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Tuesday, October 19, 2004
 
Bush: Fundamentalist Iraq Government OK

Bush was asked during an interview with the The Associated Press how he would react if Iraqis someday freely voted into power an Islamic fundamentalist government. Bush replied, "I will be disappointed, but democracy is democracy."
Sigh. At least he's facing the reality that he doesn't have much choice in the matter. By having presided so long and exerted so much control over Iraq, what happens next is entirely our responsibility. At the same time, Bush cannot afford to be seen by imperialism-wary Arabs appointing a puppet government. And he's desperate to get US troops out of the country as soon as possible, so he isn't going to invest the time or diplomacy required to lay the groundwork for an effective government. Iraqis have essentially a free pass to do anything they like, and Bush can't say a damn thing about it. And whatever they wind up doing, we'll own it.

All of the above has got to be obvious to everyone even slightly paying attention to Iraq, even Bush. But for the life of me, I can't figure out why he's saying so out loud. There are an awful lot of things that are already going very wrong in Iraq, but the administration isn't exactly emphasizing them. Instead, our attention is being diverted to Iraq's future, which will be democratic and wonderful.

An Islamic fundamentalist government, once "elected," will be nothing remotely approaching a democracy. Inherent in the defenition of such a government is an elevation of some points of view and a delegitimization of others. Pluralism is incompatible with fundamentalism; such a government in Iraq will represent only one of the country's three main subgroups, almost certainly the Shi'a. In the eyes of the government, at least 40% of the population will be seen as heretics at best, infidels at worst. Given such divisions, the only way to maintain order and prevent the country from splitting would be the imposition of brutal repression.

Aside from all that, countries whose governments are founded on received truth aren't very good at educating their people, or retaining the educated people they've already got. Islamic fundamentalists have awful records when it comes to the treatment of women. They're not good at economic policy. And such a government in Iraq will inevitably be anti-American.

Bush has to know better than to shoot his mouth off on the subject of Iraq's future, and even less can I believe that Bush's handlers picked now as a good time to manage expectations in Iraq downwards. The only remotely plausible explanation I can think of is that this is a ploy to get more international boots on the ground, as France, Germany, Russia, etc. don't want to see another nutjob government in the Middle East, and we can't be counted on to manage anything right anymore. The only problem with that strategy is that any move to commit forces in Iraq would be political suicide for just about every government in the world. What is he up to, then?


via The Agonist