Sunday, February 06, 2005

Clarke on Iraq

Interesting to note that this week's Sunday New York Times magazine begins a regular column by Richard A. Clarke, the former Bush security advisor who wrote the damning book Against all enemies and who testified so memorably before the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States last March. Clarke provides a sobering appraisal of the recent hoopla over the recent Iraqi elections, reminding us of some basic home truths that got lost in all the emotional artifice surrounding this week's State of the Union Address.
    [Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-]Zarqawi and his followers do oppose democracy in Iraq, but they do so partly because they believe that the continuing electoral process (a constitutional referendum is planned for October of this year and a national election for December) is an American imposition. In this they are joined by the many Iraqis who simply want an occupying army to leave. In addition, Zarqawi's group seeks support from the Sunni Arab minority, which in any democratic process will lose power as compared with what it had in the decades of Baath Party rule.

    Beyond Iraq, in the greater Muslim world, opposing democracy is not uppermost in the mind of Al Qaeda or the larger jihadist network. (In Saudi Arabia, for example, Al Qaeda wants the monarchy replaced by a more democratic government.) Radical Islamists are ultimately seeking to create something orthogonal to our model of democracy. They are fighting to create a theocracy or, in their vernacular, a caliphate (a divinely inspired government administered by a caliph as Allah's viceroy on earth). ...

    Even without jihadists, Western democracies have hardly been immune to terrorism. The Irish Republican Army, the Baader-Meinhof gang of Germany and the Red Brigades of Italy all developed in democracies. Indeed, in the United States, the largest terrorist attack before Sept. 11 was conducted in Oklahoma by fully enfranchised American citizens.

    Thus, it is not the lack of democracy that produced jihadist movements, nor will the creation of democracies quell them. To the extent that President Bush's new policy is turned into action, the jihadists may well take it as further provocative American meddling, similar to the reaction to the president's earlier attempt at reform in the region, the Greater Middle East Initiative, which was dead on arrival.


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