I don’t want to sound like a Donald Trump fan, after all, the whole idea of “make America great again” is the stock and trade of that American president. Still, the whole idea of making Iraq great again is not exactly new. In fact, the late ruler, Saddam Hussein, fancied himself as the latest embodiment of the great Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.
If you brush up on your Middle Eastern history, you would quickly realize that this part of the world used to be part of a global empire called the Babylonian Empire, the Chaldean Empire, and so on and so forth.
This river valley actually was the cradle of many different competing empires. It often functions as the highway of empire building stretching from Rome and Greece on the west, to Persia on the east, and Egypt to the southwest. To say that Babylon is the crossroads of the ancient world as far as politics, economics and culture are concerned would be quite an understatement indeed.
Accordingly, it would be safe to say that Iraq has always been great. It was only during certain points in its long history where there were serious challenges to its greatness, regardless of which empire it’s part of.
For example, when the Mongols sacked Baghdad and killed the local ruler, it’s indisputable that that was quite a bit of a low point in the history of Iraq. Still, given that tragedy, it also opened the opportunity to the Muslim conversion of the Mongols. And since the Mongol Empire was the largest land empire, a large chunk of that became Muslim or Islamic. You can see the direct role Iraqi culture had in spreading Islam all over the world.
So to wonder who or what will make Iraq great again is really missing the point. Iraq has always been great. It has always had the seeds for renewed greatness, and we are hopeful that the new governmental structure involving federalism and local control as well as regional democratic inputs would play a big role in making Iraq once again prominent, if not great.
Unfortunately, simply switching forms of government is not some sort of magic bullet solution. Never was. Isn’t now. And it never will be. It is too easy for outside observers to obsess about forms and labels and other external issues when the real issue involves the core of a country. Substantive issues like access to power, resource rights, and local policies. These are products as much of local culture as well as geopolitical and regional power players.
It is our hope that this federalist switch would lead to a nice interplay of influences. As the old saying goes “clothes make the man,” we hope that the structure of Iraq has an effect on core cultural issues. This in turn would trigger a change in more external structures. As more and more jobs are created and as peace returns, the ensuing focus on maintaining the peace and prosperity should trigger character and cultural changes that would help the country.
This is not a blind hope. We have actually seen this happen in other parts of the world like So Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and other places. It is doable. Just because you start out poor does not mean you end up poor. There is a lot of decisions to be made along the way.