Commentary Magazine


The Arab Spring Makes Iraq Look Good

The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl makes a crucial point about Iraq and the Arab Spring. If the American effort to demand“democracy at gunpoint” seemed impracticable perhaps that’s because we hadn’t yet seen what democracy by flashmob looks like. Compared to the stalled freedom movements in Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, Iraq’s flawed democracy seems rather miraculous.

Its vicious dictator and his family are gone, as is the rule by a sectarian minority that required perpetual repression. The quasi-civil war that raged five years ago is dormant, and Iraq’s multiple sects manage their differences through democratic votes and sometimes excruciating but workable negotiations. Though spectacular attacks still win headlines, fewer people have died violently this year in Iraq than in Mexico — or Syria.

Just as significantly, Iraq remains an ally of the United States, an enemy of al-Qaeda and a force for relative good in the Middle East. It is buying $12 billion in U.S. weapons and has requested that an American training force remain in the country next year. It recently helped get two U.S. citizens out of prison in Iran.

Meanwhile, Bashar Assad mows down Syrians, Ali Saleh has regained his footing in Yemen, and Egypt is aflame (and our hands-off approach to Libya is beginning to yield predictable chaos).  Liberals like to praise the Obama administration for letting Arabs “own” their revolutions.  But what good is the native ownership of an unceasing bloodbath with no prospect for actual democracy?