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view by issue ... Return Home Democracy, Federalism, and Realism in Postwar Iraq by James A. Phillips
Executive Memorandum #873
The United States scored a decisive military victory in Iraq, but building a stable, democratic, pro-American Iraqi government will be more difficult than winning the war. To accomplish its postwar goals, the United States will have to overcome the resistance of hostile Iraqi political forces, referee the deadly factional struggles of bitter political rivals, and minimize the meddling of Syria and Iran, both of which seek to hijack Iraq's political future and drive out American influence. Building a stable democracy under these conditions will be a complex long-term challenge. The Bush Administration has wisely pledged to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis as soon as possible to minimize the risks of an anti-American backlash, but Iraq may not be ready for full-fledged democracy by the time U.S. troops withdraw over the next two to five years. The Bush Administration should patiently assist the Iraqis in laying the foundations for democracy in Iraq, but it should also avoid pressing for an overly ambitious rapid democratic transformation that could bring anti-democratic forces to power and/or destabilize Iraq. Avoid Pitfalls on the Path to Democracy
Although Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, has considerable oil wealth, a well-educated population, a secular tradition, and a modern infrastructure, there are daunting political, cultural, and historical obstacles to building a stable democracy in Iraq. American troops, initially welcomed as liberators by many Iraqis, soon will become scapegoats for all of Iraq's problems. America's honeymoon period may already be ending in Iraq: Last week, tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiites on a pilgrimage in Karbala used their newly won political freedom to call for an Islamic state and the immediate withdrawal of American forces.