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