CAN CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY SUCCEED IN IRAQ?
By Alan Caruba
Much hinges on the fate of Iraq. As Bahram Saleh, a Kurdish leader, has said,
Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times columnist, perhaps said it best back in January, 2003, writing of the American victory in Iraq.
A bit cheeky to be sure, but Friedman perhaps knew that the last thing the Bush administration wanted was to occupy and rule Iraq as we had done for many years in Japan and Germany after World War II. The U.S.A. wanted out of Iraq as fast as possible. The U.S.A. wanted to liberate Iraq and leave the country.
The U.S.A. discovered, however, an Iraq in which the national infrastructure that had been neglected for decades by Saddam Hussein's regime, there was opposition to occupation even by a liberating military, and the Iraqi army and police force had been utterly debased and corrupted by the former gangster government and economy. Little wonder the first instinct of Iraqis was to loot anything that was not nailed down.
Since the end of World War I and the subsequent fall of the Ottoman Empire, we have allowed ourselves to believe there was a nation called Iraq. When French and British diplomats drew lines on the map of the Middle East, Iraq emerged despite the fact that it was home to several very distinct ethnic and religious groups.
The present post-Saddam Iraq is a Humpty Dumpty sitting on the narrow edge of a proposed new constitution in a place where the rule of law has never really existed, let alone notions that include the equal status of women or even the concept of private property. Property rights in Iraq have always been a matter of custom, not law. Without real property rights, there can be no constitutional democracy and no modern capitalist economy.
Consider what John Zogby, an Arab-American of Lebanese descent and noted pollster, had to say in April, 2003, regarding the establishment of a constitutional democratic government in Iraq.
He was not alone. Egyptian-born Sherine El-Abd, President of a Women’s Republican Club in Middlesex, New Jersey, had serious doubts Iraq’s diverse population of 25 million people could make the transition to a unified nation.
Of course, we do have the evidence of the many Iraqis who came out and voted in the elections to begin the process toward constitutional democracy. Some remain optimistic. Samer Shehata, an Egyptian-American assistant professor of Arab Politics at Georgetown University, notes that constitutional democracy requires certain institutional structures, such as an independent judiciary, a free press, and a culture of political participation. Wisely, he warns that emergence of the requisite institutional structures in a country like Iraq is not a process that can occur in a few months.
Nor is progress toward constitutional democracy aided when neighboring nations, such as Syria and Iran, are totally opposed to it and are funding and arming anyone who will fight to destroy a new, free Iraq. Add to that pit of vipers, the former Baath Party members. They may never believe they have been or can be defeated. Though only about fifteen percent of the population, the Sunnis are the backbone of the insurgency and, as Andrew Apostolou, director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, pointed out in December, 2003,
The situation is not helped by talk from local U.S. military commanders and out of Washington, D.C., about “timetables” to pull our troops out of Iraq. That kind of thing only encourages those waging war on the barely birthed new Iraq and its constitution. It reminds Shiites of promises made and abandoned that got thousands of them killed after Washington encouraged an uprising against Saddam Hussein. It reminds Kurds of the losses they incurred in their long struggle to establish themselves as an independent region and political entity.
Indeed, the most amazing thing about Iraq is the fact that its Interim President is a Kurd. Jalal Talabani, who along with his sometime rival, Mas’ud Barzani, saw the vacuum of power in Baghdad after Saddam’s overthrow and left their strongholds to establish a presence there. Some observers think that, if things don’t go well for the new government, the Kurds will decide it is time to carve out a big chunk of Iraq and other nation-states in the area to declare a sovereign and independent nation of Kurdistan. A sovereign and independent Kurdistan would include northern Iraq, plus parts of eastern Syria, southeastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran. You can bet that’s what the leaders in those other nation-states are thinking too.
The Kurds, though, have enjoyed a decade of real autonomy in Iraq, and joining with other groups to establish a new Iraq may appeal to them, if for no other reason than to hold onto the wealth generated by the oil reserves around Mosul and Kirkuk.
So, before we get to celebrating too long or too hard about Iraq’s new constitution, let’s remember we are dealing, for the most part, with Arabs. They don’t like us. They don’t like each other. There isn’t a single Arab nation that is a constitutional democracy. They have never really known anything but kings, despots, civil wars, or coups d’etat.
The job of the United States of America is to drag and push the Iraqis and the rest of the Middle East into the 2lst century. Otherwise, this region is going to continue to produce bombers and other horrid people for a long time to come. We may well have to invade a few other nations or at least send the occasional cruise missile to let them know that we are displeased.
Recent polls suggest Americans are losing interest in the war. One thing’s for sure. If we lose our nerve in Iraq, the Jihadists will win.
The Problem of Rogue States:
Iraq as a Case History
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center, which is located at www.anxietycenter.com.
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