I am always baffled by those who think that it’s foolish to try to establish democracy in a society which has no democratic tradition. What do they say about the fact that most of the world was undemocratic, indeed tyrannical, for millenia, and then democracy gained a foothold in the last quarter of the 18th century, when every “modern” country underwent some sort of democratic revolution. Sometimes it succeeded, sometimes not, but in all cases it was aimed against a very well established non-democratic government.
If you read the highbrow literature during WWII, you will find powerful claims, written by serious scholars, that Germany and Japan cannot possibly become democratic. Eppur, si muove. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t smooth and it required the greatest instrument of democratic change in modern times: the US Armed Forces. And good presidents like Ike.
Was Iraq hopeless? I don’t know, but the strategy was certainly badly designed and atrociously executed, replete with appalling corruption etc etc. But I am not prepared to accept the dictum that the very idea of democracy in Iraq was crazy. A lot of Iraqis risked their lives to vote, after all…they wanted a democratic polity.