“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Charles Krauthammer on Iraqi Democracy

All indications from and around Iraq point to the end of the Maliki government. Whether it just withers away or is swept aside by events, its days are numbered and the numbers are not big ones. It is incapable of decisive action. It is looking to Syria and Iran for its future. The Democrats are coming and everyone is trying to reduce the size of the US commitment to Iraq. The militias are becoming more bold and the level of violence is expanding rapidly. Fifty or more dead a day hardly raises an eyebrow in the media. Time is running out for a government that exists mostly in name only.

Krauthammer gets to the heart of it in this post:

Can the Iraqis keep their democracy going?

"A republic, if you can keep it."
-- Benjamin Franklin, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention, in answer to "What have we got?" Daily Journal

WASHINGTON -- We have given the Iraqis a republic and they do not appear able to keep it.

Americans flatter themselves that they are the root of all planetary evil. Nukes in North Korea? Poverty in Bolivia? Sectarian violence in Iraq? Breasts are beaten and fingers pointed as we try to somehow locate the root cause in America.

Our discourse on Iraq has followed the same pattern. Where did we go wrong? Too few troops? Too arrogant an occupation? Or too soft? Take your pick.

I have my own theories. In retrospect, I think we made several serious mistakes -- not shooting looters, not installing an Iraqi exile government right away, and not taking out Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army in its infancy in 2004 -- that greatly compromised the occupation. Nonetheless, the root problem lies with Iraqis and their political culture.

Our objectives in Iraq were twofold and always simple: depose Saddam and replace his murderous regime with a self-sustaining, democratic government.

The first was relatively easy. But Iraq's first truly democratic government turned out to be hopelessly feeble and fractured, little more than a collection of ministries handed over to various parties, militias and strongmen.

The problem is not, as we endlessly argue about, the number of American troops. Or of Iraqi troops. The problem is the allegiance of the Iraqi troops. Some serve the abstraction called Iraq. But many swear fealty to political parties, religious sects or militia leaders.

Are the Arabs intrinsically incapable of democracy, as the "realists" imply? True, there are political, historical, even religious reasons why Arabs are less prepared for democracy than, say, East Asians and Latin Americans who successfully democratized over the last several decades. But the problem here is Iraq's particular political culture, raped and ruined by 30 years of Saddam's totalitarianism.

What was left in its wake was a social desert, a dearth of the trust and good will and sheer human capital required for democratic governance. All that was left for the individual Iraqi to attach himself to was the mosque or clan or militia. At this earliest stage of democratic development, Iraqi national consciousness is as yet too weak and the culture of compromise too undeveloped to produce an effective government enjoying broad allegiance.

Last month, American soldiers captured a Mahdi Army death squad leader in Baghdad -- only to be forced to turn him loose on order of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Two weeks ago, we were ordered, again by Maliki, to take down the barricades we had established around Sadr City in search of another notorious death squad leader and a missing American soldier.

This is no way to conduct a war. The Maliki government is a failure. It is beholden to a coalition dominated by two Shiite religious parties, each armed and ambitious, at odds with each other and with the ultimate aim of a stable, democratic regime.

Is this America's fault? No. It is a result of Iraq's first democratic election. The U.S. was not going to replace Saddam with another tyrant. We were trying to plant democracy in the heart of the Middle East as the one conceivable antidote to extremism and terror -- and, in a country that is nearly two-thirds Shiite, that inevitably meant Shiite domination. It was never certain whether the long-oppressed Shiites would have enough sense of nation and sense of compromise to govern rather than rule. The answer is now clear: United in a dominating coalition, they do not.

Fortunately, however, the ruling Shiites do not have much internal cohesion. Just last month, two of the major Shiite religious parties that underpin the Maliki government engaged in savage combat against each other in Amara.

There is a glimmer of hope in this breakdown of the Shiite front. The unitary Shiite government having been proved such a failure, we should be encouraging the full breakup of the Shiite front in pursuit of a new coalition based on cross-sectarian alliances: the more moderate Shiite elements (secular and religious but excluding the poisonous Sadr), the Kurds, and those Sunnis who recognize their minority status but are willing to accept an important, generously offered place at the table.

Such a coalition was almost created after the latest Iraqi elections. It needs to be attempted again. One can tinker with American tactics or troop levels from today until doomsday. But unless the Iraqis can put together a government of unitary purpose and resolute action, the simple objective of this war -- to leave behind a self-sustaining democratic government -- is not attainable.

Charles Krauthammer's e-mail address is


  1. rufus said:

    Bush told you, time and again; this will last a long time, and "It will be Hard Work.

    I had a problem with gangbangers crashing their cars in my yard. The police, with the help of a local vigilante group called the "Northern Alliance" scattered the gangbangers, but then the police chief started tearing up my yard to put in a miniature golf course, and he said it would take a long time and it would be hard work too, but it was all part of the Fight Against Gangs. He kept sending me continuing resolutions so I could keep the money flowing and the work going forward, and accidents kept happening which sometimes killed my cats and dogs. Finally after three years, the yard still didn't look anything like a Goofy Golf Course, so I fired the construction committee and hired new folks to provide better oversight. The police chief accused me of wanting to cut and run, which I suppose is fair, but no one asked me if I even wanted my yard turned into a golf course in the first place!

  2. Hate when the contractors tried to put in an "Arnold Palmer Championship Course" when all that a premium demanded was a "Pitch and Putt", while even Goofy Golf would have been more than enough.

    Now, the real problem is that the moneymen are going to bail on the "Palmer" Plan. No telling what the next set of Plans will look like, the Chief Decider says he has not yet decided.

    The meeting in Jordan:
    BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan next week with grim new statistics showing record numbers of Iraqis were killed last month and many more fled the country.
    will happen right after Mr Talibani is scheduled to meet with Doc Assad and Abracadbra.

    Iran has invited the Iraqi and Syrian presidents to Tehran for a weekend summit with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to hash out ways to cooperate in curbing the runaway violence that has taken Iraq to the verge of civil war and threatens to spread through the region, four key lawmakers told The Associated Press on Monday.
    Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has accepted the invitation and will fly to the Iranian capital Saturday, a close parliamentary associate said.

    The Duel of the Summits

    With the Lebanese killing as a backdrop.

  3. Rufus,

    I've wondered the same thing - after 9/11, all those pledges and promises, all the steeling - did people think that was just etiquette?

    Hell, I never expected it to be easy. Killing was only the first and most obvious step. But we had greater designs and greater difficulty that comes with that.

    And to the point of that difficult, I'd just like to say this:

    The vulnerability of infantile democratic processes to an infantile public is obvious. One will enable harm while the other elects it with fanfare. But there are election cycles, mind you. What happens the next round in Palestine? What happens in the next round of Iranian elections?

    These processes are loosed, and perhaps they can be beaten back, but I think there is some considerable inertia in a population that celebrates the results of an election, even if those results are inimical to us. The question will be put to Hamas and Abracadabra etc, what did they do for me?

    I can see the Jihad burning out, as more practical matters impose themselves onto the electorates.

    In the pursuit of such a situation, the worst thing I can think of is giving ANYTHING to the governments of Hamas or Iran that may trickle down to those electorates. Let them have only their hateful superstitions. Praise the electorates for their embrace of a wonderful social practice. But do not reward them for that practice itself.

    Isn't that what Bush has done?

    Why, I know I've been pretty sour about how hopeless those folks over there are, but its not as if things aren't in motion.

    If you only see their propaganda, and presume it to have truer fidelity to reality than our own, well of course things will seem pretty sour for us.

  4. No, Mr Bush has approved "Humanitarian" funds to flow to Palistine. Money in fungible. Every dime the US or EU contribute is a dime Hamas does not have to spend, itself, to feed it's people.

    We are empowering Hamas with every "Humanitarian" dollar.

    Beyond that, the US has supplied arms to the Palistinians. While these M16s may not see combat against Israel, weapons are also fungible. That many more AKs for the assualt troops to carry, when the time comes.

  5. Tranziz,

    I hear you regarding those irksome golf courses and revised international security regimes!

    I've made the point to many people I know that the US "casualties" in Iraq are not car accidents. They are not drunk drivers careening into minivans of Prom-goers.

    No, they are men and women who elected to serve their country, better than me by that choice alone and they died a death both powerful and meaningful. Most everyone on this planet dies a meaningless death. I've seen more than a few. Terrible maladies, gruesome and costly, but meaningless. They inform only the mystery of that person who suffers before your eyes. But there is not only mystery in the lives of those heros over there; no, there is a powerful pursuit manifest in his or her choice to face what they elected to face.

    But if we cede to the cynicism thats in high supply offered to all at rock-bottom prices, well, I wonder how many of the doomsday conjectures will become reality.

  6. Well, rufus, the Missus, Ms Harris and Ms Miers as well as Mr Rove and Mr Bolton are all on the access list.

    This is linked to from drudge,

    ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Former President George H.W. Bush took on Arab critics of his son Tuesday during a testy exchange at a leadership conference in the capital of this U.S. ally.

    ... "My son is an honest man," Bush told members of the audience harshly criticized the current U.S. leader's foreign policy.
    "We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.

    Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

    A college student told Bush his belief that U.S. wars were aimed at opening markets for American companies and said globalization was contrived for America's benefit at the expense of the rest of the world. Bush was having none of it.

    "I think that's weird and it's nuts," Bush said. "To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school."

    The hostile comments came during a quesion-and-answer session after Bush finished a folksy address on leadership by telling the audience how deeply hurt he feels when his presidential son is criticized.

    "This son is not going to back away," Bush said, his voice quivering. "He's not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that, or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something. You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It's not easy."

    So, the Baker Plan will not be refered to as a "Cut and Run" approach.
    "Peace with Honor" has already been used, is that going to be the essence of the "New" Plan, to name it.
    "Go Big, Go Long or Go Home" does not capture the imagination.

  7. Meanwhile FOX News has a man on the ground in Iraq. He comes under mortar attack, a daily occurance at this FOB, he says.

    But wait, the "Bunkers" have tin roofs. The CO has ordered "concrete" but it has not arrived. so the incoming can piece the roofs of the "bunkers", without impediment

    These soldiers are not, it seems clear, familar with sand bags. So here goes FOX try to show the bravery of the soldiers, while unknowingly highlighting the ineptitiude of the Command.

    That and the two car bombs inside the Green Zone, allowed in as part of a "protetive" convoy. Luckily roving patrols caught a sniff of the demo, secreted in the cars, before either detonated.

    But there are serious questions of competency indicated with every "live from the front" broadcast or report.

    Stay tuned to FOX, Steve Harrigan will be in the rotation, again.

  8. Whether or not the analogy to a Goony Golf Project is appreciatted or not.

  9. There are two point that Krauthammer makes that are helpful.

    but first, wouldn't krauthammer have been a great name for a Liberator? Or how about a guy from the band of brothers as in PFC Charles "krauthammer" Jackson?

    I wish I was the first guy to think of that but hey, I've been distracted.

    first, krauthammer delivers an absolution of sorts. "Its not our fault". His absolution is meaningless however because he's a white conservative. As everybody knows white conservatives can't absolve each other of their common guilt. Only Colon Powell can do this. All he needs to say is "Hey, that pottery barn thing? I was just, you know, funning you honkies"

    Still it was a worthy effort.

    next, he points to the dreadful situation in pre invasion Iraq. The foam flecked lickspittles on the left will say something like: "Bush should have KNOWN this!!" To which we should respond: He did know.

    but it's gonna take a while here. rufus has it right, this is going to be looooong and ugly. The arab propensity to solve their political differences with weaponry will not fade away anytime soon. These guys will be hacking away at each other for at least another thirty years.

    What we should do is find a way to seriously, and I mean seriously, gain that absolution. right now America is getting beat up because we are not properly assuming the white man's burden here. We have to demonstrate that the arabs pulling the trigger have responsibility now.

    I have several suggestions:

    (1) make them eat what ever results from following the advice of bobalhard. If that cod crap doesn't kill them directly it will certainly bore them into inertia. Ya betcha, heckofadeal. boiled potatoes? I think there's a geneva convention violation there.

    (2) Disband the current Iraqi police forces, re recruit and send them to NYC for a while. The New York cops could turn around baghdad is short order and we should show these Iraqi guys what truly well endowed and self sustaining men can do with a few nightsticks and a bunch of shitty attitudes.

    (3) Go Feudal: build villages around the larger US installations. Make the Iraqis swear fealty to us in exchange for our protection. This would force the useless sheiks to get their people in line or be cast out into the wilderness naked and unprotected. If the people of oh lets say Balad, want US protection, they should pay a price. If that price is living under the rule of law as enforced by us, that's fine by me.

    That's the inkspot gone feudal.

    Until the arabs get the rule of law thing, they are doomed. If tribal pride trumps the constitution no rational society is possible. Which brings up

    (4) Kill the sheiks and imams and fill the power vacuum with mormom missionaries. I'm just kidding about the mormon part but I really think that the Imams are the problem. Sheiks are little more than petty theives anyway. These two groups represent the folks with the most to lose if the current order is destroyed. Eliminate them and progress becomes possible.

  10. don forget to call grandpa in from da barn, bobal. he's out dere, red-eyed drunk, fondling his shotgun and starin out da winda.

  11. Tell your kids to learn Mandarin--this culture intends to survive:

  12. no coal, no oil, no nuke, no drilling, no nothin--but drivin' them freeways, baby--

  13. If that's the case, he is way ahead of Mr. Bush.

  14. here come Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble--

  15. "He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation-builders."

  16. "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road…"

  17. "I wouldn't have sent troops to Haiti. I didn't think it was a mission worthwhile…It was a nation-building mission, and it – it was not very successful. It cost us billions of dollars… and I'm not so sure democracy's any better off in Haiti than it was before."

  18. "If he means using troops all around the world to serve as social workers, or policeman, or, you know, school-walk crossing guards, I'm not for that," Bush clucked. "And I don't think America is for that either. I think America wants judicious use of our military."

  19. "My opponent believes our military should be used for nation-building and peacekeeping," Bush carped, "instead of focusing on its primary job, which is to be able to fight and win wars."

  20. "I'm worried about the fact I'm running against an opponent who uses nation-building and the military in the same breath," Bush added. "I'm worried about the fact that our mission is not clear."

  21. Comments may now be disabled.

  22. skipsailing said:

    Kill the sheiks and imams and fill the power vacuum with mormom missionaries.

    "We've got motherfunking Imans on the motherfunking plane!"

  23. That was the candidate I voted for said, then after 9-11-01 he had a masterful State of the Union speach.

    He spoke of striking the terrorists, wherever they found safe haven. He spoke of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

    We struck against the Wahabbist terror training centers in Afghanistan, decisively, with a minimum of US ground troops.

    We sruck decisively into Iraq, decimating the Iraqi Army in weeks.

    Then despite all the Campaign rhetoric, rhetoric that was less than a year old, the Nation building began, and with it, the 1st Generation War on Terror ended and the War on Iraqi Terror began.

    The Fly paper strategy was touted and called a success, by both sides.

    Now the Mohammedans have training bases in Sudan, Pakistan and Somolia. With OJT available against US or Brit troops in Iraq. Marxist terror groups base out of Iraq, striking our NATO ally, Turkey.

    All with a sense of finality, while some die hard Republicans tell US these places and people do not matter, much, that now the War on Terror is all about Iraq, since that's all the War we can afford.

    That Mr Bush was neither wrong or misunderstood in '02 just that, well, he's doin' the best that can be expected.

    Now I admit that a Nation goes to war with the Army it's got, but after five years Mr Bush could have redesigned the Army, to fit this new fight.
    Funny they say they are gettin right on that project, now.
    Five years in.

  24. Allen,
    try using some quotes from after 9-11. You're just propagandizing with misrepresentation by time element.

    Or perhaps you would like to talk about the Haganah,Irgun, Menachim Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Rehavam Zeevi, Dov Hoz, Moshe Dayan, and Dr. Ruth Westheimer and BLOWING up in a terrorist attack the King David Hotel? Then you could juxapose what Bush said with waht all those Jewish terrroist said. Fair is fair.
    King David Hotel Bombing by Jewish Terrorists

  25. President Kennedy was assassinated 43 years ago today.

  26. All those Jewish terrorists are dead, now, habu.

    And given all the years of turmoil that establishing Israel with Terror have wrought, cosmic karma, aye?

  27. What has 9/11 to do with nation building? Did December 7, 1941 and the subsequent German declaration of war have something to do with nation building?

    Of course, I misrepresent. It could NEVER by Mr. Bush. I consider your ill conceived insult a compliment. It places me in the best of Republican and conservative company.

    Hey, how's that Iran thing going?

  28. re: habu_1

    What has Israeli terror of the 1940s to do with Mr. Bush?

    As to talking about the King David terrorist bombing, you go for it. So what? That does not exonerate Mr. Bush from anything, such as the following:

    "The United States seems to be giving way to a mechanism" to take care of the needs of the more than three million people in the Palestinian territories, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
    He said three channels were under discussion, including aid funneled through the office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to pay for security and border control.
    The two other channels were possible funding of health and education projects through the World Bank, and medical services through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA).
    The source said Washington would not take part in the process but would "close its eyes" to permit the assistance to get through.
    There was no immediate confirmation of a greater flexibility on Washington's part concerning Palestinian aid. But US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signaled the Americans were rethinking their stand.
    Rice told the editorial board of NBC television on Monday that "we cannot let Hamas claim that it is the international community's fault that they cannot deliver for their people."
    But she added, "I think we will want to look at different ways that we might be able to mitigate the impact for the Palestinian people of having a government that won't do what they need to do."

    Oh, I’m still waiting for someone to deny (rather than adolescently obfuscate) the fact that the US government has recently supplied the Palestinians with 3,000 M-16s and one million rounds of ammunition.

  29. The 2002 State of Union
    ... These enemies view the entire world as a battlefield, and we must pursue them wherever they are. (Applause.) So long as training camps operate, so long as nations harbor terrorists, freedom is at risk. And America and our allies must not, and will not, allow it. (Applause.)
    Our nation will continue to be steadfast and patient and persistent in the pursuit of two great objectives. First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice. And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world. (Applause) ..."

    Now this post 9-11 speach can be deconstructed line by line, and checked against the realities that confront US now.

    Then we can proclaim the past course a success or failure, based upon the promise and the delivery.
    After five years.

    I guess that is why the Dems got elected, the people wanted a "report card".
    C-Span transcript of 2002 SoU

  30. Those M-16s, just a while lot of nothin', allen.
    They fire that 5.56 mmm round that old timers do not like, no worries.

    They jam easy, when not cleaned. We know those Palistinians cannot keep a weapon clean. No worries.

    Be happy. By 2030 there will be enough ethanol that there will be a lot of ethanol. No one expects the "Long War" to be over by then, so, no worries.

  31. Allen,
    you sure wrote alot for Jewish terrorism not to mean anything

    rat of course just has to play king of the hill so he jaw jaws all the time

  32. True enough, rufus, but not the plank Mr Bush campaigned upon, no not at all.

    To the Force that he knew could not succeed at the task, by his own statements, and Ms Rice's as well, Mr Bush assigned the Mission.
    Then did not change that Forces' composition or Doctrine. So he did not learn from the previous nation building lessons, lessons of failure that were not unknown.
    Not to him of his Team.

  33. you guys would be doing such a better job than Bush.....either one of you hold elective office? dog catcher? tag agency?

    jaw jaw, bitch,bitch

    rat's masterplan..jaw jaw

  34. rufus,
    your damn glad we nation built right?
    not that we bitched.

  35. i rat wanted to he could join any number of mercenary groups over there and really make a difference...but jaw,jaw..bitch,bitch, run and hide in the ditch

  36. No, habu, after three years they are beginning to both study and implement the recommendations that I supported. Give them three years of serious MITT, then we'll see how my idea plays out.

    If it fails there will be some other Doctrine to try, before they get to yours.

  37. Well, habu, we are three years into the "nation building" and the "Naaation" is in anarchy.

    3700 dead civilians or at least Iraqi, just last month. According to the Iraqi. Who would know best, right. The fellows in the Health Ministry. They are all Mr al-Sadr's minions, there in the Health Ministry, our allies in TWAT. We should trust in their statistics, correct. They are the Nation we've built, those Mahdi Army Islamo-fascist elected officials.

    I found, habu, that being able to pack the Council Hall and deliver 500 to 1,000 votes in local elections proves to be more effective than running for office.

    But that's just me. I'm sure those that do not buy paper by the pound and ink by the barrel may not understand.

  38. Why would I join a group, habu, you're the one that repeatedly calls for Revolution.
    You are the one that tells US the Constitution has been coopted.
    You are moving to Radical Redneck Country, not me.

    You ought to join up, when your rational arguments fail, you go to guns and the lofty hieghts of name calling.

    Support the Army Strong Plan, habu,
    The MITT.
    Note it's not the NUKE.

    We be catchin', not pitchin'.

  39. habu_1

    re: you sure wrote alot for Jewish terrorism not to mean anything

    What does this mean?! Perhaps you will be kind enough to provide an example by way of refreshment.

  40. Did or did not Mr. Bush provide 3,000 M-16s and one million rounds of ammunition to the Palestinians?

  41. DR,

    Not to worry, the answer to every problem is nuclear. That will probably include us before the evening is out. Of course, comments can always be disabled if things get too rough.

    What I want to know is the identity of the cabal responsible for the McKinley assassination, which heralded the beginning of the Progressive Age.

    Oh, and as soon as things become so evident that even Rufus catches on, you can bet he will be the first to say he say it coming all along.

  42. Just to be clear, the President was against nation building, before he was for it, before the Baker Boys were against it.

  43. "Davis' air assets - which included AC-130 gunships and F-16s - were not allowed to fire near the two historic mosques from which the militia had staged its attack. His options limited, Davis used the aircraft for reconnaissance."

    Note, the air assets WERE NOT allowed to fire in 2004. Note, the air assets are STILL not allowed to fire in 2006. Is that a MISREPRESENTATION or a fact?

    The quote comes from a story covering the award of M/Sgt. Davis’ second Bronze Star with V device. He is now on his SIXTH tour.

  44. rufus,

    re: We nation built in Germany and Japan for years, and years after WWII, and the Conservatives bitched, and bitched, and I'm Damned Glad we did.

    That is no more an answer to my question than your saying you like turkey and pumpkin pie. You can do better, right?