One year does not make a democracy

As a result of the recent insurgency in Iraq, 70 troops from the U.S.-led coalition have been killed since the beginning of April, The Washington Post said Monday, quoting a top military spokesman. Recent events in and around the city of Falluja have called the June 30 deadline for transfer of power to the Iraqis into question. The violence has further substantiated the image of Iraq as a roller coaster of progress. President George W. Bush has consistently argued that the resolve of the United States will not waiver. He feels the real concern should be those in the Iraqi police force who have actually taken up arms against coalition forces. In addition there are also some members of the Iraqi Governing Council whose support of coalition actions seem to be eroding.

Criticizing the coalition might indicate a new era of free speech in Iraq if it were coupled with a strong, indigenous infrastructure to protect its people. The troubling part of the resignation of Abdel Karim Mahud al-Mahamadawi from the Iraqi Governing Council and the Human Rights Minister Abdel Basit Turki is that both organizations still require coalition security support to voice such opinions counter to U.S. interests. Certainly, one year after the liberation of Iraq, I would not expect to find a peaceful coexistence, but police who side with insurgents indicate the tenuous position in which Iraq finds itself. These Iraqi police officers and government officials have been empowered by U.S. policy but are still influenced into supporting the ideology and actions of Shiite Muslim leader Moktada al-Sadr, who is still wanted by U.S. forces. Until such time as these two important groups are able to maintain order amongst their own people, the success of Coalition efforts will be called into question.

The naïve belief of the Bush administration and some of the American public is that we were going to be embraced as liberators and that the Iraqi people would enthusiastically seek democracy just as we enjoy here. The United States has been a 200-plus year experiment in ensuring majority rule with the protection of minority rights. I think it is clear to most of us that the balance of these two important concepts is a struggle that the United States deals with daily. What makes us think that the Iraqis, in the course of a year, would have gotten even close to where we are now? Iraqis will continue to face numerous challenges as they sort through issues such as differing religious beliefs to determine the balance of individual rights and collective governance. It is impossible to achieve instant democracy in a region that has suffered under a dictator who didn’t allow people to think and act independently for so many years.

While I didn’t agree with the initial reasons for going to war, I understand the Bush administration’s theory that success in Iraq is a cornerstone to Middle East stability. After all, there are several nations in the region, many of which do not embrace the United States, which are, at the very least, curious spectators to the ultimate outcome of Iraq. The failure in current U.S. policy toward Iraq is that it functions much akin to Big Brother, often being forced upon people who need to experience the freedom to determine what is best for their culture and belief system. In the end, the Iraqis will only be able to govern a nation with rules that were put into place by and for the Iraqi people.

The Bush administration would do well to realize that although a noble goal, the June 30 deadline for transfer of power, originally politically expedient for President Bush’s re-election efforts, may not be the optimum for the Iraqi people. The rush to appear to cede control could ultimately prove detrimental to long-term stability of the Iraqi nation and thus to the Middle East in general. In addition, the administration needs to be very clear as to who is gaining control of the nation. Without clear objectives, the loss of life we have experienced over the past several weeks could become all too familiar in the coming months.

Aaron Hill is a sophomore majoring in chemistry.