Courtesy Reuters

Was Iraq a Fool's Errand?

A Deal With the Devil

Tony Smith

In "What Went Wrong in Iraq" (September/October 2004), Larry Diamond criticizes the Bush administration's conduct of Iraq policy in a highly selective way. Diamond takes issue only with the means used to prosecute the conquest, but not with the undertaking itself, making it seem that the reason for failure lies in Washington's execution-and not with the misplaced ambitions behind an ill-fated imperialist aggression.

Diamond is a leading theorist of democratization and an outstanding proponent of putting human rights and democracy promotion high on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. He also helped the Bush administration in its attempt at "regime change" in Iraq. He is therefore in a privileged position to explain why many liberals backed this invasion and what can now be done to save their agenda after this terrible mistake. If he wants to tell us "what went wrong in Iraq," he might start closer to home.

Iraq lacks any of the preconditions academics generally accept as being necessary for democratization to succeed. It has no middle class to speak of independent from the state; oil revenues, the life-line of any Iraqi regime, are notorious for their ability to centralize rather than democratize power; the country has no tradition of limited or responsible government; national identity is weak in the face of rival religious or ethnic loyalties; regional neighbors will do what they can to undermine whatever democratizing movements exist; and the democrats themselves lack a figure such as Nelson Mandela or Kim Dae Jung who could give them leadership.

How could someone of Diamond's theoretical sophistication not have seen such shortcomings? The answer, I suspect, lies in the Faustian bargain many liberals made: they would support U.S. imperialism for the sake of fulfilling their self-appointed democratizing mission.

But it was apparent all along that the call for democratic regime change was an integral part of a power play by Washington to control the entire Middle East-for the sake of the "

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