What Egypt Teaches Us About Iraq: Arabs Can Do Democracy Without Invasion

Although it is still unclear exactly what the many motivations behind the Bush administration-led invasion of Iraq were, one of the most touted justifications for that war was that the United States attacked the sovereign country in order to overthrow a dictator and spread democracy in the Middle East.

Yet as the future of Iraq remains tumultuous and unclear, a recent wave of mostly nonviolent homegrown revolts — being dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution” in reference to a blooming flower — in Egypt and Tunisia that overthrew longtime dictators within a matter of weeks are offering an alternative model of democracy promotion.

Veteran Reuters Middle East correspondent Samia Nakhoul, who has been covering the Middle East since 1986 and reported from post-war Iraq and Egypt during the recent revolution, notes this in a special piece for Reuters today. She observes that the toppling of Saddam Hussein by a foreign army that gave way to an occupation, and later a civil war, “failed to ignite the sense of national triumph among Iraqis,” a stark contrast from the Egyptians who were “dancing in the streets after 18 days of popular protests” that overthrew Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak:

Iraq, and the Arab world, was shocked, and awed. But the fall of Saddam, at a cost of thousands of lives — and a foreboding of so much more blood to come — failed to ignite the sense of national triumph among Iraqis that has had Egyptians dancing in the streets after 18 days of popular protests. [...] Many Iraqis had little to be jubilant about. They inherited a broken country, a society that was about to fracture, causing tens of thousands more deaths. [...]

“I am Egyptian, I have toppled Hosni,” people chanted on streets, drunk on the heady scent of a free nation. So very unlike Iraq eight years ago and, surely, a better starting point for an uncertain future.

Indeed, over the weekend and continuing through today, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Bahrain, and other countries in the Middle East. It appears that the people of the region are proving the adage comedian and activist Dick Gregory used to tell. “When you’ve got something really good, you don’t have to force it on people,” he said. “They will steal it!

ThinkProgress / By Zaid Jilani

Posted at February 15, 2011, 6:35am

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