And as we contemplate Islamists exploiting new freedom in Egypt to take power, our failure to provide a reassuring safety net for Iraqis means some worry that Maliki is becoming an autocrat:
When the American military presence in Iraq ended in December 2011, Washington and Baghdad claimed that Iraq was a stable, sustainable democracy. However, this appears questionable as Nuri al-Maliki, prime minister since 2006, has continued his quest to dominate the state and to use its power to break opposition to his rule. His systematic exclusion of key politicians from power underlines the failure of the 2010 elections to deliver representative government, and leaves the country vulnerable to heightened sectarian tension and a new civil war.
We struggle to influence an Egypt where people will vote yet we walk away from a system we built in Iraq rather than defend free votes and the development of rule of law.
To be fair to the Obama administration, much of the anti-war crowd hated the idea of promoting democracy in Iraq and insisted that the Iraqis needed a strong man to hold the Kurds, Shias, and Sunni Arabs together and pulling under the yoke in the same direction. So this must be part of that "smart" diplomacy we were promised. Are we getting what our administration has wished for all along?
Yet some of the worries about Iraq are over-blown, I think. Democracy doesn't mean that the winners share power with the losers. It should mean that the losers are treated fairly under the law and that the losers have confidence that there will be scheduled free elections where they can again make their case. Yet we should be there to increase the confidence that this can happen. And we should not assume that Maliki has no reason to target Hashemi, who is being portrayed as a Sunni Arab martyr.
Focus on justice in the Hashemi case and in general promote rule of law. I've long agreed with Strategypage's assessment that the biggest threat to democracy we face in Iraq is getting rule of law rather than beating the Baathists, the Sunni tribes, Iranian death squads, separatist Kurds, or al Qaeda and their jihadi allies. We beat the armed threats. Will the Obama administration fail on the post-war mission as they seem determined to do?
Good grief, man, bust a gut to get a strategic agreement with Iraq that returns US forces so that Iraqis will have some confidence that we won't allow democracy to be subverted. We will get what we deserve if we don't work harder to get what we should wish.