For democracy to succeed, losers must be willing to lose they must `lose gracefully'. Equally important, winners must not push the losers into subversion they must `win gracefully'.
In his excellent book on Democracy and the Market, Adam Przeworski 1 points out that in transitions from tyranny to democracy, democracy succeeds only when the process is not undone. For success, the losers should not try to subvert the process, but go along with losing.
Likewise, the winners must also act gracefully. Otherwise the winners will persuade the losers that they have nothing more to lose.
If the losers are bad guys, they will not avoid subversion from the goodness in their hearts. Bad guys will avoid subversion only because they calculate that going along is better for them in the long run. Perhaps they will win next time. Or, in any event, they hope to gain more benefits by being good losers than by fighting.
In Iraq, at the moment, the Sunni are losers. They no longer rule the Shi'ites and Kurds. Moreover, the winners, the Shi'ites, want justice. The Shi'ites want justice for the murder and torture they suffered from various Sunni, some of whom can be identified as individuals. Quite simply, many Shi'ites would like to do unto the Sunni what the Sunni have done to them.
Some Shi'ites in Iraq, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, seek an election quickly. It looks to me that the Shi'ites wish to gain sufficent power to seek justice on their terms. They are a majority of the population in Iraq. No one doubts that they would win an election.
Clearly, a sense of fairness favors their seeking justice. But it is impolitic. Such action would repeat what has gone before. Instead, with the exception of a few individuals, the losers must be protected.
A democracy in Iraq needs strong institutions to prevent the winners from convincing the losers that they will have nothing to lose if they continue fighting. Enough Sunni must be convinced that it is better to go along with losing than it is to further efforts to regain the kind of power that will server to deter the Shi'ites after the US leaves; or else they must be convinced that they do have the power to protect themselves again the Shi'ites.
At the moment, the majority of people in Iraq have no reason to want institutions that limit their power and their right to seek justice. Hence, the United States occupation forces must both protect US enemies, the Sunni, and create armed forces among them to defend themselves. Or else the US must accept that it has done nothing to change the culture in the Middle East, and also has made itself look less potent and be more hated.
For various political reasons, the Bush Administration might decide to pull out of Iraq before the November 2004 elections. Or a Kerry Administration, if elected, might decide to pull out. In both situations, such a withdrawal would likely leave the culture untouched, the majority with considerable power, and the losers with a feeling that the only way to protect themselves is through fighting, and not ever by taking part in a democracy.
Put another way, the key to fair elections in Iraq is to impose countervailing forces that will, in many ways, reduce fairness.
To talk only about elections, and not about these countervailing forces, is to favor Shi'ites who have good reason to favor justice for themselves, and no experience with tolerance. If effect, such talk is to favor civil war, and its accompanying looting, torture, and murder.
Return to: Notions
Or return to: Rattlesnake Home Page