Letters to the Editor
Readers write about democratization in Iraq and negotiation with militants in Pakistan.
Give Iraqi government a greater service-provider role
In response to Lawrence E. Harrison's July 1 Opinion piece, "Want democracy in Iraq? Culture matters": Mr. Harrison points out that Germany and Japan, both considered successful cases in democratization, had certain advantages. Both, he says, were "highly developed industrial nations with fully integrated and educated populaces." Yet these are structural, rather than cultural, factors.
In addition, the reconstruction process included a vital role for the defeated governments in providing education, housing, healthcare, and other social services. In Iraq, by contrast, the government's role in providing social services has largely been destroyed. The result is that this newly reconstructed government has been deprived of the means by which the post-World War II governments of Germany and Japan were able to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens.
Japan is perhaps our best case for showing that it is both structure and process, and not culture, that can make or break the process of democratization. Japanese democracy is unique in the world because of the survival – not the defeat – of Japanese culture.
The lesson we can take from these cases is that real commitment to democratization requires that, in the West, we allow and even encourage a high level of independence by democratizing governments in addressing the conditions of their citizens.
Regarding the recent Opinion piece on democratization in Iraq: The piece clearly explains why the United States has had such a difficult time trying to establish democracy in that Islamic nation.
Our leaders have failed to understand that with low literacy rates, especially among women, and a longstanding internal religious schism among Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds, the concept of American-style democracy is not workable there.
We are trying to impose our version of democracy, which is still evolving, upon a culture that is not prepared to apply it.
Pakistan's need for both talk and force
Regarding Xenia Dormandy's June 30 Opinion piece, "The path through Pakistan to a shorter war on terror": As a Pakistani, I was a bit surprised while reading this article; it is usually thought in my country that Americans only believe in the use of force, so this article was a pleasant break from that conception.
The author has rightly explained the position and views of the Pakistani people. If we consider the history of the tribal region, we would find that the use of force, by itself, has never solved problems.
For example, the British used force in the region, but they had to retreat every time.
The policy of "carrots and sticks" works well in this region. This can be explained by the psychology of the people, as the use of force inevitably leads to more bloodshed.
For example, if someone's brother or father is killed in military action, that person will vow to avenge the deceased and will leave no stone unturned in order to do that.
On the other hand, talk, on its own, is not the solution either, since it will make the extremist elements even stronger, and they will start making private states within Pakistan, as has already started in a limited manner.
Haris Bin Aslam
In response to the recent Opinion piece on the need to use nonmilitary as well as conventional military force in Pakistan: The problem is not that America concentrates on short-term solutions rather than long-term solutions; the problem is that we invest in wrong or inadequate solutions.
America has moved backward, rather than forward, in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last several years. If we had invested fully in good, nonmilitary short-term solutions, we would be far ahead of where we are now.
Why does America, a nation of Christians, so often focus only on military solutions?
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