that we made grave mistakes in Iraq, the more quickly will take root our stated aim for that country. But then again maybe democracy and liberty never really were the plan for Iraq. It is indisputably clear that it was not our first plan/reason for attacking them.
Democracy may be implemented differently in every country. It may not result in countries that have a constitution even remotely resembling the one that we have in America. But the wave of the future is democracy and liberty. The Russians craved it. Natives of Eastern Bloc countries rejoiced when they finally tasted it.Only the most brazen of false stereotypes can convince anyone that Middle Easterners are any less capable of living in a democracy than the rest of us.
So let's call off the dogs of war. Let's bring the troops home. War is not the answer. Let's give peace a chance.