The respected commentator on the Middle East, Irwin N. Graulich,
whose opinion I usually respect, recently suggested that we must
stay the course in Iraq and "guide" Iraq to "Democracy"
with a very heavy hand. What he recommends is no less than an occupation
similar to the occupation of Germany or of Japan post WWII. I find
several real problems with this proposal. Let us look closely at
the proposal and at its possible consequences.
As I began to read his commentary, I read this amazing phrase, "How
dare the Iraqis believe they are wise and mature enough to select
their own leaders." The sentence drew me in like a large
minnow on a hook I couldn't see. I enjoy humor and satire, and I
couldn't believe that this statement was written with his tongue
anywhere but tightly in his cheek. I have often contended that the
Right and the Left in extremis differ little in outcome.
The difference in the end is rationale, not position. The Left wants
to legislate our behavior to "protect" us from our inevitable
"stupid" decisions. We need to wear seatbelts and motorcycle
helmets for our own protection. We "need" comprehensive
health care and tobacco prohibition to keep us healthy. And, incidentally,
we need all of this so that we can keep the bureaucrats working.
The Right wants to legislate our behavior to "protect"
us from our inevitable "wrong" decisions. We need to make
abortion illegal to "protect" the "unborn."
They desire to protect us from making the wrong decisions and they
know what the wrong decisions are because they are, by definition,
"Right." They seem to believe that they can make better
decisions about how we should run our lives than we can. Poppycock!
What right do we have to select the right person to "run"
Iraq? Jefferson, (though highly recommended by Mr. Graulich as an
ideal for the Iraqis), is not the right person even to run the United
States right now, and many of his ideas including holding slaves,
have been buried along with him. The path to maturity for an individual
and/or a government is through trial and error. There is an old
story about the rich and sage man being asked how he became so rich
and sage. His answer was "I make lots of right decisions."
The next question he was asked was, of course, "How do you
develop the ability to make lots of right decisions?" His answer
this time was "making lots of wrong decisions."
We learn by trial and error and mostly by error. We cannot shortcut
the process. A child deprived of the experience of failure will
never know the taste of success. The birth pangs of statehood for
Iraq cannot be suffered for Iraq by the American people. We have
helped as much as we can. What is needed now is that we display
and exert the gentlest possible guidance of a caring and loving
parent. Remember that we had selected our candidate to run Iraq,
and it now looks as though he was a spy for Iran. Remember that
part of the problem in Iraq is that we backed Saddam Hussein in
the Iraq - Iran war. We bet on Iraq as we bet on the Taliban in
their war against the Soviet Union. We have surely proven our own
inability to pick a winner in that part of the world -neither in
the interests of the people to be governed, nor in the best long
term interests of the U. S.
The time for colonies and paternalistic states has passed in this
world. The people of Iraq and the people of the United States will
not allow a policy which will short-leash the incoming Iraqi government
or even a policy which will determine with a heavy hand the nature
and form of that government. Democracy is not bundt cake. Democracy
is not defined by its form. Even the American democratic republic
is in ongoing evolution determined by changing times and conditions.
For those of you who are not familiar with the history of the vast
area loosely called the Middle East, all of the States of the Middle
East are the fallout of the destruction of the Ottoman hegemony.
The borders of these States were drawn by the all-wise French and
British victors of the Great War, (later known as WWI). The British,
French and the League of Nations set up governments in their Colonies,
Protectorates and Mandatory territories. From that date to this,
only one true democracy has emerged in the entire area. That
democracy is The thorn in the side of all the other
States in the area. That democracy is given as the reason that the
entire region is in turmoil. That democracy is the only true and
constant friend that the United States has in the area. I am, of
course, speaking of Israel, the State that stood beside the United
States even when the United States did not stand beside her.
My friend, Irwin N. Graulich, writes, "Arab pride seems
to trump everything else. Iraqis would prefer a terrible choice
that they make themselves, rather than a great choice by an American.
Talk about immaturity." Immaturity persists where dependence
is fostered. We have proven this in our own country, passing legislation
to "protect" certain classes and ending up with large
"entitlements" which not only eat up a huge chunk of our
national budget, but also guarantee the dependents of those entitlements
a permanent place on the rolls of those "entitlements."
These "entitlements" foster immaturity among leaders of
industry, farmers, and the disabled and unemployed alike. "Entitlement"
guarantees this immaturity by rewarding failure. We cannot protect
the Iraqi people either from failure or from its effects if we truly
wish them to succeed. We must, at the same time, be willing to suffer
as we see Iraq make "mistakes" in its path to a stable
democracy of its own design. We made and make mistakes on our path,
why shouldn't they?
We cannot protect our children from injury by telling them how we
were injured. We cannot protect them by removing all chance for
them to injure themselves. We cannot even suffer their injuries
for them. It is a rite of passage from immaturity to maturity. Let
us step back from what the Iraqis can do for themselves and perhaps
we can dedicate our efforts in Iraq to finding and destroying the
vast weapons and ammunition stores that still exist. In the long
run, one million RPG rounds are, of themselves, a weapon of mass
Let us help the Iraqi people on the road to maturity by stepping
back and applauding their victories. Forget the small stuff and
move on to our larger role of Senior State, guided by Senior Statesmen.
Let us show the path and lead the way with willing followers, not
(c) 2004 Rabbi Haim Cassorla
To contact Rabbi Haim Cassorla, please send emails to: Rabbi