Former Ambassador and Presidential Envoy to Iraq Lewis Paul Bremer spoke last night about the current state of the Middle East, his time in Iraq and how Iraq has progressed ten years after the war’s inception as a part of the Foreign Affairs Symposium spring lecture series.
Bremer said that there is currently upheaval in the Islamic world. He believes that this upheaval stems from the challenges of transforming nations that have been under tyranny and are transitioning into democracies.
“The Islamic/Arab world now is in the most upheaval it’s been in, I think, since Ataturk abolished the Caliphate in 1924,” Bremer said.
He emphasized the large differences between the democratic and tyrannical experiences.
“What happens to the politics is that they are black and white, and grey is color of compromise and compromise is the essence of democracy,” Bremer said.
Bremer served in a United States foreign policy role for 40 years and held prestigious positions such as Chairman of the Bipartisan National Commission on Terrorism, Special Assistant to six Secretaries of State, and Chief of Staff to Henry Kissinger. In 2003, President George Bush encharged Bremer with heading Iraq’s political and economical reconstruction. Bush awarded Bremer the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation’s highest honors, in 2004.
In his discussion of Middle Eastern politics, he emphasized the privileges of the ruling class and the lack of civil rights and economic opportunities for common citizens.
While Bremer was in Iraq, the country was transformed quickly – especially with the demise of Saddam Hussein and his regime.
“The collapse of the dictatorship in Iraq was the most abrupt, dramatic change of government of a dictatorship, anywhere in the world, in decades…and that had real consequences for us,” Bremer said.
The United States government had the responsibility of securing Iraq, stabilizing the Iraqi government, and iraqi economy. Bremer spearheaded Iraq’s economic recovery and governmental restructuring. Before going into the details of these important repairs, he commented on the state of Iraq upon his arrival.
“Saddam modeled his Ba’ath Party…. on Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party. Why? Because he admired the way in which Adolf Hitler was able to use the political party to control the people,” Bremer said.
One of the most important roles Bremer played in Iraq was overseeing the creation of the new Iraqi constitution.
“They drafted a remarkable document. The constitution…is still today the most liberal, progressive constitution anywhere in the Arab world…that constitution has a remarkable bill of rights, unprecedented anywhere in the Arab world…secondly, that constitution establishes a balance in government…and finally, the constitution establishes the rule of law, and not the rule of one man,” Bremer said.
At the end of his lecture, Bremer concluded by discussing and analyzing President Obama’s role in the state of Iraq.
“When he came into office, he inherited an Iraq that was moving towards normality and which had become a model for the Arab world… Since then, unfortunately, the US government has not followed up… by pulling our troops out,” Bremer said.
He proceeded to express his concerns about the policy shift of the Obama administration- particularly the removal of troops from troubled nations in which the United States is involved.
“It cannot be in America’s interest, or in the world’s interest to have the world’s most powerful country to withdraw from the world’s most turbulent region. And that is something I feel we all need to think about,” Bremer said.