Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
Register here for access to the Post's Online Edition.
best intentions, President Bush recently declared that it's
racist to say that Arabs can't build democracies.
I made the
same claim in the run-up to the first Iraqi elections, when
Western leftists desperate for Iraq to fail tried to block
the vote by claiming that the population wasn't ready.
their chance. They got it. They voted. Three times. Each time
along confessional or ethnic lines. They elected ward bosses,
not national leaders. We could have skipped the balloting and
apportioned legislative seats by population shares.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books,
as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both
under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist
for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]
Iraq doesn't have a democracy in any meaningful sense. It isn't
even a nation. Iraqis didn't vote for freedom. They voted for
revenge against each other.
In the immediate aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I argued
that the only realistic solution was to break Iraq into three
pieces. What we lacked the guts to do, elections have done. The
pretense that an Iraqi national identity exists or ever will
exist can be sustained no longer.
Iraq doesn't have a government. It has a collection of warlords,
demagogues and thieves with official titles. It's time to put
our own politics aside and face reality: If Iraq's elected leaders
won't stop looting their country long enough to pull together
and defeat the foreign terrorists, internal insurgents and militias
killing Iraqis, we should not ask our troops to defend them.
Iraqi democracy hasn't yet failed entirely. But it looks as
if it might. President Bush needs to face that possibility. Managing
the regional and global consequences will be his responsibility.
We will have to fight on elsewhere - with more realism and, regrettably,
less idealism. The fools who hope Iraq will fail will face more
wars, not fewer.
Meanwhile, the test for Iraq's elected government is straightforward:
Can it excite Iraqis to a spirit of mortal sacrifice in defense
of a constitutional system? The terrorists, insurgents and militiamen
will die for their beliefs. If other Iraqis will not risk their
lives - in decisive numbers - to seize their unique chance at
freedom, there is no hope.
And Iraq is the entire Arab world's last hope.
As for the charge of racism leveled at skeptics of the Arab
propensity for democracy, it would be true if the discussion
were about individuals. Arabs in the United States are as capable
of functioning within a democratic system as anyone else. They're
just as American as any other citizens - because their families
escaped the Middle East.
Arab states are another story: Their social, political, economic
and cultural structures leave them catastrophically uncompetitive
with the developed world. Societies divided down the middle by
religion, inhibited by tribal loyalties and conditioned to accept
corruption can't build healthy democracies.
Above all, societies and cultures that refuse to accept responsibility
for their own failures can't build democracies.
As difficult as it can be to discern in the hype-and-gripe Internet
age, our own system works because we shoulder the burden of our
errors, seek to understand what went wrong - and fix the problem
(the same may be said of Israel, the only successful democracy
in the Middle East).
A culture of blame prevents moral, social and political progress.
This is a self-help universe. The nonsensical Arab insistence
that all Arab problems are the fault of America and Israel (or
the Crusades) ignores the fact that Arab civilization has been
in decline for 700 years - and has been in utter disarray for
the last 200.
This is a homemade failure. Through their own choices, cherished
beliefs, values and norms, Arabs have condemned themselves to
strategic incompetence. No society that oppresses women, denies
advancement on merit even to men, indulges in fantastic hypocrisy,
wallows in corruption, undervalues secular learning, reduces
its god to a nasty disciplinarian and comforts itself with conspiracy
theories will ever compete with us.
The question has been asked before: Despite the massive influx
of petrodollars over a half-century, where are the great Arab
universities, the research institutes, the cutting-edge industries,
the efficient, humane governments, the enlightened societies?
The Arab world has behaved as irresponsibly as a drunk who won
the lottery, squandering vast wealth and creating nothing beyond
a few urban theme parks.
Even the seeming bright spots, such as Lebanon, aren't true
democracies. The Lebanese voted for clans, tribes and faiths,
not for policies and programs. The Gulf emirates are mere playgrounds
for Saudi debauchees and face the rise of a nuclear Iran. In
Saudi Arabia, religious hatred has long surpassed oil as the
number one export.
Surely, if Arab societies were capable of producing and sustaining
democracies, we would see at least one. Where are the massive
rallies in favor of tolerance, that indispensable lubricant of
democracy? Where are the militias fighting for constitutional
government? Where are the insurgencies demanding female enfranchisement?
It would be racist to claim that Arabs are genetically inferior.
It is simply the truth to admit that Arab societies are volatile
Arab terrorism isn't about redressing wrongs. It's about revenge
on a successful civilization that left the dungeon-cultures of
the Middle East in the dust.
We've done what we could in Iraq, and we've done it nobly. We
should not withdraw our troops precipitously, but the clock is
ticking. It's now up to the Iraqis to succeed - or become yet
another pathetic Arab failure. If Iraqis are unwilling to grasp
the opportunity our soldiers and Marines bought them with American
blood, it's their tragedy, not ours.
We did the right thing by deposing Saddam Hussein. The Arab
Middle East needed one last chance. Iraq is it. If Iraqi democracy
fails, there will be no hope, whatsoever, for the Arab world. CRO
latest book is Never
Quit The Fight.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post