Democracy is Coming to Iraq


The Los Angeles Times today has two big stories about U.S. plans for Iraq, the country we have just freed. One says that of course the United States will "transfer power to an 'interim authority composed of Iraqis from both inside and outside the country.'" It paints a picture that admirers of American democracy can relate to. Just as we have our Democrats and Republicans squabbling in a spirit of fair play over governance here, so too is there a well-known dichotomy at the heart of the burgeoning Iraqi democracy–the "divisions between top Defense and State department officials over how to lay the groundwork for choosing the Iraqi leadership that will eventually take over the reins of government."

The long story, quoting many leading U.S. officials, uses the word "democracy" a lot, but never once suggests when, or if, an actual election might occur. Tim Cavanaugh's hit and run entry from yesterday scratches the surface of the sort of problems that could arise from such elections.

The other story actually does, toward the end, mention that at some time in the future "elections can be held," but it isn't the main theme the story gets across about what the U.S. has planned for Iraq now that it is free and democratic. It quotes Secretary of State Colin Powell extensively, who candidly discusses the role of the international community in liberated Iraq. The U.S. will definitely need the United Nations help, he says–because "We need an endorsement of the authority and an endorsement of what we're doing in order to begin selling oil in due course."

Was it a war for oil, a less-threatening Iraq, freedom, democracy? The statues have toppled, and that is a glorious thing. But it's far too soon to say what the war was for. By current account, democracy does seem to be far down the list.