Saturday, December 24, 2005

Thoughts on Iraqi Parliamentary vote controversy

In-depth links and commentary (here and here) on the vote controversy at the fine blog, the Belmont Club.

Here's a comment I left on Fayrouz from Dallas' blog:

Let me throw this idea out for people who know better than I do . . .

Chaos and conflict aren't in and of themselves deal-breakers in a
democratic state. At best, our system is a constant balancing act that seeks to
protect the state, society, the majority, minorities and individuals. Chaos and
conflict are built into the system. They key is to channel and control it within
that balancing act.

Is it possible that a good long-term outcome of this event is the political
coalescence of hitherto non-allied minority parties into a unified Iraqi
plurality that can balance the dominant religious Shia coalition? After all,
there's a practical reason why we have 2 dominant political parties, despite
their struggles to represent wide slates of interests. Our nation began with
many political parties that were weeded out in Darwinian fashion.

I don't see how the majority Shia can be denied their share of the pie
anymore than the white majority can be denied in the US, more so given Iraq's
history. I think the key is to figure out how that reality can be balanced with
protection of individuals and minorities, the state, etc.

In that, I can see the Iraqi people at a stark crossroads. As an American,
it's fair to accuse me of looking at democratic nation-building through a
rose-colored prism, but years/decades/centuries of evolutionary struggle is in
our political history, too. I don't know enough to say yet that Iraq is doomed.
So, can this episode lead to maturation away from idealistic political naivete
and towards pragmatic deal-making that will create a balance of power and
ultimately save the future of Iraq as a viable democratic state?

The problem I see with my optimistic Barnett-esque projection is outside influences. Our outside influence on Iraq is motivated by a unified Iraqi state that protects minorities as well as the majority. An assumption I make is that the Iraqis must ultimately work together. But what if they don't? What if extreme Shia, the Sadrists, would rather dominate Iraq old-school than choose cooperative liberal democracy, and can be influenced and helped by Iran. What if the Sunnis continue to fall back on their Baathist allies outside of Iraq? What if the Kurds look increasingly to their own state? Wretchard at Belmont Club sums up the debate between Daniel Pipes and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute (both noted OIF supporters) on this issue:


Gerecht argued that the process was foremost, and if democracy meant that the side you didn't like occasionally won, well it was a feature, not a bug. Pipes retorted that it was insane to let radical Islamists play in a game they wanted, above all to abolish; against "democratic elections in which the result could be 'one person, one vote, one time.'" Of course, both Pipes and Gerecht might as well have been debating the problem of bringing democracy to Iraq, where election in a Shi'a majority country could be expected to produce a Shi'a dominated result.
The trick in a new democracy isn't the first election, it's the second and the third . . . in other words, a peaceful transition of power that reinforces the state and its precepts. Right now, Iraq is at a crossroads where the US has much less power to influence the decision they make. In our mission to implant a third choice in the Middle East, I fear that the terrorists, an impotent global community and an overly sensitive American leadersip have succeeded in undermining that option. But maybe the process will be intact and the system is set up so cooperation is a must. But maybe . . . it's a nervous thing to be on the edge of history - we'll see.

Update: Read what neo neocon has to say about the vote controversy.

- Eric

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