June 30, 2014

Crocker: America Must Hold Steadfast To Spread Democracy In Middle East

Crocker quote homegrown

With military advisors deployed to Iraq to help thwart the growing threat presented by the terrorist group ISIS (now calling itself “The Islamic State”), Americans are understandably concerned the U.S. could be pulled into another long military engagement in the Middle East. But Ryan Crocker, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and now dean of the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, says America has a responsibility to aid the Iraqi people in the struggle for democracy and the fight against extremism.

crocker medal of freedom

Crocker receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President George W. Bush on Jan. 15, 2009

“Democracy is very difficult to attain: you don’t just snap your fingers and say ‘we removed the dictator and now you’ll be the perfect Jeffersonian democracy.’ We have to keep our hand on the throttle,” says Crocker, a career diplomat who also served as ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

He likens the battle for democracy in the Middle East to its establishment in America’s infancy. “Democracy didn’t blossom overnight in our own country,” he notes. “In the years between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we beat each other bloody. We couldn’t reach agreement on slavery, on state’s rights, and that failure nearly destroyed our country through civil war.”

In the Middle East, he says, democracy must be borne from its peaceful citizens in partnership with the U.S. “Democracy has to be home grown, but we can, through our own experience, facilitate it. And especially in places where we’ve had military interventions, we have the obligation to see that process through.”Crocker quote Islam

Crocker says he’s been pleased so far with the White House response to the Iraq conflict, including the decision to send 300 military advisors as well as Secretary of State John Kerry to consult with Iraqi leaders. “Diplomacy is critical,” he asserts. “The Iraqi security forces, like Iraqi democracy, are not ready to stand completely on their own. A small number of advisors are critical to be the backbone of this effort, to give advice and mission direction. I’m glad the president has committed these advisors. I don’t know what the right number is. But I do know that we can and must play a critical role to ensure the Iraqis do the fighting for themselves and for their country.”

The growing tide of “Islamophobia” in America and beyond, especially after 9/11, is a sore spot for Crocker who spent almost four decades in the Muslim world and says, “It is terribly wrong to come down on Islam for the actions of its most extreme members. I know Islam, I know the Quran, I know Muslims. They are us and we are them. We stand together against an extremist enemy.”

Although Crocker has retired from the Foreign Service, he continues to serve the nation both as an expert consultant in foreign affairs, granting interviews to national and international media outlets, and in leading the Bush School faculty and staff to train public servants of the future.

Ryan Crocker Clinton meeting

Crocker served during both Bush presidencies, as well as under Presidents Clinton and Obama. He is pictured (far right) in an Oval Office meeting with Clinton, Amir Al Sabah of Kuwait and others on Feb. 28, 1996 (photo: Courtesy, William J. Clinton Presidential Library).

Crocker says he was first inspired to pursue a career in service by his father, a career military officer and veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. “Go to hard places, do hard things,” he says is a lesson he learned from his father. “Put your hand up when they ask for people to step forward.”

He notes a particular affinity with Texas A&M, an institution whose members he says are guided by devotion to service.

“Service is never about you,” he explains. “For me it was about the people who looked to me for guidance, some of whom were literally getting shot at. And sometimes you have to step outside yourself; you’d really rather not be there, but you are there and you are in command. And that is why I’m so grateful to be at Texas A&M where that spirit of service, from Earl Rudder to the Corps of Cadets, is so vital to the culture. So I’ve followed a personal family legacy but also now to have a career at an institution such as Texas A&M, I like to think I’ve tried to embody the values of our great university.”

Crocker notes Texas A&M’s unique and continuing contributions to the fight for democracy worldwide, but particularly in the Middle East. “The Borlaug Institute, for example, has been in the region for a long time, building foundations to help grow democracy,” he points out. “Conflict & Development and the Bush School are actively engaged in promoting peace and democracy in the area. Texas A&M-Qatar is also positioned to further the cause, providing top-quality education in the Arab world. Texas A&M is helping to build a basis for international peace through democracy.”


Media contact: Lesley Henton, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M University; 979-845-5591, lshenton@tamu.edu

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4 Comments to Crocker: America Must Hold Steadfast To Spread Democracy In Middle East

  1. Iraq is not worth a drop of American blood.

  2. Jose Gutierrez on July 1st, 2014
  3. Dear Sir,

    I totally agree with Mr. Ryan Crocker in what he mentioned about the Middle East and the democracy process . We, (as the Kurds) are grateful for all what the US did in the process of fighting dictatorship in Iraq and the terror in other places. The process in 2003 was a great event in the history of Iraq, and all Iraqis should highly value the sacrifice of thousands of US soldiers to defeat Saddam regime and try to establish a new democratic system . However, the process was interrupted and stopped when the case was left to Iraqis without a power to guide, supervise, and assess and control the remaining steps of the process to build a democratic system , which is the most difficult step and even more difficult than the military steps! And now , everyone wants to say; what was the harvest of the bloody and expensive process done by the US in Iraq? only one great achievement is the ( Kurdistan Regional Government- KRG of Iraq ) and we hope that the US will continue to support all (Iraqis in general ) and ( the Kurds in particular)! Thanks to Mr. President George W. Bush , thanks to the US families who sent their brave sons and daughters to fight for ( freedom, peace, and democracy).

    Azad Mustafa
    MS/PhD student, Civil Engineering Department, Texas A&M
    (619) 715-5342

  4. Azad Mustafa on July 1st, 2014
  5. Iraq deserve the democracy like American. I think there is a strategical agreement between Iraq and the USA. The USA government should apply this agreement and help the Iraqi government to solve many problems there. One of these problem is the recent democracy there and how can The USA government help the Iraqi to build this new democracy? I think the former ambassador Crocker has a lot of ideas about the Iraqi society and can help in this thing through persuading the USA government to help the Iraqi People increasingly.

  6. Nabil M. Ali Hameed on July 1st, 2014
  7. If they were truly sympathetic to this cause, why did the US fund and train ISIS?

  8. Ronald on July 3rd, 2014
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