IT DIDNíT TAKE LONG for reality to set in. Just days after some Iraqi citizens hailed US troops as liberators, it became clear why the occupation will be far more difficult than the invasion.
Food, water, and electricity remain in short supply in many parts of Iraq. Resentment over American power and anguish over civilian casualties, many involving children, have left Operation Iraqi Freedom sounding more like a marketing campaign than a truthful description of what has taken place. Weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found. The US did little to stop widespread looting, a development that should have been anticipated. Huge contracts for politically wired American firms such as Bechtel bear at least the appearance of impropriety. Longstanding alliances with Europe and around the world are in tatters.
Yet there is no question that Iraq is a freer, if more chaotic, place than it was before March 19, when the first American missiles fell on Baghdad. It is no small irony that some Iraqis are staging demonstrations to demand that the US leave: similar protests against the regime of Saddam Hussein would have led to certain torture and execution. Regardless of oneís opinion before the war, today there is, at long last, the possibility of something better for Iraqís long-suffering people.
The Phoenix asked eight experts on foreign policy and the Middle East for their views on what should happen next. They commented on the challenges, the dangers, what the US should do to mend its fractured alliances, the aggressive rhetoric that the White House is aiming at Syria and Iran, and the wisdom of continuing to treat Saudi Arabia, arguably the most prolific sponsor of Islamist terror, as a friend and ally. Seven were interviewed; an eighth, Khaled Abou El Fadl, shared his thoughts in response to an e-mail query. Edited excerpts follow.
Samantha Power: How to lose friends and make enemies
The trait that we have revealed in our diplomacy and in our intervention, it seems to me, is the trait that we need to bury as quickly as possible. And that is a kind of hubristic righteousness ó a belief that we possess, epistemologically, certain truths about the way the world should be. It can come in the form of moralism or just bullying. But if thereís any phase of this process in which we need to be solicitous of local opinion and creative in terms of a multiplicity of models for how things can get done, nowís the time. And yet thereís nothing in the lead-up to this moment that leaves me confident ó or many Iraqis confident, frankly ó that we are capable of that kind of deference or, fundamentally, that weíre capable of listening.
We have alienated global opinion in a way that no previous administration has done. Thatís saying something. Instead of thinking about the morning after simply in terms of nation-building in Iraq, we have to do our own " internation-building " in terms of restoring at least some legitimacy to our standing internationally. As much as people may have criticized us and resented our power all these years, there was still a certain legitimacy that the United States had as a voice on certain issues. I donít think it has that anymore, and it needs to retrieve it ó not just for the people abroad who might be the beneficiaries of a new way of thinking about US foreign policy, but also from the standpoint of security.
Itís hard to know how to deal with liberalization in cultures that have been repressed for a long time, that donít have strong civil societies. But for the United States, of all countries, to be talking about human rights just rings very, very hollow in light of all the objections to our policy in Israel ó the perception that weíre hard on one side and not on the other, and that we donít contest the settlements or human-rights abuses committed by Israeli soldiers, and so on. Plus the fact that we have turned our back on international treaties and not been a global citizen, I think, makes people, even democrats, the leading lights in these repressed societies, very squeamish about being associated with the United States.
The worst thing for the dissidents in Iran would be for America to take their side. It would tarnish the whole enterprise. Syriaís another question. Syriaís really tricky. I think if we could get our policy in Israel straight, then you get a sort of credibility to convene Arab governments that have a civil society with ó hopefully, you still have a few allies in Europe and elsewhere ó and actually start to have the difficult conversation about how one can liberalize.
The administration is predicating so much of its policy now on the notion that it is better to be feared than liked. And certainly not being feared when it comes to terrorism and terrorists just makes you a target if youíre perceived to be wimpy. That was the case in the í90s, when we werenít feared because of the " skinned-knee syndrome " ó the perception was that if you scratch an American soldierís knee, they go running home. But this is just off-the-charts going in the other direction. To make yourself the most feared and despised country in recorded history, I think, is generally not a good idea. Maybe itís just me, but it doesnít seem like a great plan.
The default always has to be against war and against military responses. Look how many Iraqis are going to have been killed in this thing. We donít even have a sense of the harm thatís been done.
Samantha Power is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for her book " A Problem from Hell " : America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2002). She is the founder of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, at Harvardís Kennedy School of Government.
Fareed Zakaria: Yes to democracy, no to early elections
The single-most-important danger we face is that because we will need to create legitimacy for the new government, for our own involvement there, we will hold elections very quickly. If we do that, we will arrest the process of building the institutions of liberty ó the rule of law, the separation of powers, the institution and creation of a market economy. All these bulwarks of genuine democracy will go by the wayside, and the raw political contest will begin. The point is not to abolish elections ó far from it. Itís to sequence this properly so that you get the inner stuffings of democracy before you get the outer shell.
I donít think itís a good idea for us to go it alone ó not out of any deference to the international community, but out of our own self-interest. We are going to have to stay involved in Iraq for a long time if we want to make good on our own promise to leave behind, as the president says, constitutions and parliaments. In that circumstance there is a real danger that we will become the target, that our presence will be called imperialism. It will be much better to internationalize that presence, to bring other countries in, and thus to make the effort there international assistance rather than American occupation. I think we should also try to make amends with some of our allies. But let me be frank: I also think that some of our allies need to make amends with us. We may have acted undiplomatically and unilaterally, but certainly so did the government of France.
There is virtually no prospect of us going to war with Syria or Iran. That suggests that the United States really will pre-emptively pick and choose what countries it will go to war with, which is not true. In Iraq we had a very strong legal basis for action. Iraq had violated the terms of the ceasefire of the first Gulf War, it had been in violation of UN resolutions for 12 years ó there is a whole litany of reasons why Iraq was in breach of international law and international agreements. That is simply not the case with Syria or Iran.
In the case of the Saudi regime, much of the support for Al Qaeda was either unintentional or nongovernmental. In the case of Syria, what youíre dealing with is a desire to be a friend and provide succor to all kinds of nasty people and groups in the Middle East. I do think the administration is right in trying to call them to task on it. I would be a little careful in rattling the saber too much, because, you know, at the end of the day weíre not going to draw the sword, so you donít want to have your bluff called. Thatís a delicate dance. But, fundamentally, the Syrians and the Iranians need to understand that we look unhappily on their trucking with these various unsavory groups.
Fareed Zakaria is the author of The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (W.W. Norton, 2003) and the editor of Newsweek International.