Democracy In Iraq
Guest Post from Big Tent Democrat
The sight of Christopher Hitchens' head spinning as he discovers Henry Kissinger's influence over our Iraq policy is certainly satisfying in a perverse way. I can not say that I am immune to it myself. But this bit from Hitchens' column is what got my attention:
It might also help explain a lot. During the Bremer period of governance in Baghdad, both the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis and the calling of elections were fatally postponed (perhaps when it was hastily discovered that a combined Kurdish and Shiite list could win a vote). It has proved difficult, if not impossible, to regain the political ground that was lost in that time. Shall we never be free of the malign effect of this little gargoyle and his ideas?
Hitchens gets it, as he has throughout, exactly backward. It was the rush to create an Iraqi government prior to a political settlement between the sunni, Shia and Kurd which has been a major engine to the chaos. While the Iraq Debacle was destined for failure no matter what, the rush to Iraqi elections was, in my opinion, the biggest post-war blunder of them all. I'll explain in extended.
In the Spring 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Biddle, a Fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote:
. . . [I]f the debate in Washington is Vietnam redux, the war in Iraq is not. The current struggle is not a Maoist "people's war" of national liberation; it is a communal civil war with very different dynamics. Although it is being fought at low intensity for now, it could easily escalate if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices.
The big problem in Biddle's piece was this -- "if Americans and Iraqis make the wrong choices" - if, Mr. Biddle?
Rapid democratization, meanwhile, could be positively harmful in Iraq. In a Maoist people's war, empowering the population via the ballot box undermines the insurgents' case that the regime is illegitimate and facilitates nonviolent resolution of the inequalities that fuel the conflict. In a communal civil war, however, rapid democratization can further polarize already antagonistic sectarian groups. In an immature polity with little history of compromise, demonizing traditional enemies is an easy -- and dangerous -- way to mobilize support from frightened voters. And as the political scientists Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder have shown, although mature democracies rarely go to war with other democracies, emerging democracies are unusually bellicose. Political reform is critical to resolving communal wars, but only if it comes at the right time, after some sort of stable communal compromise has begun to take root.
Of course this is right. But the horse was out of the barn already. Bremer "turned over" authority to Allawi in the summer of 2004. Elections were held in January 2005. An Iraqi Constitution was rammed through the "Iraq assembly" in the Fall of 2005. Elections were held in December 2005 "ratifying" that Constitution.
Now I am no genius, but I figured out this problem in January 2005. I knew that Election was simply a photo op. Why? Because Elections are to choose governments, not to celebrate the day. Were the people elected capable of governing Iraq? Without 150,000 U.S. soldiers? Or even with them? Some chose to celebrate the day. My focus was on the realities of governing a land in chaos, in the midst of civil war, with 150,000 U.S. soldiers the only force with the ability to provide security. And that was 2 years after the invasion.
About the Iraq constitution's ratification in late 2005, I thought the best result would have been a Sunni rejection of the Constitution that would have taken Iraq back to the drawing board. That result would have demonstrated to the Sunni that they indeed DO have a stake in the political process and some power to exert in that process.
The result demonstrated the exact opposite. Indeed, the passage of the Constitution made the "basic security problem in Iraq" worse -- what can Sunnis who argue for participation in the political process and abandonment of the insurgency have to offer in the way of evidence that Sunnis will have any power in that political process? Nothing. On the other hand, had the Sunni been able to reject the Constitution, they would have had a powerful argument for political participation and abandonment of the insurgency.
The result of the constitutional vote was the worst possible outcome - overwhelming Sunni rejection of the Constitution to no political effect. The divide predictably has worsened.
BLITZER: General Clark, it would seem that whoever's responsible for this attack, this series of attacks today in Baghdad, trying to make a political statement coming on the heels -- coming on the eve, if you will, of tomorrow's expected signing of this interim constitution, trying to scare people. Is that your sense? CLARK: Yes. And continuing to show that, despite the presence of the Americans, there is a resistance. There is a resistance. I think our troops are doing a great job there battling it. But this is still a society that's very much at risk. There's a risk of real civil war in Iraq. And that's what we're playing with. And we knew that, or should have known that, when we went in to occupy the country.
Hitchens still has not figured it out. Purple fingers are not political solutions, no matter how much we wish it were so.
|< Jury Convicts in Albany Terrorism Sting Case | Aircraft Hits New York Building >|