By Ray Fleming

TOP–down or bottom–up? This question, so often debated among specialists in Third World development, has become a central issue in the task of rehabilating Iraq after years of Saddam Hussein's brutal rule and the Anglo/American invasion. Do you start with broad principles and hope they will trickle down to the grass roots? Or with the nitty–gritty issues of everyday living and, having got those right, move upwards towards democratic superstructures?
To judge by the agenda that was put before the 250 Iraqi delegates at the Baghdad meeting convened by General Jay Garner on Monday, the United States has opted for the former approach. He said: “It is our responsibility to start the process of the birth of democracy in Iraq here today.” The first proposition put before the meeting was that “Iraq must be democratic”, another was that ”The rule of law must be paramount”. These are admirable sentiments but their achievement in the short–term is problematical. In the absence of any kind of police force, of a system of justice and a trustworthy civil service, the basic infrastructure necessary to make a nation function is absent. These are the priorities for the Iraqi people at the moment and will remain so for quite a long time. The United States prefers the top–down approach because it wants to get out of Iraq as soon as posible and be able to say that it has put a working democracy in place. But the creation of a viable democracy will take years and must start with sound foundations in everyday living.

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