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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about democratization in Iraq and negotiation with militants in Pakistan.

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Give Iraqi government a greater service-provider role

In response to Lawrence E. Harrison's July 1 Opinion piece, "Want democracy in Iraq? Culture matters": Mr. Harrison points out that Germany and Japan, both considered successful cases in democratization, had certain advantages. Both, he says, were "highly developed industrial nations with fully integrated and educated populaces." Yet these are structural, rather than cultural, factors.

In addition, the reconstruction process included a vital role for the defeated governments in providing education, housing, healthcare, and other social services. In Iraq, by contrast, the government's role in providing social services has largely been destroyed. The result is that this newly reconstructed government has been deprived of the means by which the post-World War II governments of Germany and Japan were able to achieve legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens.

Japan is perhaps our best case for showing that it is both structure and process, and not culture, that can make or break the process of democratization. Japanese democracy is unique in the world because of the survival – not the defeat – of Japanese culture.

The lesson we can take from these cases is that real commitment to democratization requires that, in the West, we allow and even encourage a high level of independence by democratizing governments in addressing the conditions of their citizens.


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