On March 28, 2003, Insight Magazine published a “symposium” on the question “Does President Bush have a realistic plan for bringing democracy to the Middle East?” I argued the “No” side. Insight has disappeared from the web, but I have preserved the article here. Some excerpts:
No: Insisting that the nations of the Middle East choose between Western-style democracy or the terror state will do more harm than good.
The president believes that democracy can succeed in Iraq, and in the Islamic world in general, because human nature is the same everywhere on earth. “It is presumptuous and insulting,” he told the American Enterprise Institute, “to suggest that a whole region of the world — for the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim — is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on earth.”…
…the Tunisian theorist Mohamed Elhachmi Hamdi, author of an intriguing essay entitled “Islam and Liberal Democracy: The Limits of the Western Model.” In it, he opines: “The heart of the matter is that no Islamic state can be legitimate in the eyes of its subjects without obeying the main teachings of the Shariah.” Rather than looking to Western models, Islamic states should look to their own tradition: “Islam should be the main frame of reference for the constitution and laws of predominantly Muslim countries.”
Within that frame of reference freedom means something quite different from what it does in the West. Governments that follow it in whole or in part generally have a poor record on women’s rights. Women suffer restrictions that are quite severe in some parts of the Islamic world; in some places they cannot even leave their homes without their husband’s permission. Their testimony is disallowed in cases of a sexual nature, even if they are raped.
Shariah law also sets penalties, some of which have become quite notorious: amputation for theft, stoning for adultery. Can this structure be modified? Some countries already follow a modified, modernized version of Shariah law. But all suffer the same pressures that have nearly destroyed Turkish secularism: A sizable number of Muslims regard the Shariah not as a man-made construct but as the eternal law of God. As such, they maintain that such modifications are illegitimate — as are elections and parliamentary debate. One does not vote on the will of Allah.
The radical Muslim writer Abdul Qader Abdul Aziz explicitly rules out Western political models in lauding the Shariah: “The perfection of the Shariah means that it is not in need for any of the previous abrogated religions [that is, Judaism and Christianity] or any human experiences — like the man-made laws or any other philosophy. … [I]n kufr, or disbelief, is the one who claims that the Muslims are in need for the systems of democracy, communism or any other ideology, without which the Muslims lived and applied the rules of Allah in matters that faced them for 14 centuries.”
In view of opinions like these, which are widely held within the Islamic world, the question is not so much whether the president’s vision is realistic, but whether he can convince the majority of Muslims that it is. Certainly he will find proponents of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere. But the primary opponents of these democrats will not be terrorists, but those who hold that no government has any legitimacy unless it obeys the Shariah. Even if they lose in the short run, they will not disappear as long as there are people who take the Koran and Islamic tradition seriously. And that spells trouble for any genuine democracy.
And here we are, ten years later. Not only is Iraq ruled by Sharia supremacists, but warring factions of Sunnis and Shi’ites, all proponents of Sharia, are murdering each other more or less wholesale:
“Wave of Iraq blasts kill 65 decade after invasion,” by Adam Schreck for the Associated Press, March 19 (thanks to Kenneth):
BAGHDAD (AP) — A wave of bombings tore through Iraq on Tuesday, killing 65 people on eve of the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion and showing how unstable Iraq remains more than a year after the withdrawal of American troops.
It was the deadliest day of attacks in Iraq since Sept. 9, when insurgents unleashed an onslaught of bombings and shootings across the country that left 92 dead.
Violence has ebbed sharply since the peak of Sunni-Shiite fighting that pushed the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007. But insurgents maintain the ability to stage high-profile attacks while sectarian and ethnic rivalries continue to tear at the fabric of national unity.
The symbolism of Tuesday’s attacks was strong, coming 10 years to the day, Washington time, that former President George W. Bush announced the start of hostilities against Iraq. It was already early March 20, 2003, in Iraq when the airstrikes began.
The military action quickly ousted Saddam Hussein but led to years of bloodshed as Sunni and Shiite militants battled U.S. forces and each other, leaving nearly 4,500 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis killed.
A decade later, Iraq’s long-term stability and the strength of its democracy remain open questions.
The country is unquestionably freer and more democratic than it was during Saddam’s murderous reign. But instead of a solidly pro-U.S. regime, the Iraqis have a Shiite-led government that is arguably closer to Tehran than to Washington and is facing an outpouring of anger by the Sunni minority that was dominant under Saddam and at the heart of the insurgency.
Tuesday’s apparently coordinated attacks included car bombs and explosives stuck to the underside of vehicles. They targeted government security forces and mainly Shiite areas, small restaurants, day laborers and bus stops over a span of more than two hours, according to police and hospital officials.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, but they bore hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq. The terror group, which favors car bombs and coordinated bombings intended to undermine public confidence in the government, has sought to reassert its presence in recent weeks.
The violence started at around 8 a.m. Tuesday, when a bomb exploded outside a popular restaurant in Baghdad’s Mashtal neighborhood, killing four people, according to police and hospital officials. It blew out the eatery’s windows and left several cars mangled in the blood-streaked street.
Minutes later, a roadside bomb hit a gathering point for day laborers in the New Baghdad area, killing two of them.
The sprawling Shiite slum district of Sadr City was hit by three explosions that killed 10 people, including three commuters on a minibus.
Hussein Abdul-Khaliq, a government employee who lives in Sadr city, said he heard an explosion and went out to find the minibus on fire.
“We helped take some trapped women and children from outside the burning bus before the arrival of the rescue teams. Our clothes were covered with blood as we tried to rescue the trapped people or to move out the bodies,” he said. “Today’s attacks are new proof that the politicians and security officials are a huge failure.”
The deadliest attack was a 10 a.m. car bombing near the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in Baghdad’s eastern Qahira neighborhood, which killed seven people.
Another car bomb exploded outside a restaurant near one of the main gates to the fortified Green Zone, which houses major government offices and the U.S. and British embassies, killing six people, including two soldiers. Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the area as ambulances raced to the scene.
Just north of the capital, a mortar shell landed near a clinic north of Baghdad in Taji, killing two people, while a roadside bomb hit an army patrol in Tarmiyah, killing a soldier. Another roadside bomb missed a police patrol in Baqouba, hitting a passing car. One passenger was killed.
A car bomb also exploded near a bus stop south of the capital in Iskandiriyah, killing five people. Two policemen were killed when another car bomb hit a security checkpoint near the town.
In the northern city of Mosul, a suicide bomber set off his explosive belt near police Maj. Ghazai al-Jubouri, the head of a local police force in the area, killing him and two bodyguards and wounding four civilians.
Attacks elsewhere in Baghdad killed 23 people in the mainly Shiite neighborhoods of Hussainiyah, Zafarniyah, Kazimiyah, Shula, al-Shurta and Utaifiya….