I read with interest the reports about the Ba’ath restorationists within the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior–lower level officers apparently interested in some sort of revival of the Ba’ath Party. It raises an interesting question–and I don’t know whether there is any sort of polling on this–the level of nostalgia for the past in Iraq, compared with the security and economic situation of the present.
It also raises the question as to whether at least some elements of Ba’ath ideology–particularly secularism and nationalism–might still have some appeal, especially against the sectarian divide of the current government.
I’ve read about the rise in Yugo-nostalgia even in Slovenia, which by all accounts has done much better for itself since it separated from Yugoslavia. Is there a similar phenomenon at work here?
It would be surprising, given Iraq’s circumstances since the Fall, if such sentiments did not exist within the Sunni community. Ideologically, the Ba`th never held a wide sway over most of the Iraqis, it was a radical minority party for most of its existence there and it is the result of cunning and brute force that it was able to over come the more numerous and popular Communist Party and other minor factions. If Iraqis miss the Ba`th, it is probably the economic and political stability it facilitated early on (after a tumultuous period in the country’s history, it must be remembered), not so much its principles, though surely some do. The Ba`th and its specific articulation of these principles, have likely had their time. The Ba`th was never successful in eliminating sectarianism, and it long served largely as a partisan entity within the sectarian context, and years of religious conflict may make this specific ideal more appealing. Or not. It could have just the opposite result, as it seems to have in Lebanon: While objectively most agree that sectarian rivalries and distinctions are a major source of instability and strife, just as many probably would not be willing to give up their communal fidelities regardless of the potential benefits because of the lack of inter-communal trust as a result of the savage violence prosecuted between ethno-sectarian lines. Anti-sectarian forces tend to be weak — if they are genuine — or fronts for ulterior motives — if they are anything else — with the latter being most common in places like Iraq. If most people wanted to move away from identity politics, they are either unwilling or unable to move in that direction. At the same time, sectarian politics and sectarian and particularist leaders have gained power over secular and nationalist ones in Iraq. These were the most well and rapidly organized political forces after the invasion, and secular movements have not been successful. I therefore doubt that Ba`thonostalgia has arisen quite yet outside of the Sunni community, which has felt it practically since day one after the Fall.