The war in Iraq was an unjust war. It was illegal in terms of international law and immoral in terms of the minimum thresholds for humanitarian and “democratic” intervention. It was also a deeply irrational war from the “realist” perspective, that is, the standard doctrines of containment and deterrence. The embarrassing fact that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction to contain or deter was probably well enough known by the policy makers who misrepresented and hyped intelligence before the war. The latter are perhaps guilty only of thoroughly and deliberately misleading the press, the Democratic opposition, and other governments along with the American public by concealing their real aims. But, whatever those were, the perpetrators can also be accused of the international crime of aggression, as well as “high crimes and misdemeanors” on the national, constitutional level. We can only hope that they will be punished by the democratic process.
What about the facts on the ground in Iraq now? Freed from a long-term dictatorship by an unjust war, Iraq is an occupied country, currently under an American military dictatorship. The epoch of colonial experiments in the “education” or “civilization” of nonwhite populations, however, is past. Thus, having found no WMDs, the American occupiers now claim to be committed to the “democratization” of Iraq, the only remaining justification for their war. They also insist that their main goal now is to return and shore up Iraqi sovereignty.
This puts those of us who opposed the war in an awkward position: we know that we should help promote democracy and the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. But we fear that success may help justify and, worse, re-elect the perpetrators of the unjust war, thereby creating a dangerous precedent. If they remain in power, this administration and future ones may be tempted to engage in similar international adventures. And yet democratization in Iraq is intrinsically valuable, and it is asserted and demanded by many autonomous forces in Iraq itself. A successful democracy in Iraq could serve as an important exemplar in the Arab world. Thus, I believe that it is our duty as critical intellectuals to help foster the emergence of an autonomous, democratic, and liberal Iraq. Because the American people have so many other reasons to vote against George W. Bush and his Republicans, we don’t have to indulge in misplaced schadenfreude-guilty pleasure in the failure of democratization in Iraq-which would weaken the Bush administration. Indeed, the current occupation authorities have already badly bungled the democratization process because they are driven by strategic considerations for the upcoming election and because they believe that democracy can simply be imposed. And therein lies the opening for democrats and the Democratic presidential campaign. My task here is to s...
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