1787 or 1861?

Ken AshfordIraq1 Comment

Neo-cons like to imagine that the New Iraq is something akin to our own country’s historic period of 1787, when our constitution was ratified and a new democracy forged.  But I’ve come to believe that the ethnic strife going on over there renders the U.S. Civil War (Iraqi style) a better analogy.  Harold Myerson says the same thing:

It looks increasingly as if President Bush may have been off by 74 years in his assessment of Iraq. By deposing the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, Bush assumed he would bring Iraq to its 1787 moment — the crafting of a democratic constitution, the birth of a unified republic. Instead, he seems to have brought Iraq to the brink of its own 1861 — the moment of national dissolution.

No, I don’t mean that Iraq is on the verge of all-out civil war, though that’s a possibility that can’t be dismissed. But the nation does appear on the verge of a catastrophic failure to cohere. The more the National Assembly deliberates on the fundamentals of a new order, the larger the differences that divide the nation’s three sub-groups appear to be.

It’s not the small stuff that they’re sweating in Baghdad. They can’t agree on whether the new Iraq should be a federation, with a largely autonomous Shiite south and Kurdish north, or a more unified state, which the Sunnis prefer. They can’t agree on just how Islamic the new republic should be, and whether the leading Shiite clergy should be above the dictates of mere national law. They can’t agree on whether religious or state courts should hold sway in Shiite-dominated regions, or even the nation as a whole; they can’t agree on the rights of women. They can’t agree on the division of oil revenue among the three groups. They can’t agree on whether there should be a Kurdish right to secede enshrined in the constitution.

In short, they can’t agree on the fundamentals of what their new nation should be. And the more they deliberate, the less they agree on.

Read the whole thing.