Too Much Faith in Democracy


"A vocal minority clamoring to transform Iraq in Iran's image will not be permitted to do so," declares Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "We will not allow the Iraqi people's democratic transition to be hijacked by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship."

But what if a majority of Iraqis want to "transform Iraq in Iran's image," and what if they promise to hold regular elections? Then the new Iraqi government would be democratic, which is the main U.S. requirement. Would that be acceptable?

Retired Gen. Jay Garner, the U.S. administrator of Iraq, doesn't seem to think so, although he's hazy as to why. According to The New York Times,

General Garner brushed aside the suggestion that Iraq, where about 60 percent of the population are Shiites, could become an Islamic republic. The United States insists on one thing—democracy—in the formation of a new government, he said. Given that bottom line, he said, it was difficult to "think how an Islamic Republic would be a democratic process."

Maybe he should think harder. If most Iraqis really do want to put the ayatollahs in charge, then democracy and theocracy are perfectly compatible. The U.S. should stop pretending that democracy is enough to prevent tyranny.