Building a Democratic Iraq, Adeed Dawisha and Karen Dawisha, in the 1 May 2003 issue of Foreign Affairs
For the sake of all parties involved, the American endeavor in Iraq must not end in a more agreeable dictatorship or a successor regime that promises nothing beyond greater cooperation with Washington. The United States’ standing in the world rests not only on its might, but also on the democratic values that it espouses and propagates. The country and its allies therefore cannot shrink from setting Iraq on a democratic path. Not only will Arab and international opposition to regime change be assuaged if a democracy results; building democracy in Baghdad is also the best way to eliminate the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Restructuring Iraq’s political system will be laden with difficulties, but it will certainly be feasible. At the same time, the blueprint for Iraq’s democracy must reflect the unique features of Iraqi society. Once the system is in place, its benefits will quickly become evident to Iraq’s various communities; if it brings economic prosperity (hardly unlikely given the country’s wealth), the postwar structure will gradually, yet surely, acquire legitimacy. As is shown by the eastern European example, where ex-communist dictatorships have now lined up to join NATO and the European Union, putting in place democratic political institutions that function properly, meet the particular needs of a given society, and deliver the goods can rather quickly produce “habituation” — that is, inculcate democratic habits in the population that become well entrenched and resilient. A democratic federal system would turn Iraq into the standard against which other Arab governments are judged, and make the country a natural ally of the West. Such an outcome would benefit everyone — but especially the people of Iraq, who, after suffering for so long, deserve no less.