One lesson that we can honestly say has been learned from the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan is that democracy cannot easily be forced upon a people; especially a country such as Iraq that is composed of 3 major religious groups. This neo-Conservative tactic is fairly new to United States foreign policy and largely a result of the emotions spurred from the attacks on the morning of September 11th.
In the past, the United States used various measures to control rogue countries in the Middle East including setting up Coup d’etats, supplying heavy military and economic assistance to balance power and using armies as proxies. The cheapest way to maintain peace and control is to provide economic assistance to keep the peace. This tactic has succeeded by the United States in many instances.
With Afghanistan and Iraq’s “Presidents” only governing over a fraction of the countries, it is very unlikely that these U.S. supported leaders will succeed in running these countries and ongoing war will determine the fate of these countries.
In the U.S. Gulf war in 1990, the purpose of the U.S. invasion was to contain the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to the strategic oil fields of Kuwait. In this instance, the American government achieved its objective and withdrew when the job was done. The current conflict is extremely complicated compared to the original gulf war, and the path to achieving the goal is beyond the strength of any superpower.
The current conflict makes an extremely naive assumption that a country such as Iraq will be welcoming to a democratic government setup by an occupying power. The result of this bad judgment has been surfacing this year. With such divided religious groups inhabiting Iraq, keeping all the parties happy is an extremely difficult task. Each group wants to preserve their own prestige and power and few are willing to make concessions.
At the same time, the United States is lobbying the Saudi monarchy for democratic reforms. Many citizens in Saudi Arabia resent the United States for its power and control, and a democratic election will be the voice of the people, and the voice of opposition against the superpower. Such is the case in the democratic elections where the Hamas was elected to govern the Palestinian people. The U.S. must accept that democratically elected governments may not be U.S. friendly, so the goal of a democratic Middle East is not necessarily in the best interests for the United States.
Another obvious point worthy of mention is that unfortunately a lot of the problems the United States has to deal with in the Middle East are a result of U.S. foreign policy since World War 2. Although good intentions usually play a factor in U.S. policy, sometime when you try to do too much, you dig yourself deeper.
In the late 18th Century, the Americans fought the British imperial power for its independence to create the United States of America on July 4, 1776. The British Empire didn’t give America its country or its independence. It was fought for, the same way the American “Empire” can’t install independent governments in the Middle East. People have too much pride to allow a superpower to occupy and install a government. This is why we are seeing bloody sectarian violence in Iraq. These groups are fighting for their freedom and their ideals.
With the U.S. appearing ready to bring Iran and Syria into the talks, I’m hopeful that some sort of ceasefire or agreement can be brokered to pause the killings while they attempt to form a government. That would also give the U.S. the opportunity to transition some power and pull out of Iraq to reduce some of the extra tension.
The government needs to have the confidence of the people, and let’s just say it’s a tough crowd. It’s going to be a long deadly path to get back to where we started now that Pandora’s Box has been opened.