Tuesday, August 07, 2007

How About a Strongman?

Updated 8/9/07

pretty good discussion has broken out in the comments of Treasure of Baghdad's latest post (
Treasure of Baghdad: Good Riddance). The post that started it was BT's disgust at the political situation in Iraq, how they are looking after themselves and not acting in the national interest, and so on. The gist of many commenters there is that Iraq needs a strongman now, not wholly unlike the mold of you-know-who from days gone by. And although they don't reject democracy at some point, they feel they need a strongman now. It would sadden me for Iraqis to go through as much as they have, and ultimately end up with a government no better than they had before. On the other hand, maybe it would be better to have that than a government that is worse?

I've been taking a pro-democracy track in the comments. I thought I'd bring out a comment I recently wrote.:

~~~~~~~~~~ begin ~~~~~~~~~~~~

TAI, BT, annie, Bruno, and any others:

OK, you believe the proper thing to do right now is to replace the current gov't with a strongman who will clean house and restore order. OK?

So let's suppose that happens.

* Suppose a strongman is installed.
* suppose he is installed in whatever manner you deem appropriate, whether by resignation, coup, intervention, thru the UN, or thru the 'resistance'. OK? Whatever you want.
* suppose this strongman is whomever you want. Allawi or someone else, or someone who exists only for the purpose of this excercise.

If you know where this is going, please hold your answer 'til the end, OK?

* now suppose this strongman cleans house using whatever methods or techniques as you envision.
* suppose this strongman has exactly the level of support from teh Iraqis as you might expect him to have, based on your knowledge and impressions.
* suppose the US plays whatever role you think it should, be that assistance, support, or going away completely.
* suppose the regional players behave exactly as you expect them to in the best case.
* suppose the oil law, constitutional changes (or revocation), reconcilliation, Kirkuk, regions, de-Baathification, etc. are all handled in the manner yo uthink appropriate.

Are you with me still? So we have the future of Iraq's gov't and all the issues being handled in a manner of your design, with a strongman of your choosing at the head.

Did I forget anything? Probably, so fill in the blank along these lines. However, please be somewhat realistic in this model. Relocating Iraq to the Southern Hemisphere would not be realistic, for example, nor would emplacing a large contingent of peaqcekeepers from New Zealand. OK?

* now, imagine an appropriate amount of time passes. Whatever interval you think is good: days, weeks, months, years.

* suppose at the end of this interval, Iraq continues to fail, despite everything you have done under the best of conditions.

Sit down, sit down. I know you think it unlikely that your plan could go awry with such a tight design. But suppose it did. You must know that in any prediction of the future there is a chance for failure, even if it's small.

And we could go on and on about why it might fail. Rogue JAM may not cede their territory & power, or may not like to be purged or imprisoned so much. Or what have you.

Let's not get distracted. Just suppose it failed for whatever reason.

OK? Then what would you say? would you say "well, the strongman failed, so let's try a monarchy!" or "how 'bout an Autonomous Collective?"

Would you maybe say the idea was sound, but it had the wrong strongman, or not enough time, or he was too brutal/not brutal enough, or he was undermined, or what have you?

At that point, in the midst of a failing strongman, if you believed doing it another way could cause incredible pain and suffering, would you still advocate doing it another way? Or would you want to fix what you can, and work to improve matters? Or give up?

I know a lot of Iraqis and others think a strongman would work. Maybe it would. Really it depends on what you think "work" means.

But democracy can work too. Maybe not this democracy, but I still think Iraqis can pull it off without regressing to a strongman.

I guess you can call me a racist untermenschen for thinking Iraqis can pull off a higher form of government than the one they had. Que Sera, Sera.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ end ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

( I left the spelling and grammar in tact, sorry)

Updated 8/9/07

Thanks, CMAR II, for the excellent and spot-on images at the top!

IraqSlogger has an article today titled Would It Take A Dictator to Stabilize Iraq? that covers a New York University Center for Global Affairs study titled IRAQ POST-2010. The paper was written in the Spring of 2007 and covers workshop that discussed what would happen just beyond the short-term in Iraq after a US withdrawal. The paper examines three chosen scenarios: Ntional Unity Dictatorship (NUD), Contained Mess, and Contagion. It endorses the "NUD" as the only scenario likely to result in stability.

Just real quick, two problems I have with this paper from the first pass thru it are

a) it does not consider stabilization under democracy in its papers, as if the failure of democracy is a given. It's obviously faltering, but it's not dead yet.

b) in backing the "NUD" approach, ie thru its supporting arguments, it is preparing the way for the bloodletting that would occur under this strongman, who would have some degree of support and/or approval from the US. Plowing the killing fields, as it were, but his time with genocide as an endorsed "final solution".

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