Sunday, July 24, 2005

Democracy's High Price

I believe we are clearly winning in Iraq despite the headlines that seem to show only the death as the insurgents and terrorists killing civilians on a daily basis:

The situation in Iraq has progressed tremendously since April 2004 when a lot of people were worried that the enemy had just pulled off a Sepoy Mutiny and rallied the Iraqi people against our troops. The enemy is divided, the Iraqi people back the new government and hate the jihadis, and the Iraqi military is stepping forward to assume more responsibilities.

The situation can look grim from this perspective:

Sunni Arabs, roughly 20 percent of Iraq, make up the core of the insurgency. Some actively fight while others provide aid or at least look the other way.

Recently, there has been solid progress in luring a relatively large group of the Sunnis to participate in politics, including the constitutional process.

Some who urged an election boycott just six months ago now are urging their fellow Sunnis to vote in upcoming elections, and a core group has helped draft the constitution. A Sunni walkout seemed close to ending Sunday, and the drafters appear likely to meet the Aug. 15 deadline.

Nevertheless, the insurgents are going full throttle, stepping up attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces.

As we win, the difficulties of cementing that win can seem daunting. The price being paid is high--though not as high as the price of Saddam's rule of terror, we should remember.

But the price that Iraqis are paying to build this unique Arab democracy has a silver lining. That which the Iraqis pay dearly to gain they will not give up lightly. This will be their democracy.

If we had invaded Iraq and the Baathists had melted away and the jihadis had decided not to fight their sick war in Iraq, we would have prepared a constitution and handed it to the Iraqis. It would have been a document handed down from the Americans that nobody in Iraq would own. Democracy might have staggered on in Iraq as long as nothing put pressure on it. But at the first bump, opportunists would have blamed their ills on the alien democracy imposed on Iraq. Some Westerners will join in as well, as we've seen already. And Iraqi democracy would fail and democracy in the Arab and Moslem worlds would have been dealt a setback that would have crippled freedom for a generation or more.

But by paying the price in blood to defend this new, imperfect democracy, Iraqis are claiming ownership in a real way and making it something they will value as worth defending against future threats.

This may seem like a reach, perhaps a manufactured silver lining in a terrible war. But I believe it is a real benefit of the terrible struggle we and our Iraqi friends are fighting.

Of course, we have to win this fight to gain this benefit. If we falter, we've made the situation worse. I don't think we'll falter.

We are winning. And we will win. And Iraqis themselves will hold the gains for democracy. That is one advantage to our strategy--we not only eliminate enemies but we create allies for even more gains in the future.