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[casi] Iraqi Resistance to Freedom = Fear of Freedom

US Army War College Quarterly
Autumn 2003, Vol. XXXIII, No. 3

Iraqi Resistance to Freedom:
A Frommian Perspective


>From Parameters, Autumn 2003, pp. 68-84.

Iraqi civilians were dancing and singing in the streets of Baghdad on the
morning of 9 April 2003, while the American military consolidated efforts to
secure the city. On that day it was obvious that Saddam Hussein had been
deposed. In spite of the celebrations, however, coalition soldiers continued
to meet opposition.

By then the world could clearly see that at least some Iraqis were happy to
be free and eager to express their joy at the fall of the regime. But many
within the coalition were surprised that these feelings had not been
expressed throughout the preceding weeks of Operation Iraqi Freedom.1 US
forces moving north across Iraq toward Baghdad had been "greeted [by
civilians] with violent hostility in some cities, flat indifference in
others, and [only later] in some places, with open arms."2

In the days that followed the initial celebrations in Baghdad, media
attention was drawn to Iraqis protesting the American presence as well as
those who welcomed the coalition soldiers. A CNN special entitled "Inside
the Regime" highlighted Iraqis who worked at, yet lived in poverty next to,
the billion-dollar palaces of their former leader.3 Even those with
firsthand knowledge of the luxurious life led by Hussein and his family
remained skeptical of the benefits of liberation. They wondered if the
"security" of the regime was not better than the "lawlessness" of their
post-Saddam world. They wanted water, electricity, and an end to rampant
criminal activity-and most of all, it seemed, they wanted Americans to leave
their country.4

Why were Iraqi citizens-many, if not most, of whom were cognizant of the
regime's atrocities-so reticent to welcome freedom as the coalition forces
succeeded in liberating cities and villages? Fear, according to leading
Iraqi exiles, was the most probable reason,5 fear of having to face the
anger of the regime should the Americans not succeed. Fear of immediate
reprisal also played a part. Iraqi POWs told stories of being forced to
fight advancing American troops while re-
gime elements and "Saddam Fedayeen" held guns to their heads and threatened
the safety of their families.6 Reports from wounded Iraqi POWs, inspections
of Iraqis who had been killed "in battle," and live CNN coverage of refugees
being fired at by Iraqi soldiers as they attempted to flee the cities lend
credibility to these assertions. Fear, successful Iraqi propaganda, and a
general disbelief in coalition capability to topple the regime and oust
Saddam may have kept many from daring to hope for freedom.

These are all valid assertions, but they do not completely explain the
willingness of some Iraqi military elements to continue to fight, even when
they must have known there was no hope for the survival of the regime. Nor
do they explain the enthusiasm displayed by Arab volunteers from other
countries in declaring their intent to enter Iraq and fight for a regime
that was known throughout the Arab world as abusive and cruel.7 Were they
simply responding to the Arab community's dislike of American intervention
and Osama bin Laden's call for recruits to the jihad?8 And how could the
more moderate states of the Arab community claim to find Saddam's government
distasteful and murderous, yet publicize the war as an "imperial American
invasion" and treat Saddam and his henchmen as if they were "champions" and
potential martyrs?9 Why, when people are faced with a choice between
pernicious, seemingly all-powerful dictatorships and liberty, would they
fight to retain systems of oppression? Why would there be any question over
the desirability of freedom?

Santayana's famous warning ("those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it") may have been considered by war planners in seeking
to predict Iraqi reactions to a liberating force, but the lessons to be
learned in this case should not be limited to those gleaned only from
conflict between Western elements and the country of Iraq, or even from
East-West cultural differences. In September 2002, a group of Iraqi exiles
boldly implied10 a comparison between Saddam's regime and Nazi Germany.11
Certainly, Pan-Arabism is a form of fascism and Saddam shared many qualities
with Hitler-the two even had similar experiences in their formative years.
If the comparison between the two rulers and regimes is indeed valid,
perhaps the answers we seek can be found in an analysis of fascist
tendencies in early 20th-century Europe.

Fear of Freedom: Submission and Conformity

German-born social psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm reported a
phenomenon he called "fear of freedom" over 60 years ago. When Fromm
published his theory (Escape from Freedom, 1941),12 he was living and

writing in the United States, where European fascism was a predominant
thought on the minds of many. Those who fought for freedom in World War I
were undoubtedly frustrated by what seemed to be a European readiness to
succumb to authoritarian regimes.

In analyzing socioeconomic and sociopolitical problems of Europe during the
emergence of fascism, Fromm came to the conclusion that individuals, and
therefore societies, have an innate tendency to revert to systems of
political and cultural restraint rather than to take advantage of
opportunities for freedom or emancipation-and that they may actually seek
out governments to control them rather than face the prospect of individual
freedom. Fromm's explanation for this type of reversion was seen in the
following assertion:

If the economic, social, and political conditions on which the whole process
of human individuation13 depends, do not offer a basis for the realization
of individuality . . . [and] people have lost those ties which gave them
security, this lag makes freedom an unbearable burden. It then becomes
identical with doubt, with a kind of life that lacks meaning and direction.
Powerful tendencies arise to escape from this kind of freedom into
submission or some kind of relationship to man and the world which promises
relief from uncertainty, even if it deprives the individual of his

The basis of Fromm's theory was his belief that societies, like individuals,
progress through a series of feelings of security and insecurity during the
process of growing. He likened an individual's dependence upon the society
to which he or she was born to that of a child's dependence upon its mother.
These dependencies are gradually lost, or "the primary ties are cut"15 as
independence and freedom is sought. However, even as the desire for freedom
encourages this separation, feelings of alienation, weakness, and insecurity
are growing simultaneously.16 It is at this point, Fromm believed, that the
individual forms a fear of the freedom that is so desired.

During the process of growing and establishing freedom from the ties of
initial dependence, attempts are made "to overcome the feeling[s] of
aloneness and powerlessness by completely submerging oneself in the world
outside."17 If, however, the individual encounters suppression or
oppression, the effective result is submission and fear of the process of
achieving individuality and freedom.

Expanding on this assertion, Fromm maintained that the extent to which an
individual develops (or individuation occurs) is largely dependent on the
type of economic and social structure to which the individual was born.
Behavior consistent with self-preservation within an individual's economic
system or society explains the determination of an individual's character
structure, which, in turn, substantiates and magnifies the character
structure of the society, according to Fromm.18 In this circuitous manner,
an explanation was proposed for societies with a seemingly predisposed
willingness to submit to forms of authoritarian rule as opposed to those
societies with a much more substantial resistance.
Fromm stressed the need for an individual to be a part of a larger whole as
a factor in the formation of societal character. This need, according to
Fromm, is a form of mental self-preservation, similar to the basic need for
sustenance. "Even being related to the basest kind of pattern is immensely
preferable to being alone."19 Thus, as people gain a measured sense of
individualism and freedom, they are pushed by an uncontrollable drive to
join with others, thereby obtaining security in society, even at the expense
of individual freedom. This was, according to Fromm, "the negative side of
freedom" (or "negative freedom").20

Included in the concept of negative freedom was the societal constraint of
conformity. Conformity encompasses all of the conscious and self-conscious
actions and feelings experienced in the spirit of social assimilation. The
fear of being unique, of thinking or acting differently, of standing out in
a crowd, can be a debilitating fear-especially when "standing out" might
mean torture or death of self or loved-ones.

For conformity and submission to exist within a society, there must be a
corresponding need to find security in authority and power. For example,
authority and power might be determined by ownership of land and wealth or
by the accumulation of business or political strength. Those without land
gain security by belonging to groups, organizations, or cultures, and may
obtain a feeling of power by discriminating or oppressing other groups,
organizations, or cultures. Those with land act in a manner that displays
superiority to those without, but may feel inferior in regard to those with
monetary wealth. The cash-rich may, in turn, feel inferior when compared to
a high-level business executive, who may feel less than adequate when
confronted with political power. The feeling of superiority over other
persons or groups becomes the ultimate objective in the search for the
security that is found in power. Limitations on power are dependent on
societal character structure, which is (as previously noted) determined by
behavior consistent with self-preservation within the socio-economic system.

Fromm believed that people live in bipolar societies. His characterizations
of the individuals within a society might be anthropomorphically ascribed to
sheep and wolves, with the wolves lined up on a spectrum of power lust or
madness, from a category of good to bad. Sheep could be classified in
categories from acquiescent to willing. All (sheep and wolves), according to
Fromm's the-

ory, are motivated by feelings of insecurity, alienation, powerlessness,
isolation, and fear.21 Fromm's contention was that:
In any society the spirit of the whole culture is determined by the spirit
of those groups that are most powerful in that society . . . partly because
these groups have the power to control the educational system, schools,
church, press, theater, and thereby to imbue the whole population with their
own ideas; furthermore, these powerful groups carry so much prestige that
the lower classes are more than ready to accept and imitate their values and
to identify themselves psychologically.22

Fromm pictured the masses (the sheep) as being overwhelmed by powerful
propaganda (initiated by the wolves), which serves to increase the feeling
of insignificance and powerlessness, and increase their willingness to

In discussing what he considered to be an "escape" into submission to an
authoritarian type of leadership, Fromm described the individual as
exhibiting masochistic tendencies-an unconscious need to act in a manner
that invites external control.24 He depicted the sadistic tendencies of an
authoritarian leader as stemming from the same escapist feelings. He
postulated that the sadistic leader was attempting to gain strength and
identity by creating an image of being bound to a greater whole, such as
that of the state. Contrary to popular belief, the sadist and the masochist,
according to Fromm, have the same character structure. Both exist in a
symbiotic relationship that guarantees escape from freedom-because freedom
elicits feelings of alienation and powerlessness.25
Fromm portrayed fascism as a perfect example of the sadomasochistic
symbiotic relationship that could be exhibited in the entire character
structure of a society. He declared that there were "great parts of the
lower middle class in Germany and other European countries [in which] the
sadomasochistic character is typical."26 This type of society, according to
Fromm, has a strong desire to submit to an overwhelmingly strong authority,
while simultaneously needing to be seen and treated as an authority figure
among other social groups, thus sustaining a hierarchy of power.27

Adolf Hitler was seen by Fromm as the embodiment of the sadomasochistic
authoritarian.28 Fromm described how Hitler understood and used the need for
security and the desire to escape from freedom via submission to a higher
authority. He recognized Hitler's use of the domineering style of oratory as
well as the brainwashing techniques that are now known to be used in
conjunction with fear, physical exhaustion, alienation, subsequent group
assimilation, and the formation of a social structure in which group
superiority over others is emphasized.

There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein and his "power-elite" used these
techniques with the Iraqi people29 (although perhaps with less
sophistication). Fromm would have had no compunction in describing Hussein
as a "sadomasochistic authoritarian" on a par with Hitler. Nor would Fromm
have had any trouble depicting the Iraqi people as sheepishly submissive and
compliant (to

their wolfish authoritarian leader)-but equally sadomasochistic in their
willingness to conform to a social hierarchy in which feelings of
superiority over others (such as the Kurdish minority internally or
Americans and Israelis externally) were encouraged.30
Fear of Freedom: Destroying That Which Is Feared

According to Fromm, feelings of alienation, isolation, and powerlessness can
also result in destructiveness.31 In Iraq, this destructiveness is currently
presented as opposition to those who have upset the status quo-those who
liberated the Iraqi population from the security of a more-or-less constant
(however oppressive) lifestyle. These liberators also upset the hierarchy of
superiority-thus increasing feelings of powerlessness. The tendency to
resort to destructiveness in order to alleviate unsavory insecure (or
"unbearable") feelings is irrational, can be obsessive, and may ultimately
result in a desire for total annihilation.32
Fromm described this simply in the statement, "I can escape the feeling of
my own powerlessness in comparison with the world outside of myself by
destroying it."33 After World War II, many imprisoned Nazi officers reported
that Hitler's destructive behavior caused him to pursue targets (regardless
of common sense, human decency, and reason) when German military might was
not yet up to the task and that "success" reinforced his belief in his own
superiority over the general staff.34 This same behavior kept him from
obtaining correct information in reference to military matters, since the
generals who reported to him feared for their careers (and often, their
lives) if Hitler did not receive the information he wanted to hear. In
August 1945, German prisoner of war General Lemelsen noted that Hitler
"never clearly recognized that Germany alone would eventually . . . have to
succumb to the superiority of its enemies and that he did not seek means
when this became apparent to end the war, but rather delivered the people to
complete destruction."35

The actions of and decisions made by Saddam Hussein before and during
Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom were eerily reminiscent of the
reports provided by Hitler's officers. Although the Iraqi military was
well-armed, Saddam obviously had been misinformed about his military's
effectiveness in battle. The cold-blooded killing of Saddam's
sons-in-law-Lieutenant-General Hussain Kamel al-Majid and his brother,
Lieutenant-Colonel Saddam Kamel-after their return from defection in
February 199636 as well as purges instituted by Saddam after his assumption
of control in 197937 provide testimony of the fear that was no doubt felt by
both military and civilian leaders. Reportedly, long before he took control
of Iraq, Saddam's world was characterized by an obsessively destructive
nature. His early childhood of poverty, abuse, and neglect undoubtedly
aroused feelings of alienation, isolation, and powerlessness, which were
magnified by the culture in which he lived. These circumstances may have
been a catalyst for the ruthless behavior he displayed in adulthood38 as
well as the deliv-

ery of his own people to what must have appeared to them to be certain
destruction (just as Hitler had done). The intelligence organizations of the
coalition obviously had this destructive tendency in mind while planning for
Operation Iraqi Freedom's "race to Baghdad."39 If Saddam did (as it was
believed) have readily available weapons of mass destruction, the use of
such would have been in keeping with Saddam's character profile (as proposed
by Fromm).

Fromm delineated a particular type of destructiveness-a pernicious form of
continual, subdued, fervent hostility that "waits only for an opportunity to
be expressed"40-that could be equated to terrorism.41 This, Fromm believed,
evolves from a lack of individual empowerment, the inability of an
individual to express self, and the absence of positive freedom.42 Fromm
referred to it as a "thwarting of life."43 Hitler's Nazi party manipulated
and used this type of destructive behavior to further its aims. In utilizing
Iraqi people as suicide bombers and front-line martyrs to his own cause,
Saddam also was guilty of this practice.

This "thwarting of life" may be the biggest challenge to the new Iraqi
government (temporary or permanent). Average citizens of Iraq have been
without a sense of individual empowerment for most if not all of their
lives.44 Their newly found freedom will give them opportunities to express
their destructive tendencies born as a consequence of severe oppression.
Ironically, as Fromm noted, the destruction most likely will be aimed at
those who offer freedom-the freedom which brings with it feelings of
insecurity and powerlessness, the freedom of not knowing what to do or when
to do it-fueled by resentment of a new structure that does not possess the
power to instill the level of fear that the populous had lived with for many

Fear of Freedom: Destroying "Self"

Fromm also discussed a form of mental self-destruction. He noted that an
illusory result of the hunt for escape from aloneness and anxiety was the
deletion, or at a minimum, a strong suppression of one's real self and the
subsequent replacement with what he called a "pseudo self."45 This pseudo
self or superficial self eases into the security of conformity, submission,
and identity with a "larger whole." Fromm argued that conformity and
submission of the pseudo self was evident in the "part of the [European]
population [that] bowed to the Nazi regime without any strong resistance,
but also without becoming admirers of the Nazi ideology and political
practice."46 This subset was made up "of the working class and the liberal .
. . bourgeoisie."47 These groups, while initially hostile to the Nazi party,
collectively dropped their resistance in the interests of hiding within the
security found in conformity and submission. Fromm cited a "state of inner
tiredness and resignation."48

Fromm noted that in Germany during the 1930s, the working class developed a
strong "feeling of resignation, of disbelief in their leaders, of doubt
about the value of any kind of political organization and activity. . . .
Deep within themselves many had given up any hope in the effectiveness of
political ac-

tion."49 Thus they suppressed or destroyed their questioning, rebellious,
hopeful selves. It is, perhaps, this feeling of doubt and hopelessness-and
the conditioned suppression of self-that keeps much of the Iraqi people from
embracing their liberators. In their minds, trading conformity and
submission from one form of leadership (with which they are familiar) to
another (with which they have no frame of reference) may have an associated
cost that they are not willing, or do not have the energy and enthusiasm (or
the remaining sense of "self"), to pay. Therefore, it becomes a matter of
"better the devil you know"-and in this case, the devil is an authoritarian

But resignation to a devil is one thing-actively fighting for him is
another. Fromm observed that an interesting psychological aspect of the
suppression of self is the individual's transference of identity to a larger
whole (also noted in Orwell's 1984).50 Although working-class members of
Hitler's Germany did not self-identify with the Nazi image, they did
identify strongly with their country. Hitler and the Nazi party virtually
became Germany:51

It can be observed in many instances that persons who are not Nazis
nevertheless defend Nazism against criticism of foreigners because they feel
that an attack on Nazis is an attack on Germany. . . . This consideration
results in an axiom which is important for the problems of political
propaganda: any attack on Germany as such, any defamatory propaganda
concerning "the Germans" . . . only increases the loyalty of those who are
not wholly identified with the Nazi system.52

Consistent with this mindset is the support that Saddam Hussein received
from the Arab media and community at large,53 as well as from many of the
Iraqi people. They apparently did not see Operation Iraqi Freedom as an
attempt to liberate Iraq and the Middle East of a cruel, inhuman
dictator-they believed that America was launching an unprovoked attack
against Iraq, the Iraqi people, and therefore, the "Arab nation."54 An
attack against Saddam was an attack against the entire Arab community.
Saddam (or Saddam's regime) was therefore able to gain psychological support
and regime-sustaining strength in a unifying effect resulting from the focus
on a common enmity.55

As combat troops raced through Iraq, most overt anti-leadership sentiment
was noted only after a notably conspicuous absence, desertion, or demise of

regime leaders. Similarly, general dislike for Hitler and the Nazi regime
became evident only after the war was lost and Hitler had committed
suicide.56 Although the reticence of the oppressed to display distaste for
the oppressors is obviously influenced by fear of torture or death, it also
can be explained as an attempt by those who have lost their concept of self
to gain security by being part of a larger whole-an attempt at unity via
nationalism or, in this case, Pan-Arabism and common enmity.57

Fear of Freedom: Survival of the Fittest

Characteristic of the authoritarian sadomasochist, Hitler began his crusade
on the heels of and surrounded by those he considered inferior,58 as did
Saddam Hussein.59 The achievement of ultimate power was their driving force.
This quest for world domination was, to Hitler, justified as the ultimate
realization of Darwin's theory of survival of the strong over the weak:

The love for the powerful and the hatred for the powerless which is so
typical for the sado-masochistic character explains a great deal of Hitler's
and his followers' political actions. While the [Weimar] Republican
government thought they could "appease" the Nazis by treating them
leniently, they not only failed to appease them but aroused their hatred by
the very lack of power and firmness they showed. Hitler hated the Weimar
Republic because [italics added] it was weak, and he admired the industrial
and military leaders because they had power. He never fought against
established strong power but always against groups which he thought to be
essentially powerless. Hitler's-and for that matter Mussolini's-"revolution"
happened under protection of existing power, and their favorite objects were
those who could not defend themselves.60

In other words, fascist power (like the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing)
has historically been aided and abetted (albeit unconsciously) by the weaker
government it eventually replaced. One can see parallels in Saddam's rise to
power. Many who supported him long before he assumed control of Iraq (when
he ousted a man of "close family connections" and placed him under house
arrest) were later executed.61

The manner in which both Mussolini and Hitler fell from power (in the minds
of those who were ruled by them) was consistent with Fromm's depiction of a
mutual sadomasochistic relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor.
In Fromm's descriptions of the authoritarian character, one could
extrapolate a tendency of totalitarian societies to implode. The
sadomasochistic personality sees "lack of power . . . [as] an unmistakable
sign of guilt and inferiority, and if the authority . . . shows signs of
weakness, his love and respect change into contempt and hatred."62 Thus,
Fromm explained the basis of Mussolini's fate at the hands of his followers
in 1945, Hitler's problems with his trusted elite toward the end of the
war-and the toppling of statues as well as the plethora of shoes slapping
the face of any accessible image of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The celebrations of 9 April 2003 and the displays of hatred toward Saddam
and his henchmen noted in the days that followed were completely consistent
with the sadomasochistic tendencies that were carefully cultured within the
Iraqi social structure during Saddam's reign. As the ruling elite of Saddam'
s Iraq hid or ran, they showed themselves to be weak. Weakness in the
authority figure, according to Fromm, elicits reactions of confusion,
rebellion, and destruction.63 Weakness is seen as submission-as an
invitation to a more powerful authority to take control. The result of
weakness displayed by the authority figure is either chaos (while others
attempt to gain control) or a coup (with authority quickly transferred to
another recognized power).

Fear of Freedom: Can Democracy Succeed in Iraq?

Fromm concluded his thesis by insisting that "authoritarian systems cannot
do away with the basic conditions that make for the quest for freedom;
neither can they exterminate the quest for freedom that springs from these
conditions."64 Based on this conclusion, there may be hope for an Iraqi
democracy. But Fromm also asserted that democracy faces the same basic
problems as autocracy. The desire to escape freedom, the fear of alienation
and powerlessness, the pressure and expectation of conformity, the
suppression of individuality, and the loss of the unique self are all noted
within the modern democratic society. Individuals join groups (political,
social, economic, etc.), thereby individually satisfying the need to escape
freedom. These institutions need to be carefully nurtured within the new
post-Saddam Iraq.

Fromm argued that the fear of freedom leads to "new bondage."65 But he also
postulated "a state of positive freedom in which the individual exists as an
independent self and yet is not isolated but united with the world, with
other men, and nature."66 He believed that positive freedom could be
achieved if people are given the opportunity to express themselves as
individuals. The ultimate objective is free, action-oriented critical
thinking and free emotional reasoning.

"Positive freedom consists in the spontaneous activity of the total,
integrated personality."67 In equating positive freedom to spontaneous
activity, Fromm claimed that the only allowable spontaneous activity in
modern society is that which is recognized as successful. Thus, as he
described it, the artist who "does not succeed in selling the art . . .
remains to his contemporaries a crank, a 'neurotic.' [Similarly] the
successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal."68
But Fromm emphasized that success is not the point of life, and therefore
not the point of positive freedom. Positive freedom must include the
empowerment of individuals to contribute to the society in which they
reside. The ability to propose and to make unique contributions without fear
of suppression or oppression, without the fear of being isolated for reasons
of nonconformity, gives an individual strength and confidence, and allows
for intellectual and emotional growth.

Fromm's concept of the ideal society, in which positive freedom is the only
kind of freedom, was tied to his hopes for democracy. He saw the greatest
possibilities in democratic socialism, which extolled the virtues of "the
individual as . . . altruistic and cooperative. The individual finds meaning
in the community, not in the atomized conditions prevailing under
capitalism."69 The aims of democratic socialism are the equality of each
individual's treatment by government in terms of respect and dignity,
combined with a politico-economic system that allows substantial
participation by every individual (as opposed to a substantial participation
by an elite few and a superficial participation by the majority). Fromm's
concept of positive freedom finds voice in this type of "socialist society
governed by democratic procedures."70

Unfortunately, Fromm's ideal has yet to be achieved. Democracy (social,
liberal, or otherwise) has lived a long and prosperous life, but the concept
has not yet lived up to the hopes Fromm placed in it. It can be considered
the best governmental system known to exist to this point in time, but there
are points of contention as to how "free" and "empowered" individuals within
the system really are. Much depends on circumstance and on decisions made by
fallible individuals (which can have resulting unintended consequences). In
general, the major democratic nations of the West appear to be suffering
from problems similar to those that Fromm detailed as pre-revolutionary, and
even pre-fascist scenarios. The sad fact is that in today's "Western-style"
democratic environment, qualities such as capability, honesty, humility, and
foresight are no longer the primary factors that ultimately determine those
who will run the country. Politics is now very much a game of popularity,
charisma, money, and "spin." Unfortunately, many of those who win such games
concentrate on their own gain, as opposed to the welfare of the nation that
elected them.
The freedoms that are shared by those living in a democratic society
encourage the process of questioning the government and its leaders. Because
questions involving popularity issues and political scandals often are
highlighted for the world to see, the negative side of politics, the
negative side of democracy, and thus, the negative side of freedom is
exposed-especially to those who have been allowed to have knowledge only of
that which their leaders deemed appropriate.71

These negative qualities are, perhaps, a large part of the propaganda
problem that the United States faces in its efforts to change and befriend
the Iraqi

people. Feelings of dislike, distrust, and fear among the Arab community in
general may be based on their perception that democracy, USA-style, is
either superficial and decadent nonsense (and therefore weak), or yet
another form of rule by wolves clothed as fellow sheep. The questions they
ponder might well be: Why should the Iraqi people submit to a weaker form of
government? And, in accepting Western dominance, are the Iraqi people simply
trading one form of conformity and submission to oppression for another?72

The United States is an unknown factor. And as Fromm noted, fear of the
unknown can be unbearable.
Regardless, an Iraqi democracy is essential, at this point. If the country
is left to "sort itself out" the wolves will return and the Iraqi people
will slide back into the oppressive, fascist structure they are used to. The
people who publicly celebrated freedom will die, and they will die in vain.

Fromm wrote,
We fail to see the danger . . . [in] the readiness to accept any ideology
and any leader, if only he promises excitement and offers a political
structure and symbols which allegedly give meaning and order to an
individual's life. The despair of the human automaton is fertile soil for
the purposes of Fascism.73

For democracy to take hold, an immense cultural change-a transformation-is
needed, and submission and conformity to a framework of change are
essential. The "invading superpower" must not show any weakness in resolve,
for weakness will serve only to encourage the cultured sadomasochistic
tendencies of the Iraqi people, and the new government will have little
chance of succeeding.

The fact that democracy (as it exists) is not all that it should or could be
may actually be a positive point in building a framework of change and a
roadmap to transformation. A tight, strongly controlled democracy may
provide critical linkage in the accomplishment of a "more free" society
within Iraq. It could be argued that if Iraqis truly are looking for a "new
bondage," providing a social structure that can slowly evolve from one of
tight control to one of less control (as in the manner that a child becomes
slowly independent from his or her mother) may, in fact, be the only way to
make the transformation from oppression to a state of democratic (albeit
still limited) freedom.74 Although there will be substantial resistance, as
the unknown factors become known there will be less fear; as the unempowered
slowly become empowered, there will be less resistance. It worked for
postwar Europe-it can work again for Iraq.75
Freedom in "e-Conformity"?

 Fromm pointed out that peer pressure is a powerful force in gaining and
retaining conformity, which will be a necessary and important tool in
establishing a post-Saddam Iraqi democracy. But 21st-century peer pressure
is somewhat different from that of the period with which Fromm was familiar.
A more recent and powerful instrument in the crusade for conformity is a
form of "techno-pressure."


The pressure today to conform to information technology is enormous. Every
human being in Western society is being immersed in techno-babble so
pervasive that hundreds of words can be immediately transformed and
understood by simply adding "e" to the beginning. Any individual without an
understanding of URLs, e-mail, digital cameras, and webpages has felt the
onslaught of alienation. There is an unspoken implication that those who are
left behind in this toddler stage of the web-world will be left behind
forever. It is hard to imagine a more intense burden of powerlessness.

In a September 2002 conference held in London, a group of Iraqi opposition
leaders suggested that educational reform such as that imposed on Nazi
Germany would benefit the impending process of "de-Baathification."76 The
current reforms, according to the conference attendees, must include
networked computers and encouraged use of the Internet.77 They also called
on nongovernment organizations and educational institutions from other
(notably Western) nations that had previously assisted the Iraqi people to
resume their work within Iraq. Could education and "e-conformity" help the
Iraqi people to conquer their fears and make the necessary steps in their
transition to freedom?

The oppressed and disenfranchised within the nation of Serbia found the
Internet to be the voice of political freedom. On 2 April 1999, the building
in which (Belgrade Radio B92's Internet center) resided, was
seized by Milosevic's special police.78 Until that time, the Internet was
the only constant propaganda-free method of obtaining untarnished news
within Serbia. Even after the building was taken, supportive Internet sites
were launched, proving that "the democratic nature of the Internet enables
the army of anonymous users to sustain the fight for freedom of expression
and democracy."79

Perhaps the Internet-by virtue of being "vast" and "powerful" as well as a
source of multicultural information and news-could become the new authority
figure, an essential tool of freedom, and initiator of a sense of belonging.
Perhaps the approach that is needed with the Iraqi people is not that of
imposing a Western-style democracy, but that of an offer of participation in
the global society via educated connectedness:

The other side (of masochism) is the attempt to become a part of a bigger
and more powerful whole outside of oneself, to submerge and participate in
it. . . . By becoming part of a power which is felt as unshakably strong,
eternal, and glamorous, one participates in its strength and glory. One
surrenders one's own self and renounces all strength and pride connected
with it, one loses one's integrity as an individual and surrenders freedom;
but one gains a new security and a new pride in the participation in the
power in which one submerges. . . . The meaning of . . . life and the
identity of . . . self are determined by the greater whole into which the
self has submerged.80

Dr. Thomas Barnett of the US Naval War College suggests that network
connectivity is a significant feature of "stable governments, rising
standards of

living, and more deaths by suicide than murder."81 Those who are in what he
describes as "the Non-Integrating Gap" are not networked and are
characterized by "politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and
disease, routine mass murder, and-most important-the chronic conflicts that
incubate the next generation of global terrorists." Barnett views those in
"the Gap" as a strategic threat to global security.

Unfortunately, the Internet is not used solely for good or even benign
purposes. Terrorist organizations, hate groups, and other criminals use the
World Wide Web for recruiting, propaganda, and operational activities.
Education provides no guarantee that a populace will reject malevolent or
authoritarian ideas found in the "e-world"-but it may provide a basis on
which to critique whatever ideas are discovered, with the Internet providing
a forum to discuss them, as well as a feeling of freedom to do either
without fear of political retribution. Providing educated connectivity to a
formerly oppressed people may be a small step, but it will also be a strong

Freedom from Fear: Small Steps

Fromm did not despair in the futility of attempts to gain and retain freedom
with individuality intact, although he knew only too well of the
improbability of a society operating in pure, positive freedom. After World
War II, he and his advocates turned to the future, and desperately hoped for
a peaceful and unified coexistence. Fromm believed in the possibility of
freedom in individual empowerment, obtainable under the auspices of a
freedom-friendly, positive form of government. This is, perhaps, the best he
could hope for.

In order to maintain a freedom-friendly government, conformity must not only
exist, but it must be expected. Conformity is necessary for the maintenance
of law and order, educational standards, public resources, and funding for
continued governmental functions. Submission (for the same reasons) is
considered imperative. However, the degree of freedom that exists within
most democratic nations is significantly more than that which is allowed in
totalitarian states.
The democratic ideal is that a populace in need of change can vote for a
representative of that change. Therefore, feeling empowered enough to voice
an opinion, the public should not have reason to feel disenfranchised or
oppressed, or feel the need to resort to underground dissidence or
violence.82 According to Fromm, there may be hope for those who have been
oppressed, and therefore hope for the process of installing a productive
form of government. Change may be very difficult for adults who have become
ensconced in the authoritarian structure and the sadomasochistic
environment83-it is, therefore, the children who will hold the key to a
democratic future for Iraq. The children must be raised in a manner that
encourages individuation84-breaking the ties of dependence while providing
sufficient support to overcome and bear the fear of freedom. This

will take a long time. It will require resolve. If the post-Saddam coalition
government can provide a sustained environment that will act as "mother" and
not as a "Big Brother" in the Orwellian sense, the Iraqi people may
eventually become assimilated into a new social structure that includes

Fromm wrote, "The more the drive toward life is realized, the less is the
strength of destructiveness."85 Small but strong steps may be the key.


Cynthia E. Ayers is the National Security Agency's Visiting Professor of
Information Superiority at the US Army War College. She has B.S. and M.P.A.
degrees from Troy State University and is currently working on a Ph.D. from
Walden University in criminal justice, focusing on counterterrorism.

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