There are many lessons to take from the Iraq debacle, notes Gerard Russell, who served as an assistant to Iraq’s first elected prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in 2005. The postwar missteps were legion, he writes for The New York Review of Books:
If the Coalition Provisional Authority had enfranchised Iraqis faster, instead of trying to install a blatantly American occupation government; if it had not rushed ahead with de-Baathification and the disbanding of the army; if it had paid more attention to the religious divide that was tearing the country apart—if, if, if. I myself doubt that it could ever have been a success. For one thing, such missteps were inevitable when the CPA’s principal loyalty was not to the Iraqi people but to the American government. Few Iraqis, furthermore, were willing to invest in an occupation that was self-declared to be a short-term one.
“It may be that in order for democracy to succeed in the Middle East, the nature of religion must change as well,” adds Russell, the author of Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East. “Intolerant Islamism may have to weaken before democracy can take root. A sense of national loyalty must take precedence over religious solidarity.”
Panelists: Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs State Secretary Annika Soder; Paige Alexander, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for the Middle East; Paul Hughes, interim operations chief for the Middle East and Africa at the U.S. Institute of Peace; Michele Dunne, director and senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Program [and a board member at the National Endowment for Democracy; and Mohamed Younis, senior analyst at Gallup World Poll.
9 a.m. October 27, 2016. Venue: Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.