Could plans for democracy in Iraq succeed?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
John Zogby, President and Chief Executive Officer of Zogby International, stated in his Oct. 27, 2003 commentary "Still Waiting for the Euphoria," published in the Los Angeles Times:

"They [Iraqis] are intrigued by democracy but worry that it may not be compatible with their culture. They object to being occupied and are eager to take the reins of government themselves. But those in the minority are a little more nervous at the prospect of democracy than those in the majority.

Only two in five [Iraqis] (39%) said that 'democracy can work in Iraq,' while a majority (51%) agreed that 'democracy is a Western way of doing things and will not work here.' Shiites — who suffered the most under Hussein and who make up the majority in Iraq — are more evenly split about democracy (45%-46%), while Sunnis are far less favorable.

Asked about the kind of government that would be best for Iraq, half of all respondents (49%) said they preferred 'a democracy with elected representatives guided by Sharia (Islamic Law).' Twenty-four percent prefer an 'Islamic state ruled by clerics based on Sharia.' Only one in five (21%) preferred a 'secular democracy with elected officials.'"

Oct. 27, 2003 - John Zogby 

PRO (yes)

George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd US President, at the Nov. 6, 2003 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC, stated:

"Some skeptics of democracy assert that the traditions of Islam are inhospitable to the representative government. This 'cultural condescension,' as Ronald Reagan termed it, has a long history. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, a so-called Japan expert asserted that democracy in that former empire would 'never work.' Another observer declared the prospects for democracy in post-Hitler Germany are, and I quote, 'most uncertain at best' -- he made that claim in 1957. Seventy-four years ago, The Sunday London Times declared nine-tenths of the population of India to be 'illiterates not caring a fig for politics.' Yet when Indian democracy was imperiled in the 1970s, the Indian people showed their commitment to liberty in a national referendum that saved their form of government...

This is a massive and difficult undertaking -- it is worth our effort, it is worth our sacrifice, because we know the stakes... Iraqi democracy will succeed -- and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation."

Nov. 6, 2003 - George W. Bush, MBA 

Daniel L. Byman, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD, Director of Research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, wrote in their Apr. 15, 2003 article "Iraq's Coming Democracy" in Blueprint Magazine:

"Iraqi history is one of strife, chaos, war, and near-genocide: hardly ideal ground for democracy. But the fact that Iraq has never had a functional democracy does not doom it for eternity not to have one.


Many countries that had little or no democratic tradition have developed in the past 20 years into functioning democracies. Even though they have sometimes had shaky beginnings, democracy has broken out in the most unlikely of places. This has happened even in societies that doubters insisted for years could never become democratic. Remember all the talk about how East Asia's 'Confucian societies' were culturally bred to conformity and autocracy and could never become democratic? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and others have already proven that to be a canard.


The criticism that Iraq cannot become democratic is further belied by the fact that in the Kurdish part of northern Iraq, democracy has already enjoyed some noteworthy successes. Despite infighting, economic dislocation, and other problems, the Kurds have established a reasonably stable form of power-sharing.


Iraq also has a number of advantages that would contribute to a successful effort to build democracy. Prior to the 1991 Gulf War, it had perhaps the best educated, most secular, and most progressive population of all the Arab states. Although Iraq's middle class has been economically devastated over the past 12 years, it still exists as a social and cultural force -- and it is the political impact of the 'bourgeoisie' that is most important for democracy, not its economic circumstances."

Apr. 15, 2003 - Kenneth M. Pollack, PhD 
Daniel L. Byman, PhD 

Dick Cheney, MA, US Vice President at the time of the quote, stated in a Mar. 16, 2003 interview on NBC's Meet the Press:

"TIM RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?

RICHARD CHENEY: They have so far. One of the things that many people forget is that the Kurds in the north have been operating now for over 10 years under a sort of U.S.-provided umbrella with respect to the no-fly zone, and they have established a very strong, viable society with elements of democracy an important part of it.

They’ve had significant successes in that regard and they’re eager to work with the rest of Iraq, that portion of it that still governs Saddam Hussein [sic]. And if you look at the opposition, they’ve come together, I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish elements in the population. They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity. They don’t like to have the U.S., for example, come in and insist on dealing with people sort of on a hyphenated basis the Iraqi-Shia, Iraqi-Sunni but rather to focus on Iraq as a nation and all that it can accomplish as a nation, and we try to be sensible to those concerns.

I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world."

Mar. 16, 2003 - Dick Cheney, MA 

CON (no)

The US General Accountability Office (GAO) stated in the May 15, 2003 report "Rebuilding Iraq":

"The administration has linked regime change in Iraq with the opportunity to promote democracy and create a model for the spread of democratic values in the Middle East. However, Iraq's underlying conditions, including the lack of a democratic tradition and sharp ethnic, religious, and regional differences, will likely present significant challenges to democratization efforts.

World Bank indicators measuring broad dimensions of governance in individual countries demonstrate the challenge of transforming Iraq. Iraq ranked lower than virtually all other countries in the world on three crucial measures of good governance. The average ranking for countries in the Middle East is also considerably higher than for Iraq.

Conditions in Iraq will present a number of significant and unique challenges to democratic development:

—Establishing a common national identity as a foundation for democratization appears to be a more difficult challenge than that faced in the FSU or Latin America. Iraq is characterized by significant religious, regional, and ethnic divisions. An additional dilemma is how to rid the new government of the influence of Ba'ath party functionaries, who may be extensively imbedded in the existing bureaucracy.

—Iraq currently lacks a rule of law, a multiparty political structure, separation of powers, and a democratic tradition. Iraqi exile figures appear to be largely distrusted within Iraq. In addition, new leadership will have to be built from the ground up.

—U.S. policymakers also face the dilemma that democratic development in Iraq and the Middle East could have the result of empowering Islamist groups that have widespread popularity and are unfriendly to U.S. interests."

May 15, 2003 - Rebuilding Iraq (320 KB)  
Government Accountability Office (GAO) 

Edward N. Luttwak, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated in his Aug. 18, 2004 Op-Ed article "Time to Quit Iraq (Sort Of)," published in the New York Times:

"Many Americans now believe that the United States is depleting its military strength, diplomatic leverage and Treasury to pursue unrealistic aims in Iraq. They are right. Democracy seems to interest few Iraqis, given the widespread Shiite proclivity to follow unelected clerics, the Sunni rejection of the principle of majority rule, and the preference of many Kurds for tribe and clan over elected government.

It is unlikely that the new Iraqi interim government will be able to oversee meaningful elections in a country where its authority is more widely denied than recognized."

Aug. 18, 2004 - Edward Nicholae Luttwak, PhD 

Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of Russia, stated in a Mar. 8, 2005 Guardian UK article titled "Out in the Cold":

"'If democracy is imposed from the outside on a part of the world where there is Buddhism or Islam ... If attempts are made to impose in a mandatory way all the requirements of western democracy, let's say American democracy, on these parts of the world, well, I don't think that will work."

Mar. 8, 2005 - Mikhail Gorbachev