Jackson Diehl is still trying to justify the Iraq war:
Iraq, however, looks a lot like what Syria, and much of the rest of the Arab Middle East, might hope to be.
Iraq has a semi-authoritarian government ruled by a sectarian majority leadership. Iraq has suffered hundreds of thousands killed, millions displaced internally or sent into exile, and it continues to be classed among the unfree nations and non-democratic governments of the world. Is that what Syria might hope to be? I went through Iraq’s rankings from the Economist Intelligence Unit and Freedom House the last time someone at the Post made such an unfounded claim, and this is what I found:
The result of this “functioning democracy” is a state that is listed by Freedom House as not free, and it is categorized by the Economist Intelligence Unit as barely qualifying as a “hybrid regime” rather than an authoritarian state. In the overall EIU score for Iraq, it leads such models of free government Madagascar and Kuwait by just .06 and .12 respectively. Those two are in the authoritarian category. The EIU rates the functioning of the Iraqi government at 0.79 on a scale of 10. Other countries on the list that boast similar “functioning of government” ratings are Liberia, Togo, Tajikistan, and Equatorial Guinea. A better term for Iraq would be the Arab world’s most dysfunctional hybrid state. Kazakhstan outscores Iraq on civil liberties, and Russia ranks ahead of Iraq in terms of electoral process and pluralism. For political culture, it is tied with Jordan and Azerbaijan.
Considering how awful political conditions in Iraq are, and in light of how much the war cost Iraqis, there is no reason why any other nation would look to the Iraqi experience as a model. One of the problems Iraq war dead-enders have is that they refuse to acknowledge what Iraq has become, which leads them to say ridiculous things about how much people in neighboring countries must wish that their lands were invaded in the name of democracy promotion. Indeed, Diehl says just this about Syria:
Before another year has passed, Syrians may well find themselves wishing that it [an invasion] had happened to them.
Syrian protesters have suffered horribly under Assad’s crackdown, and thousands of them have been killed, but somehow I’m guessing that the vast majority of the population isn’t eager to experience the devastation of their country. One million Iraqi refugees still live in Syria, reminding Syrians every day of the costs of the Iraq war, so it is unlikely that there are many Syrians who see these refugees and think, “Oh, if only that could be me!” Something that Diehl fails to mention is that the Iraqi government is providing valuable support to keep Assad and his regime afloat. Perhaps he doesn’t read his own paper, which published this story over the weekend:
More than six months after the start of the Syrian uprising, Iraq is offering key moral and financial support to the country’s embattled president, undermining a central U.S. policy objective and raising fresh concerns that Iraq is drifting further into the orbit of an American arch rival — Iran.
It’s not as if this is the first time Iraqi support for Assad has been reported. The idea that post-invasion Iraq would serve a model for the political transformation of the region was always a fantasy, but it is even more so when the government of the so-called “model” country is lending support to its authoritarian neighbor to suppress local protests. There is no way of knowing how Hussein’s government would have reacted to a similar crackdown by Assad had there never been an invasion, but we can be reasonably sure that his regime would have been much less inclined to prop up an Iranian ally. Assad is likely receiving support from the Iraqi government today that he would never have received if the war had never taken place.