Iraq is ripe for ethnic conflict and tyranny

By Patrick Burke

The very fact that the newly formed Iraqi parliament is in a functional state may seem to bode future political stability. President Bush, with the utmost optimism, seems to believe the tensions that the Iraqi parliament experienced this past Tuesday are nothing more than growing pains for what he views as a nascent democratic powerhouse. As President Bush sees it, because the Iraqi people are “free” from Saddam Hussein, they will eventually embrace his administration’s ambiguous conception of democracy. Perhaps, however, the “freedom” of the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein is not as beneficial to the future of a liberal Iraqi nation-state as President Bush imagines. President Bush does not truly seem to understand the implications of a “free” Iraq. Although the Iraqis may be “free” in the absence of Saddam Hussein, what is to ensure this newfound “freedom” within a nation-state that is completely free of a representative, respected consolidated governing body?

Even though Saddam Hussein may not have been the biggest fan of Bush’s “freedom,” he was nevertheless capable of maintaining stability. By neutralizing their various forms of discontent through intense repression and propaganda, Saddam Hussein indirectly provided the Iraqi people with some semblance of a stable governmental body. In the immense vacuum of power left by Hussein, the prerogative to restore order in Iraq is dangerously and precariously vague. No less stratified and diverse than Pakistan or India, Iraq would appear to be a natural battleground for warring ethnic collectivities. Without the terror of the ruthless Saddam Hussein to stem the tide, an inevitable internecine of conflicting ambitions between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds could quickly escalate.

President Bush’s plan to pace the development of the Iraqi parliament is consequently unrealistic. The Bush administration should be terrified by the recent tensions within the Iraqi parliament rather than complacent. President Bush cannot pursue an inherently contradictory foreign policy in Iraq indefinitely. Seeking to inspire the independent development of Iraqi democracy, Bush cannot resolve Iraqi ethnic conflict as well. Herein lies the insanity of the Bush administration’s approach to inculcating democracy within Iraq. The velocity of ethnic animosity within Iraq will, without a doubt, ultimately overtake that of Iraqi democracy as long as the latter is as slow to develop as it is currently. Shielding the sluggish development of Iraqi democracy with American military will compromise the organic nature of Iraqi democracy that President Bush desires.

Consensus and an air of legitimacy are not the only elements the Iraqi parliament is lacking, either. The Iraqi parliament must not only look like a legitimate governing body, it obviously must act like one also. Democracy is not so magical that the appearance of a democratic governing body such as a parliament will curb the rising ethnic tensions within Iraq. The slow-paced, myopic designs of the Bush administration for Iraqi politics are not only inefficacious, but also detrimental. Initially the process and ultimately the finished product of the Bush administration’s enterprise to build a respectable, democratic governing body in Iraq will lead the Iraqis down the road to totalitarianism once again. Amid the political chaos of the Bush democracy, it seems likely that another Saddam Hussein will arise, promising order and truth. Only Iraq’s next totalitarian will be more charismatic and more militaristic than Hussein. In contrast to Hussein’s regime, which was fueled solely by fear and driven by the greed and paranoia of its generalissimo, the next Iraqi totalitarian regime will ride a tidal wave of anti-American sentiment. Then, Iraq could transform from the most hopeful candidate for Western democracy in the Middle East—to its greatest rival.