- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 29, 2004

President George W. Bush’s sophomoric plan for Iraqi democracy and freedom announced last Monday discredits his ability to lead the nation. The intellectual poverty of Mr. Bush’s “five steps” to success in Iraq suggests a generic ignorance of history and the essentials of democratic change. As Goethe said, nothing is as dangerous as ignorance in action.

Mr. Bush began by expounding the obvious: that the enemies of the United States in Iraq are brutal, vile and fanatical; and a democratic transformation would deny terrorists a base of operation and a propitious climate for recruitment. Statements without enlightened plans for action, however, are but sound and fury signifying nothing.

Mr. Bush stumbled in characterizing U.S. enemies in Iraq. According to the president, remnants of Saddam Hussein’s elite guards melted into the civilian population, rearmed and joined hands with foreign terrorists, hoping to thwart Iraq’s alleged galloping strides toward self-government and a redoubtable national military. That observation misleads by omission.

Mr. Bush’s monumental misgovernment of post-Saddam Iraq has turned 90 percent of the people against the U.S. occupation. Illegal ethnic and religious-based private militias confound plans for a unified and peaceful transfer of sovereignty. In Baghdad and southern Iraq, the two largest Shi’ite militias, the Badr Corps and the Dawa Army, remain undisturbed, as is the 60,000-strong peshmerga in Kurdistan.

Extremist cleric Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, whose soundtrack is jihads against the United States, sports a Mahdi army and approval from 68 percent of Iraqis. In Fallujah, Mr. Bush sanctioned an Iraqi security force featuring former wretches of Saddam’s notorious Republican Guard and anti-American guerrillas. As reported by the New York Times in a recent interview, Adil Abdul Mahdi, a prominent leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, bewailed: “Of course, we are not happy. They are Republican Guards, with the same uniforms, the same mustaches. Today they are in Fallujah, tomorrow they will be in Baghdad.”

In sum, active or passive opponents of the United States in Iraq constitute the overwhelming majority.

Mr. Bush counterfactually insisted the universal craving for freedom without fear gives a decisive advantage to proponents of democracy in struggles for power. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union governed for more than 70 years by terror and repression. The rulers in North Korea, Communist China, Iran, Myanmar, Syria, and many other countries have decisively defeated the freedom coveted by their respective populations.

And in Iraq itself, democracy and the rule of law have been trumped by an assortment of kings, dictators or autocrats for 4,000 years. In other words, democratic governments cannot be summoned into being simply because individuals generally prefer freedom to serfdom or slavery. Yet President Bush’s five-step democracy plan pivots on that delusion.

Step One will be the June 30, 2004, transfer of full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens appointed by United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. But that is a step backward, not forward. An Algerian, Mr. Brahimi is neither politically nor morally accountable to the people of Iraq.

Neither by balloting or otherwise have Iraqis anointed Mr. Brahimi as kingmaker. His democratic credentials are zero, and his appointees will carry that taint. As Mr. Bush himself pointed out, “Some have questioned whether the Iraqi people are ready for self-government, or even want it…. [But] in settings where Iraqis have met to discuss their country’s future, they have endorsed representative government.”

The flagrant illegitimacy of Mr. Brahimi’s appointees will push Iraq into upheaval and civil war on June 30, making chimerical the unprecedented elections planned for next January.

Mr. Bush lamely argued democracy will flower in post-June 30 Iraq because full sovereignty “will give Iraqis a direct interest in the success of their own government. Iraqis will know that when they build a school or repair a bridge, they’re not working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, they are working for themselves.”

The post-June 30 government of Iraq, however, will be Mr. Brahimi’s government, not a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Iraqis will no more be working for themselves under the Brahimi regime than do Myanmar’s forced labor battalions or Fidel Castro’s sugar brigades toil for themselves. Iraqis who will risk that last full measure of devotion to defend the post-June 30 appointees can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.

Step Two, explained by the above, is retention of a massive 138,000-strong U.S. military presence in Iraq “as long as necessary,” and dispatch of more troops if needed, echoing President Lyndon B. Johnson on Vietnam. U.S. soldiers would not be needed to prop up a genuinely popular Iraqi government.

Step Three also portends failure: international assistance to reconstruct and upgrade Iraq’s infrastructure. Democratic countries marked by the rule of law and free enterprise need no international aid to flourish. Ask Taiwan or South Korea.

Step Four is enlistment of additional international support for Iraq’s transition. But begging for United Nations or foreign military troops is a mark of desperation. Neither has ever been in the vanguard of democratic transformations.

President Bush’s crowning step is free and fair elections next January conducted by an independent electoral commission cobbled together by the U.N. But that is no likelier to emerge in the chaotic aftermath of June 30 than democracy in post-Taliban Afghanistan will be in full bloom next year.

Building nations and architecting limited and representative governments are exceptionally complex and baffling arts. To believe headway is made by simple-minded celebrations of freedom and denunciations of tyranny is to believe in fairy tales.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.

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