Middle East expert
speaks on war and its aftermath in Iraq
By Scott Bigelow
East expert Dr. Christopher Alexander said it is not time to pull the
plug on nation building efforts in Iraq.
Dr. Alexander, who
is the director of the Dean Rusk International Studies Center at Davidson
College, spoke at an April 6 dinner at The University of North Carolina
at Pembroke as part of the Gibson and Marianna Gray Lecture Series.
He spoke April 7 to the University.
how you feel about the issue of going to war in the first place, we
cannot leave now," Dr. Alexander said. "It would create a
chaotic vacuum, an irresistible environment for (terrorist) organizations
like Al Qaeda."
Dr. Alexander acknowledged
that a democratic Iraq is a difficult proposition, and that the Bush
administration was not prepared for the task. But, he said the three
factions in Iraq - Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds - must remain engaged in
the ongoing constitutional process.
"Our job is
to craft a political process that keeps the leadership of the three
groups invested," Dr. Alexander said. "Over time, these groups
must see that there is something of value to be gained without using
To a question from
UNCP political science Professor Frank Trapp about the tension between
Islam and democracy, Dr. Alexander said the two are not mutually exclusive.
"I am not someone
who believes that Islam is inherently antithetical to democracy,"
Dr. Alexander said. "There has to be a commitment on the part of
Iraqis that politics is not about winner take all."
Dr. Alexander was
critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war's aftermath.
"The administration did not prepare adequately for the post-war
period," he said.
The Bush administration
used the wrong historic models for rebuilding a defeated nation. Models
of rebuilding post-war Japan and Germany were applied to Iraq instead
of more appropriate models like Yugoslavia.
Also troubling are
the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and the administration's
misplaced belief that Iraq was a hotbed of global terrorism after it
was evident that Al Qaeda was not a factor there.
"Of the 12,000
people we have in Iraqi prisons, no more than 50 are foreign,"
Dr. Alexander said.
The scholar is also
critical of the U.S. failure to "sell the war in Iraq" to
the international community.
this was the high water mark of American unilateralism in foreign policy,"
he said. "This war is not good for the diplomatic interests of
to exaggerate how unpopular the U.S. is in Europe right now," Dr.
Alexander said. "
by the war in Iraq and its aftermath loom over the upcoming presidential
election. Dr. Alexander said there is a growing anger over the Bush
administration's perceived "incompetence" following the war
and of its perceived "deceit" over the justification to invade
Iraq, he said.
supported the war are regretting this decision and stepping away publicly,"
Dr. Alexander said. "This election could be a rare example where
foreign policy does have an influence on the outcome of an election."
has a real problem," he said. "If John Kerry can convince
the voters that America will be at least as secure under him, I think
he's got a credible shot at winning the White House."
However, Dr. Alexander
said a quick pullout in Iraq would be unfortunate for the international
fight against terrorism and the long-term peace and stability in the
"We must find
a way to depoliticize the Iraq situation, to take it off the table,"
he said. "The greatest risk now is that we will lose our will in
will we be there?" he said. "A long time."
to University Newswire