After eight years of U.S.-led state-building efforts, thousands of coalition force fatalities, and nearly one trillion dollars spent, Iraq is drifting toward authoritarianism under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party while al-Qaeda-stoked violence is running at levels not seen in years. Although Washington’s 2007 counterinsurgency strategy laid the groundwork for a pluralistic and representative government, as long as the country’s current leaders have little motivation to abide by the rule of law, the future of a democratic Iraq looks grim.
As the George W. Bush administration geared up for an intervention in 2003, it debated a post-invasion plan for leaving behind a state “based on moderation, pluralism, and democracy.” While Jay Garner was the administration’s initial point-man for designing a transition plan, rapidly emerging political complexities prompted the administration to look to Zalmay Khalilzad, the matchmaker of Afghanistan’s Bonn conference transition, to finesse the implementation. But by April 2003, the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq prompted a change in plans: L. Paul Bremer would preside over an occupation authority that would build a state from “outside-in,” as described by analysts Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor. According to Bremer’s 540-day “Iraq’s Path to Sovereignty” plan, a constitution would need to be drafted, elections held, and a political framework developed before any handover of sovereignty.