The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Too fast, too furious....
(This started as a comment in Q and O)
We are making noises like we are going to have an election in Iraq before they have a constitution.
Not too bright.
Where are the checks and balances in the new Iraq? Individual rights versus state rights? Is it simply going to be majority rule? Are there going to be any protections for Iraq's many minorities?
We are moving too fast, and the sharks smell blood in the water. If we continue along this path, we may find ourselves fighting with the ELECTED government of Iraq about some terrible things it wants to do. It will be mob rule against an occupying power.
I say slow down: Democracy must be constrained.
One of my biggest worries about Iraq was summed by Thomas Friedman before the war: was Saddam the way he was (ruthless and cruel) because Iraq is the way it is (terribly divided against itself)? In effect, did Saddam HAVE to be cruel to keep his fragmented nation whole?
I strongly supported the war, and I still do. But I have wondered about the aftermath for a long time. I don't have the answers, and I believe that no one really does. We are in uncharted territory here.
We are trying to maintain a nation state that is itself an unjust European carve-up. It is hard to see Iraq as one nation: it is at least three. But we want to keep it whole, because we do not want a civil war (otherwise I would be all for splitting the nation up into three).
We ought to, at the very least, impose some kind of guidelines before we begin this process, and we should not fear being heavy handed about it. The government must not act in the interest of any one group, and ought to act in the service of all of them. We must insist that all Iraqis - male and female would be treated equally in the new Iraq. There should be protections for private property, and insistence on the rights of assembly and speech. We should make it clear that the US will act as the protector of this provisional government until a true constitution can be written.
I think we will be there a long time, and I have always said that. I think that is a good thing. American troops have a sobering effect on Iraq's wretched neighbors.
Douglas MacArthur pretty much wrote the Japanese constitution in 1947. And though he was great student of Japanese culture, he did not care a bit what the Japanese thought of his document. Japan was a defeated nation, and no one thought it was fertile ground for democracy (However, it was homogenous, unlike Iraq).
It is clear that Saddam was very effective at keeping his enemies divided, and it is equally clear that anyone who had a national appeal was a competitor and was killed.
As George Will puts it, Iraq is only three people away from being a succesfull democracy.
Unfortunately, those three people are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
How it will all turn out? I don't know.
But I do know that 5000 Iraqi children aren't dying each month, and I also know that Saddam will never threaten the region again.
America made good on the terms of 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, which Saddam violated - to the cheers of our enemies.
But I dream of a grand slam: A stable Iraqi democracy.
That would be the best weapon we could hope for in the war on terror.