Democracy, Freedom and Occupation: a Recipe For Civil Conflict

Date of Graduation

Summer 2008


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

William Van Cleave


It has been more than five years since the United States invaded Iraq on the quests of regime change and bringing greater stability to the region. Despite marginal hopes of improvement in security and the new Iraqi government being able to consolidate its power, the United States still finds itself combating an intense insurgency and policing a rampant sectarian conflict. The purpose of this study is to understand how a conflict of this nature can arise out of the prospects of democracy and freedom after being liberated from an oppressive dictator. What is found is that the current conflict in Iraq is a result of catalytic events: U.S. occupation, and the rise of the Shia people to power; reacting through the existing permanent or quasi- permanent systems: the nature of fundamentalism, the existence of historical Sunni-Shia animosities, the primacy of Islam for Muslims, and the presence of a youth bulge; creating specific modes: the use of violence to destablize government, to inspire a sectarian conflict, and to mobilize the large youth cohort. In order to evaluate these claims, the theoretical implications of the enumerated systems were researched and analyzed and then compared to the actual events in the Iraqi conflict as they unfolded to understand how the specific modes developed. What needs to be understood is the exhibited modes are reactions that are specifically defined by the systems that exist within the region. This is an important study because if the United States hopes to be successful in future occupations and nation building operations, especially in the Middle East, it is necessary to understand the inherent rationale that is held by the population and the movements within it as well as how quickly violence can spiral out of control once it takes a religious connotation.


fundamentalism, Islam, Iraq, sectarian conflict, youth bulge

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Charles Covvey