A somewhat disturbing, if unsurprising, report from CSMonitor.com, that parts of southern Iraq are falling under a very strict religious piety similar to that in Iran. The article introduces speculation that this change may, in fact, be sponsored by Iran - no big surprise there. But this raises a number of questions - how do you encourage democracy to flourish in the face of a fervent, anti-democratic faith (ain't no electoral college voting on the 12th Imam)? how will the US promote a pluralistic society that makes room for both faith and secular political activity? will federalism solve the problem or only create religious enclaves, each with their own rule of law? can a society with no real history of democracy successfully make the transition from despotism?
On that final question: I don't think there is anything inherent about Arabs or Muslims that will prevent them from fostering successful, free democracies - they're people and it can be done. The problem is that our democracy took a while to get rolling and our polity was formed from a conglomeration of many different groups, ideologies and backgrounds. This forced us into compromise and it made things slow-going until everyone got used to the system. The problem in Iraq is that there is a history of political corruption and antagonism between relatively few groups - they will have to learn to overcome their history of distrust and animosity just to get to a point where they can realistically approach questions of governance and law. Some may argue that the constitutional process currently underway is proof that is already occurring, but I think such an assertion is unfounded. That system may work for a while, but I believe the whole thing may be scrapped, eventually, as the Iraqi people and Iraqi culture develop in this new age. In 10 years, will Iraqis view the constitution prepared at the behest of the coalition forces as still valid, or even relevant? If the southern Shiites make a move to religious fundamentalism or are manipulated into seeking a more theocratic government by Iran, how will the country respond? How will the US respond?
On another point - earlier I discussed issues of proportionality. Another tenet of Just War Doctrine (JWD) is a reasonable chance of success. If our goal was to reshape the Middle East in more democratic, Western-friendly ways, do we still have a reasonable chance of pulling that off? Did we ever? I think its clear the Bush administration vastly underestimated the requirements of this task. No matter how good the intentions might have been, is naievete or ignorance a legitimate excuse in light of the moral requirements of war? Can a war still be just if the instigators didn't plan well and didn't anticipate likely outcomes?