There is no doubt that Iraq needs a strong centralized government. This assertion is based on the following factors: 1) the rise of radical Islam, 2) the heterogeneity of the Iraqi population (ethnic groups), and 3) resistance to the growing phenomenon of ‘hollowing of the state. ’ It may be misleading to assume that the existence of these factors would necessarily lead to the establishment of a strong centralized government. But in Iraq, this is the case.
The rise of radical Islam engulfed the politics of Muslim countries in the Middle East. Muslim extremists used the name of Islam to destroy the basic institutions of health, education, and welfare; replacing them with institutions that outrightly promote political anarchy, social stratification, and international terrorism. Iraq was able to resist the waves of radical Islam because of its highly centralized government. The government’s grip on the local population prevented dissidents from fully articulating their radical ideology.
According to Huntington, the suppression of radical Islam can only be achieved through the establishment of strong authoritarian institutions; institutions which overtly rejects the fallacies of Islamic extremism (Huntington, 429). Huntington held that Islamic extremism is, in general, a stumbling block to self-determination and development (Huntington, 431). Iraq’s war with Iran simply illustrates the former’s need to defend itself from the waves of radical Islam. Kuznetsov argued that the Iraq-Iran war was a contest between orthodox Islam and radical Islam (Kuznetsov, 219).
This was not the case. Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East was based on two factors: the need to propagate radical Islam, and security. Iraq successfully contained the Iranian threat because of the authoritarian nature of the Iraqi government. Efficiency, effectiveness, and brutality were the main qualities that enabled Iraq to resist Iran. Glazer and Moynihan argued, “Whenever a democracy has a large number of ethnic groups, it is likely to fall into political anarchy” (Glazer and Moynihan, 374).
This statement makes sense. In many democratic countries with heterogeneous populations, there is the constant threat of civil war and political instability. This is obvious. Ethnic groups vie for power through the electoral system to control other ethnic groups (as in the case of Yugoslavia). Ethnic groups who lost in elections had no choice but to confront the dominant group through armed struggle. In Communist and authoritarian states, this was not possible.
Communist and authoritarian states disregarded ethnicity as a factor of solidarity. Iraq was able to contain its heterogeneous population through systematic government control on all aspects of the society. Political instability could not exist because the government served as the unifying factor of the country. The establishment of a strong central government in Iraq may be regarded as a measure to ensure the dignity and integrity of the state. Today, the phenomenon of ‘hollowing of the state’ is apparent in many democracies.
This phenomenon is characterized by the weakening of the state as an institution, reduced economic sovereignty, and group power politics (Toynbee, 728). Only a strong and highly centralized government could effectively preserve the power and sovereignty of the state. Works Cited Glazer, N and D. P. Moynihan. Race and Ethnicity. American Sociological Review, 43(17), Oct. 2001. Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Toynbee, Arnold. A History of the World. London: London Publishing House, 1975.
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