past as prologue in iraq

the following quote made my stomach churn:

We . . . imagined that we had bestowed on the Iraqis all these blessings of democracy. … Nothing could be more undemocratic than the result. A handful of politicians obtained possession of the machinery of government, and all the elections were rigged. . . . In this process they all became very rich.

is this colin powell predicting the failures of the bush doctrine in iraq? a left-wing pundit putting forward his ‘told-you-so’ vision? it almost seems like it could be, but it’s not. in fact, it was Major John Glubb who wrote those words; he was the british officer who organized the Arab Legion, and he was speaking about the failure of british policy in iraq after it invaded the country during world war I.

a more extensive commentary on past lust-for-oil incursions in iraq can be found in a commentary by edwin black. mr. black has also written an article expressing his belief in the futility of elections in iraq.

the similarity of current and past circumstances is eerie, although each situation was spawned by a different set of events. regardless, it brings to mind santyana’s famous quote that "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

do people in iraq want a western-style democracy? some of them probably do; lots of them probably don’t. will elections, held jan. 30 or otherwise, magically create a stable democracy in iraq? it seems highly unlikely. will elections instead lead to deepening ethnic and religious conflict, and ultimately civil war? as the magic eight ball would say, "Outlook Not Good."…

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