Sunday, June 27, 2004

Allawi and those "models of democracy"

I know it's terribly eurocentric and arrogant to complain about this sort of thing, and we should be tolerant of alternative cultural values, but is anyone else worried by Iyad Allawi's assertion that "Iraqi democracy should not be a replica of models imported from America, Britain or any other country"? Now, this is all very well, but democracy itself was imported into most democracies. The word is Greek, and the theory is to a large extent drawn from the French and English revolutions, the Roman republic, and the various city states of the Renaissance. It's true that each country that has created a democracy in the fairly narrow sense has worked out its own practice of democracy, but the stockpile of ideas has a definite history of its own.

We have heard a lot about a whole range of countries finding their own way to democracy and how we should not impose our values on them. Remember "Asian values"? "Guided democracy"? "People's democracy"? Even Speer's notion of "Germanic democracy", which you can probably guess? What they all had in common was that they weren't particularly democratic, being variations either on autocracy or on bureaucratic totalitarianism. Either The Party or The Big Boss was in charge, ruling in the first version through a modern police state (either fascist or Leninist) or in the second through a mixture of clientelism and control of the army (in a word, dictatorship). Allawi's emerging policy certainly seems to be going that way, what with the idea of declaring martial law and increasing signs that he intends to co-opt the more conservative insurgents. After all, if Iraq's future state is to be based on Iraqi models, there's a choice of either a monarchy based on the army and the manipulation of tribal clienteles or a totalitarian party-state based on surveillance and exemplary terror. Great.

What will Allawi's rule look like? Probably an uneasy mixture of trying to look western in Baghdad under the noses of world opinion and of the Americans, with lots of ICDC and police and a reconstructed secret police behind the scenes, whilst the countryside will be run on what might be called the Fallujah model, a coalition of the more conservative insurgent leaders and ex-Ba'athis. (Fallujah seems to be evolving into a conservative-Islamist mosque state with old Ba'athi generals providing the muscle, in fact the insurgents' de facto capital as I predicted some time ago. Juan Cole)

It's all rather strange when you think that it's the neo cons who usually talk about that "soft racism of low expectations". But here's the kicker - the new state they are creating in Iraq is exactly the kind of dictatorship that their criticism of the Left assumes we think is all the Iraqis can achieve.

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