Putting Iraq's Political Turmoil in Context
The United States should worry less about Iraq’s internal politics and more about Iran’s regional belligerence. If we protect Iraqi freedom from Iran, the Iraqis will figure the rest out on their own accord. After all, for all the mess in Iraq’s politics, they are the only state in the region that gets to have such messiness and politicking. This is what Arab democracy, for now, looks like. There are still security challenges throughout Iraq (especially for Christians). But Americans should be confident that this will work out.
We need not place all of our trust in Iraq’s leadership, either. Should Maliki prove to be too sectarian or too Iran-friendly in his second term, the Iraqis will respond overwhelmingly in favor of freedom at the ballot box. If the Iraqis have proved one thing since 2003, it is that they are willing to fight and die for freedom and peace. Tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers have lost their lives alongside U.S. troops, countering Iranian-backed insurgents and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists.
In a perfect world, the enlightened Mithal al-Alusi would be Iraq’s most popular politician. But we should remember that true liberal democracy takes time and requires things other than a leader ostensibly friendly with the United States. After World War II, West Germany still had socialist parties. After the Korean War in 1953, it took South Korea until the 1980s to transform from an authoritarian state to a democracy. These things take time, and comparatively, the new Iraq is ahead of the curve.
It’s up to them now to secure their country. We’ve passed that baton off. We can help the Iraqis continue to liberalize over time by developing a relationship with their private sector. We can work with individual Iraqi businesses and provincial leaders. We can foster new markets, if we are innovative. They have a whole lot of oil and the right to vote -- and that’s two legs up.