Daniel Pipes argues that Iraq needs to be governed by a democratically-minded strongman during a transition to full-blown democracy, lest an immature political culture elect something far worse: an Iranian style Shi’ite theocracy.

Democracy is a learned habit, not instinct. The infrastructure of a civil society – such as freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, the rule of law, minority rights and an independent judiciary – needs to be established before holding elections. Deep attitudinal changes must take place as well: a culture of restraint, a commonality of values, a respect for differences of view and a sense of civic responsibility.

Such institutions and views will need years to grow in Iraq. In the meantime, elections should begin on the local level. The press should inch toward full freedom, political parties should grow organically, parliament should gain in authority. The Shi’ites can develop democratic ideas, uninfluenced by Khomeinism.

I’m not sure that his solution is correct, but his concern clearly is. Simply writing a constitution for Iraq and then standing aside is not going to work here and we can’t stay indefinitely as an army of occupation without being viewed as colonial overlords.

(Hat tip: RealClear Politics)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.