CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

How Do We Build Democracy In Iraq? Identifying the Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Effort to Bring Stable Democracy to Iraq

Philip Tassin, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Ian Lustick

Date of this Version: 30 March 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.



The project to build a stable democracy in Iraq presents an unparalleled opportunity to better understand the processes of democratization, and to therefore improve our grand theories about how democracy emerges. In order to do this, it is crucial to first know what theories are invoked or suggested by U.S. policy in Iraq. The purpose of this paper, therefore, is to identify the theoretical foundations of the intellectual debate within the U.S. foreign policy community concerning democratization in Iraq. It is my hope that by knowing what theoretical approaches are implied in the policies and recommendations of foreign policy elites, we may also know better how these approaches have stood up to the test of real world application. The subjects of this analysis are not only government officials, but also anyone who has had a significant influence in the discourse within the U.S. foreign policy establishment. This includes public commentators, academics, and former advisors to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. The arguments each of these opinion leaders make can be grouped into four theoretical approaches—democratic universalism, political culture, sequentialism, and rational choice. Opinion leaders rarely adhere exclusively to one approach, and their application of multiple approaches frequently leads to incompatibilities. I identify which approaches are used, inconsistencies in argument, and deeper problems with the theoretical approaches themselves. Finally, I examine the implications of the experience in Iraq for the theoretical approaches, finding that while democratic universalism has been nearly discredited, the other three approaches do still offer useful frameworks for understanding democratization, despite their own shortcomings.

Suggested Citation

Tassin, Philip, "How Do We Build Democracy In Iraq? Identifying the Theoretical Foundations of the U.S. Effort to Bring Stable Democracy to Iraq" 30 March 2007. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 26 April 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.




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