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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, January 09, 2006

Coup in Iraq

A column in the LA Times argues that the return of dictatorship in Iraq in inevitable.

[T]he mere fact of an election cannot change a fundamental truth about Iraq: Saddam Hussein governed as a brutal dictator not simply because he was cruel but also because of the treacherous political landscape that destabilized his relationship with his own military. Hussein was highly vulnerable to a military coup, and future Iraqi leaders will be just as susceptible. Regardless of the election's outcome, a coup will probably follow a U.S. pullout, and Iraq will again be ruled by a dictator.

They know a coup is inevitable because of historical research:

The test looks at three factors. First, the strength of a nation's civil society, which is based on the number and robustness of civic organizations such as political parties, unions, social clubs and the like. Second, a nation's history of past coups. A recent coup increases the score; past coups are a good predictor of future coups, because the violent overthrow of a government undermines institutions, such as courts and legislatures, that check instability...the third dimension of our coup-risk test, refers to whether citizens accede to the state's right to make society's rules. When a political system enjoys legitimacy, the armed forces are unlikely to try to take control.

The article then argues that life under Saddam was more stable:

Before the U.S. invaded, Iraq performed well — that is, it showed a low risk for military takeover — in only one area: it hadn't had a coup in more than 30 years. But that very fact meant that Iraq scored dismally on the other two factors. That's because to prevent coups, Hussein ruthlessly cut off challenges to his power, executing or jailing high-ranking generals, for example. Such actions don't nurture a civil society or create political legitimacy.Hussein also imprisoned, tortured and executed would-be organizers of civil society: intellectuals, artists, clerics and politicians who demonstrated an independent streak. He may or may not have understood that civic groups act as a guard against coups, but he clearly realized that they also can be the source of popular revolutions. Had Hussein allowed Iraqi civil society to prosper, he might have ended up overthrown, like the shah next door in Iran.

Certainly a coup is possible in Iraq. But, the article left out any fact that would make a coup unlikely. For example, the article cites institutions as a very important factor but fails to cite the three most important instituions in Iraq; that being the Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish ethinic groups. These institutions are so solid that a coup from one group will most certainly be opposed by the other two.

The article also assumes we will just leave Iraq and then forget about it like we did in Vietnam. This is ridiculous. America may not be in Iraq proper, but it will influence Iraq for the next 50 years at a minimum. We will have forces in the middle east until we cease to be a world power. Further, the Coalition is in the process of professionalizing the Iraq military to the extent that it will be so intertwined with America and other western militaries that a coup means Iraqi military leaders will have to abandon the comfort of being allied with the greatest military power on earth. A good comparison is the Turkish military where integration with NATO made the military in Turkey the most dependable institution.

Certainly, a coup is always possible. However, such an analysis needs to be fair and discuss both the positive and negative influences on a potential coup.

This article is also a great example of the typical cynicism and defeatism about Iraq. it reminds me of the core paleocon argument that the Iraq war is a failure because arabs cannot be democratic. Hmm...