Short, admittedly grossly-oversimplified sketch of my view of the theoretical underpinnings of what it takes to reach the level of a healthy democracy, and then where Iraq has stood in that process from its founding to the present. Short version: the American occupation did not start Iraq on the path to democracy, it actually set the country back to zero. Iraq was not a place with "no hope of ever changing". Yes, it was a fine mess, but underneath that mess it had a few things going for it which a deft international community and Iraqis could have slowly worked to their advantage to emerge from the darkness of Saddam's years. Wouldn't have been easy or quick, but possible over time. Instead the siren song of rapid change from outside came along for Iraqi exiles and Bush and what little had been achieved fell apart leaving the very existence of Iraq in question and democracy further off than ever. You don't know what you've got until its gone I suppose.
I'm happy to hear critiques and discussion, I can stare at my sketches and already see ambiguities in my very simple attempted model that could raise fierce objections that I'd have to (and feel I can) address if raised, but hopefully this can provide a decent theoretical starting point. You can click on the pictures to see larger/clearer versions.