Iraq: Ideas about a build up


Mr Michael Mc Faul, -the Helen and Peter Bing Research Fellow at the Hoover
Institution- is among the defenders of Mr Bush’s views concerning Democratic regime change in the foreign countries. As he put it: "Bush proposed a liberty doctrine, which places the sovereignty of individuals above the sovereignty of the state." [1]

Starting from the idea that turning back in Iraq or Afghanistan would product greater chaos than staying the course, this writer does not think that the choice must be confined to these two ways. More innovation and creative thinking is needed in this context. He observes that without a clear plan for democratic regime change, the Administration would merely move from a crisis to another. A "body of knowledge regarding regime change or political reform or state-building does not exist", [2] he says. The analogies with post-war Germany, and other examples amount to a collection of "metaphors and anecdotes", rather than to a serious project of state building. Instead of the current tragic groping, this writer suggests the creation of a Department for democratic State-building, headed by a Cabinet level official-"the offensive equivalent of the defence-oriented Department of Homeland Security". The logic behind such a suggestion is also to be found in the internal structure of the American administration, not only in the necessities created by the present circumstances. Thus, " the State Department’s mission is diplomacy between states, not the creation of new states. The Pentagon’s mission should remain regime destruction…"

On the international level, innovation is also needed to promoting democratic regime change. "For instance, what about creating an Organization for International Trusteeships? Founding countries would offer assistance in governing failed or new states (Palestine, Liberia, maybe even Iraq) in return for leverage over “sovereign” decisions in these places." [3]

But a kind of a political "IMF", with such a determined target as democratic regime change, would clash with the national feelings. The situation is already not easy for the IMF itself in the Third World, where some disturbances have been labelled "IMF revolts". The political change is even harder, because of the different concepts of cultural and social evolution. Besides, who would hold the right to give or retain "leverage over sovereign decisions" in the concerned countries? Is it not obvious that the most difficult problem that challenges the US presence in Iraq today, is caused by the perception that it is an occupation force?

In this context, maybe the idea of "a Middle Eastern Bank for Reconstruction and Development modelled after the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which was founded to assist transitions in post-Communist Europe and Eurasia," is more operational than any international trusteeship, which may remind the people of Iraq of a bad time, when colonialist powers were the sole masters, dividing the maps and the peoples of the region according to their own interests. A bank is certainly more needed for the reconstruction than anything else.


Today, just as it was the case about half a century ago, or more, the struggle is still about sovereignty. Each country holds it as a ” profession de foi” and a key stone in its existence. But if Mc Faul observes that according to Bush’s doctrine," the sovereignty of regimes elected by their people cannot be violated", and that consequently only "those regimes not so constituted are illegitimate" [4], the question remains: Who has the right to legitimate or illegitimate regimes? Is it the Department of State, the Pentagon, the CIA, or the peoples of the concerned countries?

One would indeed concede that the dictators use sovereignty to maintaining themselves in power. This is quite obvious. Yet, this fact, in the absence of a clear popular illegitimacy of the dictator- such as a revolt, a revolution, or alike upheavals-, does not give any foreign power the right to intervene and force its way through to power, by means of violence.

In the case of Afghanistan, there was a terrorist threat, and the USA had to lead a pre-emptive war, in order to avoid other operations like September 11. But in the case of Iraq, the matter was much more complicated. There was no international agreement on the intervention. The UN did not back it. And the US-British forces were taking their risks.

True, many Iraqi opposition parties either solicited the intervention or supported it. But the Coalition forces did not find on the field the popular support they were hoping. The chaos that accompanied and followed the collapse of the Baathist regime, has obviously nothing to do with the euphoric ebullition of a "Baghdadi Spring", as it was expected, though the feelings of relief were no less obvious. Fear, horror, anarchy, looting, and varied crimes stained the transparency of those days that will pass in history as the days of freedom for some people, or the days of an American-British aggression against a Muslim nation for others. It is a matter of perspective. And on this level, the cautious reluctance of some important European allies did not alleviate the burden of Bush and Blair, whose victor in Iraq, though indubitably important, would not be as complete as they have wished.

Cautiously, after making his Mr Bush’s views, Mr Mc Faul notes that "the American people are unlikely to support another pre-emptive war in the name of democracy". [5]

Is that a statement of failure concerning what is just going on in Iraq, or merely a wishful thinking? Why the Americans would not support another war elsewhere? After all, in Vietnam also it was a fight for democratic ideas, and in other places where the Americans had to intervene – from South America to Asia and Africa- it was the same struggle. The American people have followed their leaders when they thought the cause was good. Sometimes also, they changed minds and retreated back to fight those same leaders who got them entangled in an endless escalation of violence.

So, nothing can really refrain the military trend when it is decided, although people may have second thoughts and act to change the course, if they deem it unbearable.

Nonetheless, to avoid the temptation to "let his doctrine of liberty morph into a
smaller doctrine of stability", President Bush "must back up his rhetoric with long-term strategies for securing democracy" [6], says Mc Faul.

In other terms, American interventionism – what Bernard Lewis labels simply: imperialism-, must be erected into a State-Doctrine, and given the means -material and human- to develop itself as a De Facto principle of action in all cases. The conclusion Mc Faul reaches is a model wishful thinking, not to say utopia. For him, in effect, if a long-term strategy is planned, then maybe "dictatorship will follow the same fate as empire and become an extinct form of government" [7].

Is it possible that 20 centuries of human history – not to consider the prehistoric age- did not teach us to this day that dictatorship is merely the evidence that our stupidity is endless? If after all this evolution, we are still fighting the same demons, is that not the proof that there is no limit to such a struggle?


[1]. Democracy as a new international norm? Michael Mc Faul. Hoover institution. Weekly essays. June 16, 2003.

[2]. What Now? Michael Mc Faul. In: Hoover Digest. Fall 2003. N.4.

[3]. What now? Idem.

[4]. Democracy as a new international norm? Idem.

[5]. Democracy…Idem.

[6]. Democracy…Idem.

[7]. Democracy…Idem.