Are the Arabs intrinsically incapable of democracy, as the "realists" imply? True, there are political, historical, even religious reasons why Arabs are less prepared for democracy than, say, East Asians and Latin Americans who successfully democratized over the past several decades. But the problem here is Iraq's particular political culture, raped and ruined by 30 years of Hussein's totalitarianism.
What was left in its wake was a social desert, a dearth of the trust and good will and sheer human capital required for democratic governance. All that was left for the individual Iraqi to attach himself to was the mosque or clan or militia. At this earliest stage of democratic development, Iraqi national consciousness is as yet too weak and the culture of compromise too undeveloped to produce an effective government enjoying broad allegiance.
...Is this America's fault? No. It is a result of Iraq's first democratic election. The United States was not going to replace Saddam Hussein with another tyrant. We were trying to plant democracy in the heart of the Middle East as the one conceivable antidote to extremism and terror -- and, in a country that is nearly two-thirds Shiite, that inevitably meant Shiite domination. It was never certain whether the long-oppressed Shiites would have enough sense of nation and sense of compromise to govern rather than rule. The answer is now clear: United in a dominating coalition, they do not.
It's hard to even know where to start in dissecting this "argument." I would ask first, why didn't we know going into Iraq that the Iraqis were not prepared to make the great leap into democracy starting only months after the invasion? Well wait...we did:
The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.
So if we did know that, and invaded anyway...how is it not our fault?
But Krauthammer is even more dishonest than that. Let's go back to what he said in October of 2005, on how well things were going in Iraq:
These others -- the overwhelming majority of Iraq's people -- have repeatedly given every indication of valuing their newfound freedom: voting in two elections at the risk of their lives, preparing for a third, writing and ratifying a constitution granting more freedoms than exist in any country in the entire Arab Middle East. "The secret is out," says Fouad Ajami. "There is something decent unfolding in Iraq. It's unfolding in the shadow of a terrible insurgency, but a society is finding its way to constitutional politics."
So last year the Iraqis were giving "every indication of valuing their newfound freedom" and this year "Iraqi national consciousness is as yet too weak and the culture of compromise too undeveloped to produce an effective government enjoying broad allegiance." I will say that the former statement does not comport with the latter. Krauthammer was obviously not paying attention; the violent insurgency, the dominance of the government by the Shiites, and the death squads that were running around at about the same time Krauthammer wrote his column are "indications" that not all Iraqis were "valuing their newfound freedom" so much as they were trying to deprive other Iraqis of theirs. But at least Krauthammer isn't one of those fabled "realist" who believe that Arabs are genetically incapable of democracy.
The real problem I have with Krauthammer, the problem I have with about every single pundit on the right, is the incredible dishonesty they engage in when writing about Iraq (and more, but that's another post.) What they write, is whatever they need to write at the time that they write it. There's no consistency, no honesty, no admission of error. Only the trumpeting of the latest "definitive" statement on the "true" situation in Iraq (and usually a shot at anyone who dares to think differently.)
Krauthammer was wrong about Iraq. He was wrong before we invaded, he's been wrong at every turn since the invasion, and he's wrong now. If there were any justice in the world, he would resign from writing about the whole mess in Iraq after issuing a public statement of sorrow for serving as a propagandist for the Bush administration, and he would retreat to the top of a mountain in the Himalayas where he would reflect on the error of his ways (where he would be joined by Christopher Hitchens, the staff of the National Review and the Weekly Standard, and all right-wing bloggers.) Alas, that will not happen and assuredly Krauthammer will continue feeding us his absurdities about Iraq. And we will continue to point out how wrong he is.