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In partnership with: Harcourt Riverdeep

Examine the evolution of democracy in different nations

April 10, 2003
Web posted at: 2:48 AM EDT (0648 GMT)

Overview: U.S. Marines helped drag a statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the ground in Baghdad on Wednesday. The White House called it "an historic moment" in Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, U.S. officials also cautioned that the war was far from over. The U.S. hopes that Baghdad will embrace democracy, but some officials question whether that's even what the Iraqi people want.

After students read "Statue of Saddam tumbles; officials look toward Iraq’s future" present the following questions:

1. What historic events in Iraq marked the apparent end of Saddam Hussein's reign? According to U.S. officials, how close is the war to being over? What challenges do coalition forces face in Iraq?

2. What type of government are U.S. officials talking about implementing in postwar Iraq? Why do you think America see itself as a shining example for other nations to follow?

3. According to CNN's Jeff Greenfield, in which nations, other than the U.S., has democracy succeeded? What is the biggest democracy in the world? In which nations has democracy been less successful? According to CNN's Jeff Greenfield, why has democracy been less successful in Zimbabwe and Yugoslavia? What difficulties might arise if Egypt or Saudi Arabia embraced democracy and held free elections?

4. What are the principal cultural or ethnic groups in Iraq? How might the interaction of these groups affect the implementation of democracy in Iraq?

5. Challenge students to define and describe democracy in the United States by completing the following exercise. (Depending on the level and background of your students, review the basic tenets and structure of the U.S. democratic system before continuing.) Write the following categories in a row on the board: Cultural/Social, Religious, Political, Economic, Geographic. As a class, list elements in these categories that describe the U.S. today. Include any relevant historical facts. Ask: In what ways do you think these factors aided or hindered the implementation of democracy in the United States? (Write student answers in the appropriate column.)

Next, group students and assign each group one of the following democratic countries mentioned in the story, according to the focus of your particular curriculum: Japan, Germany, Russia, India, South Korea, Zimbabwe, Yugoslavia. Direct groups to the Web sites provided and other sources to learn more about the history of democracy in their assigned countries. Have each group complete a chart for its country using the same categories listed for the U.S.: Cultural/Social, Religious, Political, Economic, Geographic. Ask each group to compare its country with the U.S. and note the similarities and differences of each category and how these factors affected the evolution of democracy in the assigned country. As student groups share their findings, ask: What factors in your assigned country have supported or hindered the establishment of democracy? How are these elements similar to or different from those in the U.S. and other democratic nations? Why are these findings significant? What changes, if any, might your assigned country make to further its version of democracy? Would these changes be practical? Why or why not?

Refer students back to the story. Ask: From what you have learned about the history of implementing democracy in various countries, what questions should global leaders ask to maximize the successful establishment of democracy in Iraq?

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