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August 22, 2005


Given the procedure for approval of the Constitution, which will fail if it is rejected with at least 66% of the vote in at least 3 provinces, I cannot see how this will pass. The 3 provinces threshold was chosen to make sure the Kurds had a veto, but it also gives the Sunnis a veto (they control 4 provinces).

NPR this morning had an interview this mornign with an analyst from some think tank (did not catch which one, unfortunately) this morning which said basically that if the Sunnis reject the Constitution because there's too much local autonomy, that's a good thing as they must be interested in participating in these procedures. Never mind that a new Parliament will need to be elected, so we've lost a year and likely this needle cannot be threaded.

On the bright side...this is how a constitution is created...looking to our own, with issues left unresolved that would tear the nation apart a century later, it's hard to expect so much more than that out of the Iraqis.

von, are you objecting to the very provisions that our own ambassador seems to have been twisting arms to promote? Just asking.

But, don't those American soldiers look so cute painting schools?

Thanks for the analysis, von.

Americans are dying and spending billions to bring this to Iraq? This type of outcome was widely predicted in 2002-2003 in the run-up to the war as a reason why the war was, well, stupid. Do the war supporters think this is "victory?"

And Dantheman brings up the key point -- it will not be ratified if the Sunnis come out against it because of the regional veto power that was initially thought to protect the Kurdish interests.

And Edward is right that this messy process is how constitutions get created, except that the US waited 80 years for the civil war to sort out the unresolved messes, as opposed to trying to write the thing during the civil war.

If this constitution gets approved for the vote, expect the Bush apoloigists to spin it as victory and progress, and put off for another few months doing anything meaningful while we wait to see if it gets approved in the voting.


You forgot one thing - once it doesn't get approved in the voting the war party then gets to clain that the failure of the glorious revolution was the Iraqi's fault for not embracing their chance. And, by the way, how could we (or anyone) have predicted this ?

This is a classic case of a project in trouble. Top management sets unrealistic goals and an impossible deadline. First, there's denial that anything is wrong. Then, it's just a few minor problems, nothing to get excited about. Eventually, the problems become too obvious to ignore, so there are schedule slips and a redefinition of success. Alas, this is not a project that can be cancelled, so we have to soldier on in a death march.

I seem to recall that the President has an MBA from Harvard. What we have here is a story straight out of Management 101.

Edward - Okay, so we've lost 1,800 American soldiers, killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, spent $180 billion dollars, so that Iraq can have a massive civil war? This makes the war better how?

The US throws its weight behind the concept of Democracy. We later discover, much to our chagrin, that "Democracy" actually means "Majority Rule," and that the Shia are in the majority. Wow, couldn't have seen that one coming.

Majority Rule is a fine thing. First, though, you have to have a constitution that protects minority rights. It's a great joke that the people in charge of our government didn't think of that, when laying out the TAL.

Still, maybe Iraqis can take a lesson from George Mason & the anti-federalists. Suppose a defective constitution gets sent out for ratification, and suppose a significant number of leading Kurds and Sunni let it be widely known that they will oppose ratification unless a bill of rights is appended. Then the Shia have a choice to make: ride this one out, and see if they can get the votes anyway (recognizing that in some areas Sunni of the country, turnout is going to be light, and skew towards ratification) or recognize that they can give in to a proviso that creates individual but not group rights.

It would be interesting to have an hour with Grand Ayatollah Sistani to chat about this.

It's also interesting to speculate whether an announced substantial withdrawal date of 1/15/06 would affect the thinking of the Shia leaders.

CharleyCarp: "Majority Rule is a fine thing. First, though, you have to have a constitution that protects minority rights."

Oh, you mean with structural protections, like for instance, the filibuster?

I'm guessing that Sunni turnout will be light, because I'm guessing that AQ types will threaten to blow up anyone who votes. It worked pretty well in some places earlier in the year, and I'd think that your average would be Sunni voter has had ample opportunity since then to see how powerless the state is to prevent this kind of violence.

I wonder what the SCIRI and Dawa leadership are thinking about their chances in new elections, should the national assembly have to dissolve.

Filibuster, that's cute.

A Senate, too, as a place for protecting Sunnis and Kurds from the consequences of the Shia teaming with the other.

All snark aside, let me say --- it may sound like I'm being extremely cynical toward democracy, but that's not the case. Liberal democracy is the only system of government that works. But liberal democracy isn't a piece of paper, it isn't even a parliament or a house of representatives. It's a culture. Creating the trappings without the culture gives you very little.

josh -
Interesting note about the culture and the trappings. All snark aside, the filibuster is actually an excellent illustration of that principle. It appears nowhere in the US Constitution, but it is still, for now, a "structural" element of our system - put there by the custom of a group of people who understood the underlying purpose of the legislature.

This is not (please, really, not) intended to start an attack/defense of the filibuster; it may be a structural protection, but that doesn't mean the system can't survive without it. I'm just saying that unless you were actually concerned with/aware of the importance of protecting the rights of the minority, such a limit on majority power would never, ever be voluntarily instituted.

"It's a culture. Creating the trappings without the culture gives you very little."

Yes, and the culture takes decades of shepherding. See: Japan, Germany and recently South Korea.

"Liberal democracy is the only system of government that works."

Say what? Somebody go tell the Spartans. Or Han. Or Tokugawa. Or Pharoahs. Or Pius Antoninus.

Or the current Chinese leadership.

Works for whom? For how long? With what goals and purposes and benefits?

Sebastian --- not sure I follow you. Japan seemed to take to democracy pretty quickly, South Korea seemed not to. However, I have to admit, my knowledge of both countries is shallow, so maybe I'm misstating the case.

But when I say that the right culture is needed, I think the biggest prerequisite is a culture of mutual trust. When the Iraqis trust each other, they'll be ready to entrust their fates to each other.

I suspect that the success of Japan has to do with the fact that the people did, relatively speaking, trust each other.

Yes, and the culture takes decades of shepherding. See: Japan, Germany and recently South Korea.

Sebastian, are you suggesting that we occupy Iraq (with our heavily armed "shepherds") for "decades"? Just checking.


A link added to my blogroll belatedly yesterday. Swopa and crew, possibly as good on the ME as LAT for the last few years.

Today, live blogging the Constitution negotiations and bitch slapping Juan Cole on his solution for Iraq..

"Sebastian, are you suggesting that we occupy Iraq (with our heavily armed "shepherds") for "decades"? Just checking."

I've been suggesting that we should be ready to commit to decades for at least 3 years.

And by "commit" you mean ... "occupy"? "maintain major bases"? What, exactly?

I'm sure the insurgents would love to see us stay for decades, but I don't quite understand what *American* policy would be forwarded by such a move. The flypaper policy, I suppose.

Another problem with the Iraqi constitution is that it's removed 7 from our set of numbers.

Forgive the snark... but didn't Donald Rumsfeld his own self say that democracy was messy? Or was that freedom?

Nice to know he was right about something...

Anderson - if by "shepherding," he meant "occupying," he's not being totally insane. But an occupation isn't going to "shepherd" a nation toward democracy unless somehow, that occupation gives the people of the nation to experience and come to appreciate the virtues of democracy. I don't see that happening in Iraq. The government we've established is, for all practical purposes, the democratically-elected government of the green zone. Only the citizens of the green zone are going to be able to learn to appreciate it in any way. What people outside the zone are learning is that "democracy" is another word for "anarchy" and "gang rule." That's not exactly shepherding them toward an appreciation of democracy.

Josh, excellent point. That is why I was encouraged that viceroy Garner started to institute local elections right after the "major combat operations" "ended".

We know what happened to that plan as soon as he was replaced by Bremer. Which just shows how much this administration cares about real, honest, grassroots democracy. They didn't want to know what the people think (who cares what they think?), they want the people to say "yes, sir, how high?".

There was a real, if slim, chance for real democratic roots to take hold in Iraq, if only they had started from the bottom and let the people work it out.

An election does not a democracy make. I grew up next to the Soviet Union. They had fine elections too. And they spoke a storm of Liberation, and Democracy, and Freedom. Nobody believed them either.

We had 70 years before that Civil War, and the nation survived it. Is that more or less your prediction for Iraq?

[Comment stolen and replaced with something of greater value. Because I can.]

Alright, kids, can we dispense with the cutesy "when are you enlisting" attacks?

Dispensed with, Catsy.

Thanks, Slart.

Methinking it's time for another open thread to lighten the mood a bit.

Slightly more than four billion more IPs until Don Q has us banning the entire internet. Or something like that.

"He compared the American, Kurdish and Shiite negotiators to pre-Islamic pagans who created images of their gods by pressing together moist dates. The dates, he said, represent things like women's rights and national unity that those negotiators have repeatedly said are sacred.

"But later, when they feel hungry," Mr. Hamdoun said, laughing uproariously, "they will eat this god."" cite

and tomorrow the vote.

Rove's mouthpiece in the NYT, a.k.a. David Brooks, today gives us a preview of how the new spin will go.

You see, all along the reason to invade Iraq was so that it could break up *slowly* instead of quickly. That's right! Now we know the noble cause!

Please note the new lowered setting of the bar. Please note that yesterday's abysmal failure is now today's brilliant success. Please adjust accordingly.

And avoid the phrase "flip-flopper".

[Also worth noting that Bilmon says Brooks' main source for the puff piece, Galbraith, is an advisor to the Kurds, and so very far from an impartial observer.]

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