Friday, March 14, 2003

A House Divided

It's really good to know that the Bush administration has its ducks in a row in regard to a democratic Iraq. I mean, really, could things get a little more contradictory? They seem to top themselves with each passing day and decision.

A classified State Department report expresses deep skepticism that installing a new regime in Iraq will foster the spread of democracy in the Middle East, a claim President Bush has made in trying to build support for a war, according to intelligence officials familiar with the document.

The report exposes significant divisions within the Bush administration over the so-called democratic domino theory, one of the arguments that underpins the case for invading Iraq.

The report, which has been distributed to a small group of top government officials but not publicly disclosed, says that daunting economic and social problems are likely to undermine basic stability in the region for years, let alone prospects for democratic reform.

Even if some version of democracy took root -- an event the report casts as unlikely -- anti-American sentiment is so pervasive that elections in the short term could lead to the rise of Islamic-controlled governments hostile to the United States.

"Liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve," says one passage of the report, according to an intelligence official who agreed to read portions of it to the Los Angeles Times. "Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements."

The thrust of the document, the source said, "is that this idea that you're going to transform the Middle East and fundamentally alter its trajectory is not credible."

[. . .]

The official stressed that no one in intelligence or diplomatic circles opposes the idea of trying to install a democratic government in Iraq.

"It couldn't hurt," the official said. "But to sell (the war) on the basis that this is going to cause 1,000 flowers to bloom is naive."

I beg to differ, Mr. Official. To buy this war on this basis, as the majority of Americans seem to be very willing to do -- passively or actively -- is naive. Selling it is just dubious used car salesmanship, a cynical masquerade of optimism and thrift. Buyer Beware.