Reprinted from: http://azamatterofact.blogspot.com/2007/11/mccain-on-iraq-and-democracy.html
Excerpt from Blogger/Media session on the bus in New Hampshire on Saturday, November 10th.
In a recent blogger call you described long term US troop presence in places like Korea and Europe without the protests associated with our presence in Iraq. IS there a historical model or are we facing a new paradigm with respect to Iraq?
It depends to a great extent on what kind of government emerges in Iraq. The Kuwaitis because of their gratitude for us driving out Saddam Hussein, we not only have a troop presence their, we probably would have one hell of a time running the war in Iraq without the enormous support we receive from them. We have a base in Turkey for forty or fifty years. The Saudis found out that their society didn’t want Americans there, that there was a rejectionist [element]. Some people say that it triggered Bin Laden. I think that there are other things that triggered Bin Laden but he certainly used that. So I think a lot of it depends on society. Iraq has generally been a secular society. They haven’t been religious extremists so I could see us in bases that are not in bases that are not in direct conflict, in bases that would not encounter a lot of people. But that is up to the future Iraqi government in my view. If I had to guess I would say we probably be out given some of the circumstances that exist today. It wouldn’t surprise me if we stayed in some kind of support role.
Again I remind you, this is a very rich country, just as Kuwait is so that they could pay for this so we wouldn’t have the backlash amongst the American public because [the Iraqis] would be paying for it just as the other countries have.
Follow up by Marc Santora, NY Times:
Do you feel we might be lengthening the time we will be in Iraq with our new efforts such as building grassroots efforts with the Sunnis?
The reason we are seeing these local political power structures is because of the failures of the central government. I still hold out some hope that the Malichi government and the Sunnis in the government will start acting effectively and we will be able see them do the things that central governments…I don’t see local governments entering into a revenue sharing agreement. I don’t see how you do that. I don’t see how you do that. I am still hopeful that we will see some progress in that direction. And in the other area, that is not unrelated is the rule of law. We have too many Sunnis in prison and nothing has been done about there cases. We’ve got to move forward. We can’t keep, I think it is what, 20,000 people in prison indefinitely. Don’t hold me to that number but I think it is right. The rule of law is really not where we want it to be.
Follow up by David Brooks, NY Times:
Have the events of the last few years made you re-think democracy promotion such as Palestine and Pakistan?
I still hold to the belief that we are all endowed with certain inalienable and I think our Founding Fathers didn’t differentiate or delineate which part of the world you live in or what your religious beliefs are but we certainly have found out that in some parts of the world it is much more difficult than others.
When people talk about that failure of democracy in the Middle East I think the Turks are doing pretty well. I mean everybody kind of ignores them in this equation. We all knew what it took to bring them into that state but… So I think the lesson that has to be relearned every time is that it is not holding up your finger with the ink on it, it is rule of law, rule of law. It’s rule of law and until you get that you can have all the elections you want. Hamas was elected. A lot of people said “watch out if you have this election” but where’s the rule of law in Gaza? There is none. It is the law of the gun. It’s the law of who has the most thugs on their side so I have the unshakeable belief that all people have certain inalienable rights but also that Real Politiks has to enter into this both from a national security interest and a pragmatic side how hard it is to bring about these institutions which really are the fundamental issues of democracy. And the next time we here about some election in some other country and people hold up their fingers with the ink on them let’s not cheer and shout. Remember the time when Bush came to give the speech to the joint session and all my Republican colleagues were standing around, you know there is ink on our finger (holds up his hand and fakes a smile).