Just add water... If only it were that easy.
In America, representative self rule began with townships. Later, whole colonies were granted some self rule. Finally, the over-arching authority of King and Parliament were cast off, and a national government was constituted by the newly independent states.
A critical mindset was developed because local government belonged to the people while regional and national government were distant and tyrannical. The people learned to favor decentralization because they *owned* the local but not the central.
In Iraq (and any other nation building), we should imitate that pattern. Instead of installing a new national or multi-level government with power flowing out from the center, we should install a temporary national administration of ours while germinating county sized limited self rule districts that would belong to the Iraqi people. We would announce a liberation schedule to take the edge off violent protests.
However, we could still expect the Iraqis to push for accelerated transfer of power. Such demands would create the mindset that we desire: The Iraqis would own the local government (and civil liberties), and they would be pushing back against the regional and then the national administrations. When we finally withdrew, the Iraqis would not only have a healthy opposition to centralized authority, but the local levels of government would have the upper hand vis a vis the central. What's more, if we write their constitution correctly, that power balance will be perpetuated far into the future.
No. Excesses like Saddam's do NOT cultivate such an attitude in most people. Instead, such excesses often drive people to trade one form of tyranny for another (witness Soviet Russia supplanting the Tsars). To appreciate liberty, the people need to taste it. Otherwise, not knowing what they are missing, they will too easily accept new authoritarianism to "protect" them from past bogey men.
So many people have been telling me that Iraq's ethnic diversity is a problem. I see it as a fulcrum: With no region trusting the others with national power, all should be interested in keeping the central government weak (just as soon as we convince each that it won't be allowed to control the others).
By restricting the national government to a small intersection of essential functions that all can agree are necessary and non-threatening, ethnic diversity works in favor of decentralization and civil liberties. Therefore, cast into a minarchist paradigm, ethnic diversity can increase stability by decentralizing government and decreasing its scope.
Our large, cohesive armies are designed to fight against other large, cohesive enemies. They are not designed to spread out like so many paper targets in front of snipers' guns. Therefore, as soon as local development makes it practical, the coalition (at least the non-Arab contingents) should hand over police duties to the Iraqis themselves so we can get our troops off the streets.
Our troops should be safely ensconced in bases protected in depth. There they would hang over the Iraqis like the sword of Damocles, motivating fledgeling Iraqi police and free citizens to organize themselves according to principles of civil rights and rule of law.
We need only punish those organized units that fail or oppose the program. Should any sizable police become corrupt or hostile paramilitary force emerge, our troops can sally forth, crush them, and return to base. Eventually, all of the trouble makers will have learned or perished.
To use a chess analogy, the queen is the most versatile piece one has. However, rather than sending it out front to draw fire, one should position it to support and strengthen other pieces for which one's opponent is less eager.
By this strategy, our troops exercise their strengths while avoiding unnecessary vulnerability. Even better, our troops would not be continuously engaged, allowing them the flexibility to apply pressure or even make an excursion against hostile neighbors, extending the process of regional democratization begun in Iraq.