I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A democratic Iraq is not the same as a friendly Iraq

Credit is due to the White House for finally having the President deliver coherent, clear, and relatively candid speeches about what we are doing in Iraq, why we are doing it, and what challenges and problems we continue to face. Unlike the vague and insulting happy-face nonsense we have been fed for almost 3 years whenever the Administration spoke about Iraq, these latest speeches are more substantive, serious and respectful.

That doesn’t mean the rationale which is being provided is persuasive -- to me, it isn’t -- but it’s at least less propagandistic and more cognizant of a Government’s need to inform a nation’s citizens about the realities of a war if it wants the sustained support of those citizens.

The President delivered such a speech yesterday at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council, and laid out with a good amount of clarity and detail what the Administration believes are its plan and its rationale for the ongoing war. In doing so, he set forth one of the central flaws of our invasion of Iraq:

By helping Iraqis to build a democracy, we will gain an ally in the war on terror.

Bush provides other reasons why he believes that democracy in Iraq benefits the U.S., but as I’ve pointed out before, this rationale is just illogical. It is far from certain that a democratically elected government in Iraq will be our "ally in the war on terror" or an ally of ours in any other respect. Indeed, it is quite possible that such a government will be hostile to American interests, as the democratically elected government in Venezuela is.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are our allies in the war on terror, at least a good amount of the time, as is Pakistan. The first three are the opposites of democracy and the latter is led by a military dictator. The existence of a democratically elected government is hardly a guarantee that a country will be our ally, nor is the absence of such a government a guarantee that it will be our enemy.

It remains to be seen whether the chaos and civil strife in Iraq really can be sufficiently quelled such that a democratically elected government can function in Iraq, let alone weed out the thriving Al Qaeda presence which has taken root subsequent to and a result of our invasion. There is very good reason to doubt that this will happen, although one cannot say that it is impossible.

But achieving that extremely ambitious goal is only the first step, not the last step, towards accomplishing something beneficial in Iraq from the perspective of U.S. interests. If the Iraqi democratic process which we have expended so many lives and so much of our resources to create yields an Islamic theocracy that is a close ally of Iran, nobody will be able to reasonably claim that the war has made the U.S. more secure. Contrary to one of the President's principal rationales for this war, it is just not the case that a democratically-elected Iraq is an inherently pro-U.S. Iraq.

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