Between the Devil and the Deep Sea. The Consequences of U.S. Presence in Iraq on Democratization Efforts in the Greater Middle East
would actually deny the fact, that the removal of its cruel dictator Saddam Hussein was in itself a
good thing. As part of the Greater Middle East Initiative, the U.S. hoped to spark democratization
in one of the most undemocratic regions in the world. Yet, if one takes a closer look at the
preconditions, it becomes clear that America’s decision was essentially like choosing between the
devil and the deep sea – the decision to invade Iraq had as many negative consequences as to
refrain from acting.
This paper will assess the negative consequences of the U.S. American invasion of Iraq
on the democratic development in the Greater Middle East area. I intend to look at the social and
political developments in various authoritarian regimes before the year 2003 and compare and
contrast it to the 2005 status quo.
The example of Iran will be closely analyzed in a case study; to see what changes the
invasion of Iraq has brought about in Iran. The underlying hypothesis is, that U.S. presence in
Iraq has increased radicalism among Iranian leaders, and decreased the countries chances to
democratize. I will look anti-democratic sentiments and actions among Iranian leaders before and
after the war in Iraq to assess whether this hypothesis holds true.
Even though the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was widely protested around the globe, nobody would actually deny the fact, that the removal of its cruel dictator Saddam Hussein was in itself a good thing. As part of the Greater Middle East Initiative, the U.S. hoped to spark democratization in one of the most undemocratic regions in the world. Yet, if one takes a closer look at the preconditions, it becomes clear that America’s decision was essentially like choosing between the devil and the deep sea - the decision to invade Iraq had as many negative consequences as to refrain from acting.
This paper will assess the negative consequences of the U.S. American invasion of Iraq on the democratic development in the Greater Middle East area. I intend to look at the social and political developments in various authoritarian regimes before the year 2003 and compare and contrast it to the 2005 status quo.
The example of Iran will be closely analyzed in a case study; to see what changes the invasion of Iraq has brought about in Iran. The underlying hypothesis is, that U.S. presence in Iraq has increased radicalism among Iranian leaders, and decreased the countries chances to democratize. I will look anti-democratic sentiments and actions among Iranian leaders before and after the war in Iraq to assess whether this hypothesis holds true.
2. General Definitions
An analysis of democracy in the Greater Middle East should start of with a review of a few key terms. They will serve as the groundwork in deciding how democracy is coming along in the region.
To define the concept of democratization, it is first necessary to establish an applicable definition of democracy itself. Needless to say that one single definition is not sufficient in capturing what decades of political research have to offer. But especially because the possibilities seem endless, only one definition useful will be introduced.
One definition of democracy also used by Freedom House, an organization later quoted in this research paper, is the electoral-procedural definition introduced by Robert Dahl. Dahl’s definition talks about “polyarchy“ since he sees the concept of “democracy“ as an unachievable ideal type. The definition is then structured around certain “procedural minima“ of a polyarchic society: political rights and civil liberties. Political rights enable people to participate freely in the political process, including through the right to vote, compete for public office, and elect representatives who have a decisive impact on public policies and are accountable to the electorate. Civil liberties allow for the freedoms of expression and belief, the right to assemble and organize, rule of law, and personal autonomy without interference from the state (Diamond 2002, 21-22).
With this definition of a democracy, it is now possible to introduce the concept of democratization. In short, democratization is a transitional process that leads to a democratic political system and is shaped “[...] by strategic actors more often than by structural socioeconomic prerequisites“ (Schlumberger 2000, 106). It is often preceded by, but not equivalent to liberalization of an existing system. It is important to see that liberalization can always occur without democratization. Democratization of any authoritarian regime requires the removal of previous authority and an extensive re-thinking process. Further steps include the creation of democratic institutions and the formation of new political elites, often within the former opposition. However, especially in conjunction with the Arab World, the term has been used quite differently. Schumberger criticizes that even many researchers think, “[. ] it is not necessary to know the precise outcome of a transition to speak of democratization“ (Schlumberger 2000, 106-109). As this paper looks at the radicalizing effects of the Iraq war the region, it will consider both a backlash in liberalization and democratization.
According to Samuel P. Huntington democratization has occurred in waves throughout history. He defines a wave of democratization as “[. ] a group of transitions from non- democratic to democratic regimes that occur within a specified period of time and that significantly outnumber transitions in the opposite direction during that period“ (Huntington 1991, 15). In his book, Huntington focused on the third wave during which democracy spread extensively in Latin America and Europe. Just over ten years later, Richard N. Haass, the director if the Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State, claimed that the world has e]ntered a fourth wave of democratization in the Muslim World. He acknowledges the salience of authoritarian regimes in the Muslim World, but also claims that the U.S. can promote democracy in the Greater Middle East (Haass 2003, 138). This task might be especially difficult to do, because “[o]nly the vague model of an Islamic state has any moral and ideological appeal as an alternative form of government (Diamond 2003, 4). Larry Diamond goes on to claim that the Republic of Iran is the only true example of this model (Ibid., 4-5). Next to Iran, the rest of the Muslim World is in some state of authoritarian regime.
A definition of authoritarianism cannot be made without some introductory statements. Whenever established theories do not fit the actual political situation anymore, researchers must rethink what seemed to be common knowledge. As traditional definitions of authoritarianism have lost some of their validity, Larry Diamond admits that “[w]e are replete with definitions and standards and tools of measurement. But the curious fact is that [...] we still struggle to classify ambiguous regimes“ (Diamond 2002, 21). He recognizes the value of definitions such as Robert Dahl’s on ’polyarchy’, but follows up on this with a fairly new approach towards regime classification, the so-called ’hybrid regime’ that incorporate to a varying degree elements of both democracy and authoritarianism (Ibid. 23).
During the third wave, many countries adopted the form of an electoral democracy, with regular, competitive, multi-party elections. However, a great percentage of them now fails to meet the substantive democratic requirements or are very ambiguous in their political procedures. In any specific case, this might include a ban of political parties in opposition disputes or in electoral competitions, severely limited assembly rights, as well as repressive and violent tactics against individual regime dissenters (Ibid., 23-24). Because of all these characteristics, these hybrid regimes are classified as ’electoral authoritarian’ or ’competitive authoritarian’. While an opposition victory is not impossible in such a country, it requires far more than what would normally be required to win in a democracy. International observation and intervention is frequently necessary to prevent or expose electoral manipulations and fraud of the authoritarian regime. One thing which is necessary but generally really hard to do, is to analyze the intentions and resources of ambiguously democratic ruling elites (Ibid., 25-26).
Diamond claims that the assessment of whether elections are fair is the most crucial and difficult aspect when deciding about the democratic progress of a regime. The following list might seem extensive, but will be a necessary tool in the upcoming case study on Iran. Elections are fair under the following conditions (Elklit 1997, 36, Table 1):
- administered by a neutral authority
- electoral administration competent and resourceful to fight fraud in vote and vote counting
- police, military, and courts treat competing candidates and parties equally throughout the process
- contenders all have access to the public media
- electoral districts and rules do not systematically disadvantage the opposition
- independent monitoring of the voting and vote-counting is allowed at all locations
- secrecy of the ballot is protected
- virtually all adults can vote
- procedures for organizing and counting the vote are transparent and known to all
- clear and impartial procedures for resolving complaints and disputes
3. The Greater Middle East
3.1 Defining the Greater Middle East
It was in fall of 2003 that the U.S. administration published plans to launch a democratization initiative targeted at an area reaching from Morocco to Pakistan. The so-called Greater Middle East Initiative included countries one would have never considered to be part of the Middle East. Algeria, Morocco and some Central Asian states must have wondered how they categorized as part of the Middle East. But aside from their geographical distance and significant cultural differences, all these countries have something in common: a democratic deficit and in many cases fundamentalist Islamic regimes (Schmidt 2005, online).
The following remarks by President Bush indicate the new Greater Middle East policy: „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. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution. [...] the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East“ (Bush 2003, online).
Oftentimes, many terms are used simultaneously, sometimes incorrectly, to define the Greater Middle East region. Some people may classify it as the Arab World, which describes a total of 23 countries throughout North Africa and the Arab Peninsula. These countries share Arab as the language of the majority and a rich cultural background (Schmidt 2005, online).
Fig. 1: The Arab World (http://en.wikipedia.Org/wiki/Image:Arab_world.png)
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Others may link the Greater Middle East the Muslim World, which more correctly describes the worldwide community of all believers in Islam. In many of their home countries, these Muslims make of for a majority of citizens and enjoy a great deal of influence on all aspects of society. The number of Islamic countries is far greater than the number of culturally and historically Arab countries (Ibid.).
Fig. 2: The Muslim World (http://en.wikipedia.0rg/wiki/Image:Oic_countries_map.png)
illustration not visible in this excerpt
In fact, the Greater Middle East is neither sufficiently captured by the term ’Arab World’ or ’Muslim World’. Because the term rather refers to America’s democratization or liberation initiative towards certain types of regimes, it neither describes a geographical region, nor a cultural and historical unit. While the Greater Middle East includes the Arab World, it may extend even further into Central Asia. One can however easily imagine, that different targeted sub-regions call for individual policies (Perthes 2004, 689). In the following, the Muslim subregion of the Greater Middle East will be the focus.