The Iraqi Constitution

Thursday, August 25th, 2005 10:13 am by cyclops

I have wondered if the idea of a deadline for producing an Iraqi constitution is a good idea. On the one hand, imposing an arbitrary date on the creation of such a fundamental document seems, well, arbitrary. However, given the major compromises that must me made to draft this constitution, I have a strong sense that the document would never be completed without some self-imposed time-table.

For the past two weeks, the MSM has focused on the process more than on the substance of the document. Turning from the process, will the document itself result in a positive step for the Iraqis? In today’s NY Times, David Brooks’ op-ed piece, Divided They Stand, addresses that question. He spoke to two experts, one of whom has been a Bush critic, and the answers he receives are positive.

According to Peter W. Galbraith, the former ambassador to Croatia who is currently in Iraq,

“The Bush administration finally did something right in brokering this constitution. This is the only possible deal that can bring stability. … I do believe it might save the country.”

It is safe to say that the Iraqi constitution will not resemble the document drafted in Philadelphia in 1787. But our constitution was in response to the overly decentralized Articles of Confederation. America in the late 18th century was divided by region, but our divisions at that time pale in comparison to the sectarian divisions in today’s Iraq.

There is, he (Galbraith) says, no meaningful Iraqi identity. In the north, you’ve got a pro-Western Kurdish population. In the south, you’ve got a Shiite majority that wants a “pale version of an Iranian state.” And in the center you’ve got a Sunni population that is nervous about being trapped in a system in which it would be overrun.

In the last election each group expressed its authentic identity, the Kurds by voting for autonomy-minded leaders, the Shiites for clerical parties and the Sunnis by not voting.

This constitution gives each group what it wants. It will create a very loose federation in which only things like fiscal and foreign policy are controlled in the center (even tax policy is decentralized). Oil revenues are supposed to be distributed on a per capita basis, and no group will feel inordinately oppressed by the others.

So, while the final document may not look familiar to those of us in the West (and the US particularly), let’s hope these experts are right because so much is at stake.

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