America’s Grand Delusion

An insightful piece by Marina Ottaway (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace/ Democracy and Rule of Law Project) begins with:
The war in Iraq will undoubtedly result in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his regime.
But the ensuing political reconstruction will probably not result in the transformation of Iraq into a democratic country, nor will it lead to a wave of democratic change sweeping the entire Middle East.
The reason is simple.
The United States cannot shock and awe Iraqis into accepting a new political system, nor can it impose one with force once the occupation ends. The ultimate outcome of political reconstruction depends on the Iraqis: If the different ethnic, religious, tribal and political factions can reach enough agreement on the outline of a new political system, the country may eventually develop into a democracy. If they cannot, the country will sink into chaos or turn to another strongman for stability after the occupation.

And it ends with:
The example of Bahrain is a case in point. Under a new constitution that does not in any way limit the power of the king, Bahrain a few months ago held elections for half the members of a rather powerless parliament; the remaining members are appointed by the king. Despite the obvious limitations of the exercise, the United States chose to praise Bahrain warmly for its progress toward democracy.
The United States enjoys immense military superiority, but it does not have a comparable advantage in the political arena. The political future of Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries will be determined more by their domestic politics than by U.S. policy.

In between are cogent comparisons of the politics of post-WW II Germany and Japan and post-war Middle East countries, pointing out the reasons why democratization is not likely to work in Iraq.
We will have gotten rid of the Hussein regime, which is good. But that

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