One Of Countless Ways Iraq Might Fail

Larison sketches out a possible future:

[O]ne of the last things fledgling democracies in countries with a history of authoritarianism need is a massively oversized military and security apparatus. It is often the case in developing countries that the military can serve as an institution that unites and integrates the nation. This will tend to make it the one institution most of the population trusts and respects. However, with greater prestige and respect comes a willingness to intervene in politics when the elected civilians prove themselves to be incapable of governing effectively and/or relatively honestly.

When experiments in liberalism, democratization and privatization go awry or are associated with extremely negative economic conditions, public confidence in these things disappears. If democratization is followed by dysfunction, corruption, misrule and lack of basic services, military or authoritarian government becomes very attractive. Given the extent of the sectarian politicization of Iraq’s military and police that already exists, and considering the harsh and arbitrary practices of security forces right now, the differences between an authoritarian and a democratic Iraq are not nearly as great as they are supposed to be.

Greg Scoblete follows up.