Democracy in Iraq

DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ….Here’s an interesting little tidbit from the Downing Street Memos. It’s from the “Options Paper,” and it’s the only place in the entire set of briefing papers that sets out goals for the government of postwar Iraq. First there’s this:

The US administration has lost faith in containment and is now considering regime change. The end states could either be a Sunni strongman or a representative government.

These two options are described in more detail later on:

  • a Sunni military strongman….The US and other militaries could withdraw quickly. However, there would then be a strong risk of the Iraqi system reverting to type. Military coup could succeed coup until an autocratic, Sunni dictator emerged who protected Sunni interest. With time he could acquire WMD; or

  • a representative broadly democratic government. This would be Sunni-led but, within a federal structure, the Kurds would be guaranteed autonomy and the Shia fair access to government….However, to survive it would require the US and others to commit to nation building for many years. This would entail a substantial international security force and help with reconstruction.

Now, this does not make it sound as if anyone involved had a very strong commitment to democracy in Iraq. The two options, both of which appear to be equally acceptable, are a Sunni strongman or a government led by Sunnis ? and guaranteeing leadership to a minority faction is only slightly more “democratic” than simply installing a strongman in the first place.

Another section of the paper lists seven “objectives” of UK policy, and notable by its absence is any desire for a democratic government in postwar Iraq ? notable because today we are supposed to believe that democracy was an ironclad part of the plan from the very start. If it was, this paper does a good job of hiding it.

The Options Paper was written on March 8, 2002, and there is no discussion in any of the later papers about which of these two options Bush and Blair decided on. Paul Wolfowitz was said to be in favor of “something like a functioning democracy,” but aside from that the only other mention of any kind comes a couple of weeks later in a memo from Jack Straw that goes out of its way to say that “Iraq has had NO history of democracy so no-one has this habit or experience.”

It would be interesting to know which option they chose, wouldn’t it? Especially since the available evidence indicates that the strongman option ended up being their first choice. Surely there must be subsequent memos in which this was hashed out?