Iraq: December 29, 2004


Iraqs Sunni Arab minority is paying a high price for having backed Saddam Hussein, the Baath Party and several earlier dictators, over the last half century. While most of Iraqs Sunni Arabs would be happy to just get on with their lives, and reconstruction of their infrastructure and economy, Baath Party diehards and al Qaeda terrorists insist that everyone fight on. To make matters worse, many Sunni Arab leaders are demanding that elections be delayed until the Baath Party and al Qaeda killers can be eliminated. The feeling is that the Sunni Arabs wont be able to vote, not with Baath Party and al Qaeda thugs threatening voters with death if they go near a ballot box. The Shia Arab and Kurd majority want to hold the elections on schedule, and have little sympathy for Sunni Arab complaints. Most of the Baath Party and al Qaeda violence is directed against Sunni Arabs, and the Sunni Arab population is held partly to blame for not being more energetic in fighting the terrorists in their midst. 

Blaming the Sunni Arabs for the terrorists, while technically accurate, also fails to recognize the impact of decades of tyrannical rule. This was seen in Eastern Europe after four decades of communist dictatorship ended in 1989. People adapt to living in a police state, and when the tyrants are eventually driven out, you end up with a sharp divide in the population. The older folks, who have lived longest under the dictatorship, are still frightened and unwilling to stick their necks out. While many of these people support their new political freedom, they are unsure of how they should use it. Younger members of the population are eager to build a real democracy, and take the lead in exploiting new economic and political opportunities. 

Things are different in Iraq because, unlike Eastern Europe in 1989, members of the ousted (Baath) party have taken up arms and are resisting the new political situation with violence. In Eastern Europe, the Communist Parties stayed in business, simply changing their names. Some former communist officials got similar jobs in the new governments, but most were sent off into retirement, or simply unemployment. There were some trials, but not mass retribution against the servants of the police states that had shut down democracy in Eastern Europe for over four decades. In Iraq, the Baath Party decided to fight, and they had an ally in another area unknown in Eastern Europe, religious extremist terrorists (al Qaeda). 

Why was the end of dictatorship so different in Iraq? A lot of it has to do with the relative lack of "civil society" (respect for rule of law and lack of corruption) in Iraq (and Arab countries in general.) We in the West tend to take civil society for granted. One should not do that, for it takes generations to build a civil society, and much effort to keep it operating. As was seen during World War II, the civil society in Germany, Italy and Japan could be corrupted and turned to evil purposes. 

Most Iraqis recognize the need for the institutions of a civil society, and see free elections as the first step in creating a better life. But the first test will be how to deal with those Iraqis who want to go back to tyranny, and are willing to terrorize and kill to achieve that goal.


Article Archive

Iraq: Current 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close