What Next in Iraq?

"We are so tired of this life, so miserable," said the Iraqi mother of two. "There are only thieves, killing, and murder." Life in post-war Iraq is grim. For women, it wasn't much better before the war either. Many Iraqi women are highly educated professionals in fields from engineering to medicine. But under Saddam Hussein, who catered to Islamic fundamentalists, women were kept in the shadows. Today, in the midst of the post-Saddam chaos, they're not sure what will happen next. One Christian mother, named Sahar, and her family are looking for a way to leave Iraq "to escape the lawlessness and [the] prospect of fundamentalist religious rule." The aunt of a car-jacking victim said, "We want stability and security, enough to . . . have a normal life." This is why the Bush administration is working so hard to establish democracy in Iraq. In a recent article in the journal Foreign Policy, Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, appealing to the plight of women, argued that the real key to implementing democracy is establishing sexual rights -- that is, divorce, abortion, gender equality, and gay rights. "The real fault line between the West and Islam . . . ," they wrote, "concerns gender equality and sexual liberalization. In other words, the values separating the two cultures have much more to do with eros than demos." Amazing! Inglehart and Norris have several obvious things wrong. First, not everyone in the West espouses these so-called "self-expression values." Second, establishing these "values" isn't the way to democracy; rather, you might say, it's one possible result of democracy -- if the Iraqi people should be so unwise as to make those choices. After all, we were no less a democracy in the West when the kinds of values Inglehart and Norris advance would have been considered unthinkable. Democracy is not a list of approved "values," but a way of "doing government" under the rule of law. It gives people the freedom to choose. And the values they choose may not match up with the preferences of leftist groups. At a recent Independent Women's Forum panel discussion on women's liberation in the Middle East, Paula Dobriansky, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, rightly noted that efforts to encourage change in Iraq need to be guided by the "women and society there on the ground. What works for us doesn't necessarily work elsewhere." And Dobriansky emphasized that the "constitutional process needs to hinge on human rights for all citizens -- men, women, and the entire society." Dobriansky is right: The only way to help women is to help the entire community. At a recent BreakPoint conference, Wilberforce Fellow Dr. J. Budziszewski talked about our "creational design," how we're made for each other. Humans are interdependent and complementary. Isolating women as a marginalized group only reduces their dignity. Importing the failed values of the Western left into Iraq is as foolish as it is heartless. Democracy in Iraq begins with basic human rights, like freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and with the rule of law. As these take root, all Iraqis, including women, will reap the benefits. For further reading: Paula J. Dobriansky, "Women in Transition to Democracy: Iraq, Afghanistan, Beyond," Heritage Foundation, 11 April 2003. "Iraqi Women Under Saddam's Regime: A Population Silenced," Fact Sheet from the Office of International Women's Issues, U.S. Department of State, 20 March 2003. Sharon Waxman, "Facing the Future: For Iraqi Women, Removing the Veil Is One Step on an Uncertain Road to Equality," Washington Post, 17 June 2003, C01. Neela Banerjee, "Baghdad Family Mourns Lost Son, Victim of Lawlessness," New York Times, 27 May 2003. "Iraqi Women Fear for Their Future," Associated Press, 6 May 2003. Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, "The True Clash of Civilizations," Foreign Policy, March/April 2003. Christopher Shea, "Sex in the Middle Eastern City," Boston Globe, 20 April 2003. (Archived article; cost $2.95 to retrieve.) Julia Duin, "Wider role urged for Muslim women," Washington Times, 23 May 2003. Adam G. Mersereau, "Toward Real Freedom: Why We Should Oppose a State Church in Iraq," BreakPoint Online, 9 June 2003. Kay S. Hymowitz, "Why Feminism is AWOL on Islam," City Journal, Winter 2003. J. Budziszewski, "'Little Platoons': God's Design for Our Relationships," BreakPoint WorldView, 22 April 2003.


Chuck Colson


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