The continued squabbling over Iraq's constitution again raises the question of whether "democracy," or even "liberal democracy," accurately describes America's goal there. If the will of the Iraqi people is to split this arbitrarily defined nation-state into three countries, by what principle does the U.S. oppose that outcome? Haven't we moved beyond a policy that elevates stability above democracy?
One possible answer is that, while an independent Iraqi Kurdistan might maintain something like a liberal democracy, the outlook for Sunniland and (especially) the Shiite Republic of Iraq is decidedly less favorable. Only by forcing these clashing groups to live together in one country can the U.S. guarantee a reasonably free and tolerant polity, which in turn will help spread the ideals of liberal democracy throughout the Middle East, thereby counteracting Islamic extremism and making terrorist attacks on Americans less likely. Hence our security depends on, among other things, the willingness of Shiite clerics to compromise their vision of Iraqi divorce law. Is that the idea?