An Iraqi Strongman
housands of Iraqi Shiites
chanted "No to America, No
to Saddam, Yes to Islam" a
few days ago during pilgrim-
age rites at the holy city of Karbala.
Increasing numbers of Iraqis appear to
agree with these sentiments. There are
ominous implications for the coalition
• Gratitude for liberation usually has
a short shelf life, and Iraq will be no
exception. Asa middle-aged factory
manager put it, "Thank you,
Americans. But now we don't need
anybody to stay here anymore."
• However delighted they are to be
rid of the Saddamite nightmare, Iraqis
mentally live in a world of conspiracy
theories, causing many to harbor deep
suspicions of coalition intentions.
• "Yes to Islam" in effect means "Yes
to Iranian-style militant Islam." The
introduction of that failed system
would be a disaster for Iraq and would
revive the Khomeini message, which by
now has lost nearly all appeal in Iran.
This state of affairs leaves coalition
forces in a bind: As vanquisher of the
Saddam Hussein regime, they aim to
rehabilitate the country, which means
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum. His e-mail address is
sticking around. As liberator of the
country, they must respond to Iraqi
wishes, which means getting out fast.
What to do? If coalition forces leave
Iraq precipitously, anarchy and extrem-
ism would result. Stay too long, they
will face an anti-imperialist backlash of
sabotage and terrorism. Hold elections
too fast, the Khomeini-like mullahs
will probably win. Keep the country
under an occupation force and an
intifada (uprising) would rear up.
The U.S. and United Kingdom gov-
ernments need to square the circle put
the country to right while getting out
of the way and bring about democracy
without letting the Iranians take over.
I offer two pieces of advice:
• Plan for the long haul. Building a
full democracy (meaning, regularly
voting the head of government out of
office) takes time. From the Magna
Carta in 1215 to the Reform Act of
1832, England needed six centuries.
The United States needed over a cen-
tury. Things have sped up and these
days, but it still takes 20 or more years
to reach full democracy. That was the
timetable in countries as varied as
South Korea, Chile, Poland, and
• Plan for a gradual transition. A
population emerging from 30 years in
the dungeon cannot cope with all the
choices of full democracy, but must
the local level. The press
should inch toward full free-
dom, political parties should
grow organically and the par-
liament should gain in author-
ity. The Shiites can develop
democratic ideas, uninflu-
Someone In Charge
enced by Khomeinism.
Who should fill the all-
Therefore: Iraq needs — and I
important role of strongman?
write these words with some
The ideal candidate would be
trepidation — a democratical-
ly minded Iraqi strongman.
Comm entary politically moderate but opera-
tionally tough: someone with
This may sound like a contra-
an ambition to steer Iraq
diction but it has happened
toward democracy and good neighbor-
elsewhere, for example by Ataturk in
Turkey and Chiang Kai-shek in
As for the coalition forces, after
Taiwan. Yes, it goes against every
installing a strongman, they should
American instinct ("Democracy Now!"
phase out their visible role and pull
is the name of a national radio show)
back to a few military bases away from
but that's not a reason to reject it.
population centers. From these, they
Democracy is a learned habit, not
can quietly serve as the military part-
instinct. The infrastructure of a civil
ner of the new government, guarantee-
society — such as freedom of speech,
ing its ultimate security and serving as
freedom of movement, freedom of
a constructive influence for the entire
assembly, the rule of law, minority
rights, and an independent judiciary
The approach outlined here under-
— needs to be established before hold-
ing elections. Deep attitudinal changes cuts the rage of anti-imperialism,
finesses the almost certain violence
must take place as well: a culture of
against coalition troops, and prevents
restraint, a commonality of values, a
the Iranians from colonizing Iraq. But
respect for differences of view and a
the window of opportunity is closing
sense of civic responsibility.
rapidly; unless the coalition appoints a
Such institutions and views will
very soon, it will not
need years to grow in Iraq. In the
achieve its ambitious goals.
meantime, elections should begin on
get there in steps.
Democratically minded auto-
crats can guide the country to
full democracy better than
Palestinian Good Will?
stricken hovels that the Israelis have
no choice but to blow up every other
day because they are making little
bombs. They are making big bombs
inside apartment houses.
"I think we should be allowed to
decide our leadership, and not the
Israelis and the Americans," a shop-
keeper huffed to CNN. Now, if I
were a reporter, I'd ask what has
been so wonderful about past
Palestinian choices? I mean, these
people chose of their own free will,
to support the monster Saddam
Hussein of Iraq. Twice! They chose
Arafat, and guess what folks... they
still want him!
Even the cosmetic change of the
Holocaust denier, and the perpetra-
tor of the Kfar Darom crime against
humanity (Former Gaza Security
Chief and now P.A. Security
Minister Mohammed Dahlan's men
blew up a school bus) isn't enough to
Naomi Regan is a New York City author convince them to give up Yasser. No
sirree. And as we all know, the
who made aliyah in 1972. Her e-mail
Palestinian people deserve what they
address is firstname.lastname@example.org
was watching CNN interview
Palestinians about the
appointment of Abu Mazen as
prime minister-designate of
the Palestinian Authority (P.A.).
I'd like to tell President George W.
Bush and Secretary of State Colin
Powell the sad truth: If you are forc-
ing Israel to accept a cosmetic
change in the terrorist regime of
leader Yasser Arafat to placate the so-
called Palestinians and their support-
ers, you are going to be sadly disap-
The Palestinians, it seems accord-
ing to their "man in the street"
brought to you by CNN, are not
happy with Abu Mazen. The
Palestinians, it seems, long for their
fearless leader, the one that has
stolen their money, killed their chil-
dren and put them into poverty-
trusted. I would like a good-
want. And get what they
will gesture on their part.
I have a few in mind:
What I don't understand is
• Cessation of terror videos
why and how my govern-
ment is back to square one
• Rounding up of illegal
considering "gestures" of
weapons in one Palestinian
good will to bolster Abu
Mazen and make him more
• The replacement of anti-
acceptable to the Palestinians!
Semitic school books in one
I would think if there is a
crisis of confidence here
about further "agreements"
What about a good will
that call for Israel to give up
gesture from the Palestinians
its security patrols amidst
to us for a change? If the people
dozens of terrorist alerts every, single
involved in forcing this plan down
day, that the goodwill gestures to
our throats really wanted to achieve
inspire renewed confidence should
peace, they would insist on all these
be corning from the Palestinians. I'm
things before talks began. The com-
not a politician, just an ordinary
plete absence of discussion on these
Israeli who has witnessed the bloody
subjects is revealing.
aftermath of gesture after good-will
The road map is the way Europe
gesture on the part of Israel to the
gets its own back against America.
terrorist-state in the making that
We should not be helping to spread
will, God forbid, be called Palestine.
this myth. We should be fighting,
I would like one good reason —
kicking and screaming every step of
Mr. Bush, Mr. Powell — to believe
that this time the Palestinians can be