Keynote Address by Fareed
Paper presented at the Fourth Annual Kent State University
Symposium on Democracy
Dr. Zakaria spoke at Kent
fourth Symposium on Democracy at the invitation of the 2003 planning committee
of this annual event. In the Kiva, a Kent State
lecture theater that holds over four hundred seated, Zakaria
delivered a keynote address to a standing-room audience about “The Future of
Freedom.” The speech lasted for an hour, and Dr.
Thomas Hensely, chair of the Political Science
Department, moderated the question-answer session. Most of those in attendance
were from the larger community and some were from the Kent State University faculty, staff, and students.
The last three symposia had
developed a community audience that is interested and that regularly attends
the keynote addresses. The following is a short summary of Zakaria’s
address focused mainly on the Middle East and more particularly on Iraq and the
Arab world. Zakaria’s address on the role of freedom
in the Middle East included opinions about the future role of the United States in Iraq,
the internal political dynamics of Iraq after the war that has been
named “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the multiethnic fabric of the Iraqi society,
and the role of the Arab states in the region.
After starting with a comment about
how war is the way Americans learn about geography, Zakaria
examined the role of the United States
and Britain in postwar Iraq. In
considering this role, he assessed the war on Iraq
by the United States and Britain without
the support of the United Nations to have been an appropriate course of action.
He noted, however, that what was an
appropriate action at the time requires reconsideration. In postwar Iraq, a
peacekeeping force would only gain legitimacy if it were a multinational force,
Zakaria emphasized. Unless the United Nations is
included, the United States
and Britain will not be
accepted and their role will be a questionable one both on the ground in Iraq and among
proceeded to examine Iraq’s
internal political structure. After providing a short history of Iraq’s creation and its governmental
developments, he centered his attention on the Saddam era and its impact on
internal governance.1 Saddam’s rule, which lasted for over twenty
years, according to Zakaria, left Iraq without an
internal governance structure. Saddam’s brutality with his opponents created a
political vacuum without either successors or middle-level governing structure
to lead after his demise. The leadership left in Iraq was that of the Shiite imams
in the mosques. Such a leadership, noted Zakaria, is
important to observe, especially in light of the multiethnic, religiously
plural contemporary Iraq.
It is easy for religious authority to take over, argued Zakaria,
in an Iraq
devoid of any political structure. However, such a takeover, according to Zakaria, will be problematic in view of the difference
between Sunnis and Shiites, Iraqis, and Kurds. This is where the United States
can play a role. For Zakaria, the United States can lend its expertise on
democracy to the newly developing political structure in Iraq. The United States
can teach the Iraqis who are operating in a polity void of any modern structure
how to develop democratic institutions and processes.
turns his attention to the Arab states and their role in the Iraq problem.
Quickly he dismisses those nation states’ abilities to play any constructive
role in the contemporary problems of the region. He argued that the existing
leaders, who are themselves hampered internally by economic stagnation,
fundamentalism, and a disappointed populace, are inward focused. Most of their
actions on the regional scene are taken to reduce internal pressures and to
maintain a precarious balance. What is needed to deal with this region,
according to Zakaria, is an attempt to move it to
accept liberal constitutions and not necessarily a Western democracy. The United States can play that role because it is
the only global power that can do so and because there are enough Arab leaders
who want to obtain U.S.
aid and hence want to please it.
keynote address left many questions unanswered. Some of the questions are
general questions that can apply to any situation including the Iraqi one.
These long-standing questions include: How is it possible to export a Western
democracy or liberalism into a culturally different context and history? What
is the role of a multinational force and how long would such a force remain in
a conflict zone? What are the necessary governance infrastructures in a
multiethnic society? What is the future role of the United States in global conflicts?
Other questions that remained
unanswered were specific to Iraq,
the Arab world, and the Middle East. These
questions concerned such issues as: Are Islamic traditional governing models in
conflict with liberalism and democracy? Is the Iraqi case different and unique
in this region? What is the future of freedom in this region? Is it a choice
between Western democracy and terrorism? Finally, is the question of freedom in
the Middle East only a question of settling
the Iraqi problem?
Some answers to such questions one
can find in Dr. Zakaria’s book, The Future of
Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (2003). Although I
personally disagree with some of Dr. Zakaria’s
analyses and answers, there is no doubt that the book is a scholarly endeavor
that I recommend reading.
1. The following is a short
chronology of Iraq’s
which has a long history of struggle with Ottoman and British occupation, is
declared an independent kingdom in 1932 with Faisal, a descendant of the
Prophet’s tribe, declared king. In 1958, Iraq overthrows the king and is
declared a republic by Kassem. In 1960, Iraq makes claims to Kuwait. In 1963, Kassem is overthrown, and the B’ath
party becomes the party of power under the rule of Abel Salam
Arif. Arif dies, and then
his brother Abel Rahmun succeeds him. In 1968, Arif is overthrown, and Bakr
takes over. In 1979, Bakr is put under house arrest
and Saddam takes power. An eight-year war between Iraq
began in 1980. In 1981, Israel
bombs a nuclear reactor outside Baghdad.
In 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait. In 1991
an international force bombs Iraq
from Saudi bases. In 1992, what would become a devastating economic sanction on
is renewed by the United Nations. In March 2003, the United
States and Britain
go to war in Iraq
in search of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam goes underground after United States and Britain led war.
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