Thursday, July 20, 2006

Re-Inventing Iraq: Understanding Iraqi Society and Coalition Democratization Efforts

Monday, July 17, 2006 12:30-2:00pm

Speakers: Dr. Dana P. Eyre, Senior Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace

Dr. Dana Eyre presented a paper entitled “Re-Inventing Iraq: Understanding Iraqi Society and Coalition Democratization Efforts” from his upcoming book manuscript. Dr. Eyre explained that the U.S. is currently debating whether to stay in Iraq or pull out its troops. While this debate has very important implications for Iraq’s future, it misses the central issues that the U.S. needs to consider in its Iraq strategy. The U.S. needs to understand the political dynamics on the ground and examine what effect U.S. policy has on those dynamics. Many of the problems the U.S. is experiencing today in Iraq are largely a result of its previous actions and failure to address Iraqi political dynamics. The U.S. needs a theory of victory in Iraq to organize its strategy and solve the problems that exist today.
Iraq, Dr. Eyre argued, was not fated for an ethnocentric conflict. Rather, U.S. failures have created the conditions on the ground that may lead to ethnocentric warfare. Dr. Eyre clamed the U.S. has experienced operational failures: failing to succeed when the opportunity presented itself. As a result, Iraq is still in limbo between stable democracy and civil war. In order to facilitate democratization, implementers need to recognize democratization as a social process. Individuals must understand how their democracy works and participate in the process for that process to sustain itself. However, the U.S.’s political (as well as military and economic) strategies are focused on national activities. Individual Iraqis cannot see the impacts of these national strategies, so Iraqis are not active participants in their own development. Furthermore, participation in the political system has not yet been linked to meaningful change. Resources are not being used to reinforce the democratic process, and people cannot see tangible benefits from participation. As a result, Iraq has not yet achieved sustainable peace and democracy. Despite Iraq’s problems, Iraq has experienced some positive developments. For instance, Iraq now has an elected government. Though imperfect, this government is a significant achievement. Also, Dr. Eyre believes Iraq can still turn itself around. Iraqis are not as polarized as the U.S. might expect. Connections remain between Sunni and Shi’a, and people are willing to recognize each other’s concerns. Additionally, people do not wholeheartedly support the militias supporting their own factions. The U.S., then, must reform its strategy to encourage peace and stability in Iraq. A functioning Iraqi state must be created to maintain sustainable peace, but that state is not attainable in the near future. A third party, such as the U.N., must intervene to guarantee a settlement between factional interests. Also, rather than taking down the competing militias, the U.S. should try to integrate these militias into the military to ensure all factions have a stake in the security force. In this way, the U.S. can focus on transforming its strategy in Iraq to foster long-term peace and stability

by Adam Perry

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