Sunday, November 21, 2004

Legitimacy of Iraq's Democracy is just around the corner

Amid the torrent of bullets, bombs and beheadings there are many people that are critically skeptical of Iraqi elections to the point of believing absolute terror will reign. This new deadline brings with it a new resolve in Iraq and with it a new hope that things are still progressing, not regressing. Many of the educated will tell you what is happening is the impossible and a mirage the will fade into ever increasing chaos. Much of the demographic reasons for failure are viable but they are not all of the demographic variables that should be looked upon for guidance.

On the other side of things comes the standard counter of the Afghan example. This example shows the liberation of a willing people to undergo free elections in a primarily peaceful way. If we can do it in Afghanistan we can do it in Iraq, right? The demographics of these two countries tell us otherwise. While Iraq holds a 50-60% Shiite majority Afghanistan holds a mere 10% minority.

Another example is the extreme repression of a rural people compared to the repression of an industrialized people. For more on how this works consult the works of James C. Scott. The promise of agrarian reform, unfortunately in poppies which no one should be surprised about, has been integral part of the successful reformation of a democratic Afghanistan. These differences do not mean that Iraq is doomed because they are not covered under these select demographics.

The one underlying demographic that compounds the problems in Iraq and sends defeatists into a tailspin is the Shiite majority in Iraq. As of 2003 Iraq was made up of about a 50-60 percent Shiite majority. They will compare this directly with trying to topple Iran in the same manner. The defeatism lies in the Shiite majority being primarily made of the radicals within Islamic religion. While it is true that many of the Shiite Imams are counter-western and the demographic of Islamic terrorists is primarily Shiite it does not encompass all of the Shiite people, nor does it cover the majority of Iraq.

The modernized portions of Iraq bring with them what many call a westernized culture. Yes, Iraq is banking on what is called “Modernization Theory”. Modernization theory is basically the theory that a developing country can increase its standings in the international community as well as standards of living by enhancing their technology. This shows itself as evident by the influx of high-tech goods being flown in daily. For example, air conditioning units can’t be flown in fast enough. They’re already sold practically before they ever arrive in Iraq.

Some may contrast this with the rolling blackouts that never happened under Saddam’s regime as a sign that modernization will not take place but fail to realize that the rolling blackouts are not caused by bombs or American incompetence. They’re caused by the increased desire for more power to feed their newfound technological freedom. Their need for power is simply outstripping the supply. It is seen as a boon to the Modernization theory, not a bane.

Another misconceived notion is that Sharia, or Islamic law, will take over in Iraq due to the vast majority of Muslims in Iraq. There is a possibility of this happening but it is not as likely as one might be led to believe. Although the dictatorship of Iraq brought with it a brutal regime that killed many and tortured untold others it can be considered a bridge to democracy. This may seem like the wild ranting of a madman but it is based in fact not fiction. Saddam’s style of dictatorship had little if any religion involved. It was an almost entirely secular environment. Imams had no power in government and only a subdued and censored voice amongst the people. Many people, particularly and traditionally the young and the women, will find fault with the break from a secular society. They are the ones that desire the freedoms they had under a secular society that would otherwise disappear under Sharia.

If none of these factors were enough to convince you, and I’m sure there are plenty, then even if all of the demographics fail they still need to bring to bear three things to carry through with the rebellion according to Charles Tilly:

First is something recognizable as an alternative government. Currently, the only thing remotely resembling that is Al Qaeda and the other splinter terrorist groups. There is little to no organization amongst these groups except to stay out of the way of the hard-line Al Qaeda members. They are like rats scurrying in the night.

Second is a following of people significant enough to make the change in Iraq popular. There is a significant number of those in Iraq that do not want us there but they are not formed against us en-masse and would prefer us as occupiers much more than they would prefer the alternative of terrorist rule. We need to keep it that way.

Third and final is something Theta Skocpol considers Regime Decay. This is the state of the government and military defenses protecting the government. If it falters the possibility for regime change can occur. This too can be argued for both sides as we are still in an interim government and our forces, although highly unlikely, can be defeated. For us it is a matter of maintaining resolve through the attacks and beheadings.

The terrorist organizations understand this at their core and are doing everything within their power to disrupt the governmental structure in Iraq in order to cause regime decay. If elections go forth come January 30th or sometime shortly after then it will be a major blow against their efforts to overthrow the Iraqi government. In fact, all of these things are dependent upon our ability to prevent terrorists from dismantling all semblance of civility and maintain that, for the majority of Iraqis that Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization and nothing more.


Handelman, Howard. 2003. “The Challenge of Third World Development”. 3rd ed.. Pearson Publishing. ISBN: 0130993093 “Iraqi elections set for January 30”. Nov. 21, 2004. URL:


Rashid, Ahmed. "Karzai wins power in Afghan elections". Apr. 11, 2004. URL:


“Afghanistan, Opium and the Taliban”. February 15, 2001. Future Opioids. URL:

Rebuild Iraq 2005 exhibitor list. URL:

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