Terry Jeffrey

Famously, the CIA got the facts wrong about Saddam's WMDs. That caused the national debate on whether to use force against Iraq to be based on an inaccurate assessment of the threat Iraq posed. But McCain also based his case for war on an inaccurate assessment of the chances the United States could create a democracy in Iraq.

"'Experts' who dismiss hopes for Iraqi democracy as naive and the campaign to liberate Iraq's people as dangerously destabilizing do not explain why they believe Iraqis or Arabs are uniquely unsuited to representative government, and they betray a cultural bigotry that ill serves our interests and values," McCain wrote.

In fact, there were serious reasons before the war to conclude it would be difficult to establish a stable government in Iraq, let alone a democracy, if Saddam were removed. One reason was Iraq's well-known ethnic-sectarian divisions -- Sunni, Shiite and Kurd -- and the historic tensions between them. Another was that Iraq was the birthplace of Shiite Islamism, and that many of Saddam's tyrannical acts had been aimed at suppressing leading Shiite Islamists, some of whom had fled to Iran where they plotted an Islamic revolution for their homeland.

It was one thing to conclude that the threat posed by Saddam was great enough to run the risks of destabilizing Iraq. It was another to accuse of "cultural bigotry" those who did not discount that risk.

So back to the question: Should the failure thus far to establish a stable democracy in Iraq be blamed on the management of U.S. troops, or was the concept of using U.S. troops to create an Iraqi democracy flawed?

The fact that not even John McCain is now calling for sending U.S. forces into Pakistan -- a nuclear-armed Islamic country run by a pro-American general who originally took power in a coup -- to shutdown a sanctuary for the leaders of al-Qaida points to an answer.

Sometimes the pursuit of a just cause, no matter how well managed, can cause more problems than it solves.


Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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