Ah, Diana West. She’s been sour on the Iraq war for a long time now. Reading her columns has a kind of morbid fascination - what is the current doom and gloom on our war efforts?
That being said, I doubt Feith is entirely correct. I think that al Qaeda and the Baathists can be blamed for a great deal of the problems in post-Saddam Iraq. Al Qaeda had a strategy of inciting sectarian warfare in Iraq, and it may be that without their meddling sectarian violence never would have erupted the way it did. I’m not convinced that giving the Iraqis power immediately would have had such a chilling effect on al Qaeda terrorists - or disgruntled Baathists.
But we will never know what would have happened if the CPA was never created; we can only guess.
I think that’s a good take on the article. West is right about some things, but her consistent insistence in denigrating Islamic culture as being “barbaric” and 6th century merely displays her ignorance of history, including the history of western culture—which itself was saved by the fact that Islamic scholars preserved so much of the classical culture that invigorated the Renaissance. But I digress.
You are correct to point to the Baathists as the main wellspring of problems in the early stages. Too many people miss the fact that the Baathists are, at root, anti-clerical and for the most part, National Socialists. They are little different from Nazis in terms of their views toward economics and society. They were the main players in the initial insurgency and opened the door (literally) to al-Qaeda when their “stay behind” operations were falling apart. I think there’s little doubt that the CPA was a mistake, if for no other reason than that it delayed a decisive elimination of the insurgency before it turned into a proxy war between the US and its regional enemies. I don’t think the Iranian play would have amounted to much either were it not for the fact that the CPA was so inept at dealing with the Baathist stay-behind operation. The US could have dealt Sadr a fatal blow in 2004 but chose not to in the mistaken belief that Sadr’s army might be of aid in the fight against the insurgency.
Democracy has taken root in Islamic nations at several junctures—it has been because of the misinformed, like West, that those efforts resulted in failure. By not nurturing nascent democracies in Iran, Lebanon, etc., in the 1950s, the US and Europe missed tremendous opporunities to transform international relations.
The current problems in Islamic nations, particularly Iraq and Syria, have far more to do with the invidious influence of French expatriates living in Damascus in the 1940s and 50s, who inspired so-called Arab nationalism, tinged, of course, with socialism. Islamic radicalism is largely a reaction against those influences.
That said, Iraq absolutely can be transformed into a democratic state. The fact that its democracy may not look like Main street is no more cause for distress than the fact that democracy in India (the largest democratic nation on earth) is somewhat different too.