Rumsfeld does not seek “democracy” for Iraq

If we read carefully Secretary Rumsfeld’s article in the Wall Street Journal, it becomes clear that he is not seeking “democracy” per se in Iraq. First, he speaks of the hope that Iraq will become a “free country,” a “representative democracy.” These expressions are already an improvement over the usual sloganeering, which uses the word “democracy” without any qualification at all. Rumsfeld continues:

We are committed to helping the Iraqi people get on that path to a free society. We do not have an American “template” we want to impose: Iraqis will figure out how to build a free nation in a manner that reflects their unique culture and traditions.

Then he gets to his list of particulars:

What President Bush has outlined are some broad principles that are critical if Iraq’s transition from tyranny is to succeed: that Iraq be a single country, which does not support terrorists, threaten its neighbors or the world with weapons of mass destruction, or threaten its diverse population with terror and repression; that it have a government that respects and protects minorities, provides opportunities for its people through a market economy, and justice through an independent judiciary and rule of law.

These are core principles that undergird the world’s diverse community of free nations. The coalition will seek out Iraqis who support these principles, and who desire to have a role in their country’s future. Those who oppose these principles—whose agenda is to replace Saddam Hussein’s tyranny with some other form of dictatorship—will be opposed.

Notice that NONE of the principles in Rumsfeld’s list include democracy, whether the pure type, i.e., a government chosen by one-person, one-vote election of the entire citizenry, or some kind of federal, mixed system like our own. He says, in essence, that President Bush wants Iraq to be a civilized, safe country with rule of law and a free economy. Moreover, the freedom he’s speaking of is personal liberty, i.e., basic human and civil rights, not political liberty, i.e. the right to vote and run for office. So Rumsfeld/Bush are not actually talking about democracy at all. The goals they outline could be met by a monarchy, an aristocracy, or even a benevolent dictator.

But then, after discussing further goals, none of which involve elections, popular rule, or anything like that, he says: “Trial and error. The transition to democracy will take time and may not always be a smooth road.”

So, when it comes to general statements of intention, Rumsfeld speaks of a transition to “democracy,” the obligatory ideal in modern American politics. But when it comes to concrete particulars, he doesn’t mention democracy at all. The rhetoric requires constant bows to “democracy,” but the reality is something else.

Or, at least, that’s the way he’s coming across in this one article.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 27, 2003 12:01 PM | Send


I’ve always held out real hope that Rumsfeld and most of the administration do not operate under the sort of astonishing and terrible illusions imbibed and circulated by their cheerleaders outside of government.

Posted by: Paul Cella on May 27, 2003 11:09 PM
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