Originally Published 2004-06-30 04:31:48 Published on Jun 30, 2004
It may not be the story that Paul Bremer or Iyyad Allawi would want to muse over for their grandchildren: ¿I was among the handful there...¿ Yet, that¿s truth about power-transfer in Iraq, America¿s testing-ground for western democracy in the feudalistic Gulf Arab region living in a decadent past.
Iraq and After
It may not be the story that Paul Bremer or Iyyad Allawi would want to muse over for their grandchildren: "I was among the handful there..." Yet, that's truth about power-transfer in Iraq, America's testing-ground for western democracy in the feudalistic Gulf Arab region living in a decadent past. 

That there were causes other than democracy behind the two US-led war on democracy on Iraq goes without saying. But democracy, this time nearer home in the form of American presidential election, too has propelled the Bush Administration into exiting Iraq, that too ahead of schedule, if only to try reduce the US losses that much.

It's nobody's case that the US should lose the global war on terrorism, which affects us all. If anything an unsung American exit from Iraq or Afghanistan would strengthen the terrorists' belief in themselves - whatever be their cause. Yet, there are lessons to be learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan. These are also lessons about the way in which nations perceive themselves and others -- and lessons, some nations are in the habit of not learning. 

Iraq has become another Afghanistan, a base, or al-qaeda, for the Osamas of the world. Like Karzai's, Allawi's writ does not run beyond Baghdad. From a nation, Iraq has become a territory of faceless leaders and Stateless people, with neither of them accountable to, or responsible for, the other. It's a far cry from the kind of democracy and development that were promised.

If Afghanistan and Iraq are in the past, and the clock cannot be reset, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf Arab world may be the future. Like Musharraf in Pakistan, the Saud royalty too seems to have realised the futility of overlooking Islamic terrorism in the backyard. Yet, as with Musharraf, the Islamic fundamentalists are using the 'global war on terrorism' to turn the tables on the Saudi rulers, for 'playing the American games'.

For the new-generation youth in the region, Palestine is but a fading memory. To him, Iraq and Afghanistan are a learning experience, and Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab world, an achievable goal. Even a euphemistic American exit from Iraq, as happened, would embolden him -- but neither could be stopped, it would seem. 

The contradictions in American perception may have contributed to the confusion. So is their lack of understanding of the region and its people. It's on record that the US did not have many Afghan experts after 9/11 and before launching the war on the Taliban-held territory. The American way of focussed studies on aspects of a nation and its people without an overall perceptive may have contributed, but that cannot be an excuse.

Shah's Iran and Marcos' Philippines used to be instances of the American inability to connect to the people even while comforting the rulers in third nations. Iraq is only the latest example. Here, the US did not connect to the ruler either, after a brief honeymoon, when they needed Saddam against Khomeini's Iran. Yet in the case of Iran, the change-over from hereditary feudalism, even if you could not relate Khomeini's Revolution to any form of democracy, was a goal in itself, and was native to the land and its people. The Ayatollah also provided both a public and popular face to the Revolution. It was no different with Marcos and Corazon Aquino in the Philippines. In both cases, out-dated weapons in the hands of the revolutionaries mostly performed a ceremonial role. At least the fingers on the trigger were not intent on pressing it.

Iraq, after Afghanistan, is different. There are no Khomeinis here. Those that are there, have no qualms about their men sporting weapons and using them. Or, blowing themselves up in suicide-attacks. The two seem to sprout from separate strains. The twin may meet, either over dinner or in duel. Either way, there may not be much of Iraq left for reconstruction. Though contracts worth billions of dollars were signed for the reconstruction even before Saddam was deposed, the word 'execution' does not refer to the contractual obligations, any more, in that country. Instead, it's sending out a new message across the Arab world, from which there seems to be no escape, any more.

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Observer Research Foundation.
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N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy

N. Sathiya Moorthy is a policy analyst and commentator based in Chennai.

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