Monday, October 5th 2015
Ambassador Gary Grappo was Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the American Embassy in Baghdad in 2009-2010. In an article, “On the Front Lines of American Diplomacy,” he recalled the assignment in the March, 2015, issue of his alumni magazine, Checkpoints. In an up-close-and-personal first-hand account of working with the Iraqi government, he reflected on why Iraq’s political evolution toward democracy was so difficult.
In the post-World War I period and after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when much of the rest of the world began to grapple with revolutions, “liberalism versus conservatism,” democracy, socialism, communism, free markets, socialist democracy, environmentalism, human rights, women’s rights, et al, the autocratic governments of the Middle East cut their subjects off from such ideological corruption, usually hiding behind Islam or security.
As a result, in today’s post-Arab Spring, Arabs are just beginning to grapple with such concepts. They lack the philosophical framework and organizational structures to act on otherwise noble political aspirations. In time, therefore, as we see in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Bahrain and elsewhere—and as I personally observed in Iraq—loyalties and alliances generally fall along sectarian, ethnic and/or tribal lines.
For any nation that “lack[s] the philosophical framework and organizational structures to act on otherwise noble political aspirations,” is any part of the U.S. government more relevant than Public Diplomacy?