In Allah We Trust
Michael Yon's 7 Rules, 1 Oath describes a meeting attended by the Iraqi Army and former insurgents presided over by an American officer. Its purpose: to discuss a series of practical and philiosophical princples and draft an oath under which parties who were recently united in fighting against al-Qaeda, but who had differences of their own, could live. Yon describes the discussion around one point: Taking an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of Iraq.
Now it got interesting. One Iraqi said that even under the Saddam regime, bad as it was, the constitution still kept them together. He made no mention of the wars against the Kurds or Shia. But he went on to say that the current constitution tended to divide Iraq. No serious arguments were put forth on this today, but it was clear that fourth rule could lead to months or years of debate. After all, our own Constitution remains a work in progress, having been amended more than two dozen times. Each time that Americans bring this fact to forefront, it seems to assuage some of the “Constitutional-angst” among Iraqis, but that doesn’t change the fact that their government is about as solid as fog.
Strangely enough the discussion meeting that Michael Yon is describing is an operation of war. Maybe not the sort that immediately comes to mind, but perhaps all the more important for all that. Personally I was struck by the atmospherics. Although it was a peaceful assembly, in constitution it consisted of a brotherhood of warriors. Some of the Iraqi Army, some who were lately insurgents. Another who was the representative of the US military. They were all gathered to create a mini-constitution or at least draft the ground rules for their little patch of turf. It was scene that might not be out of place from the American frontier during the French and Indian Wars. The smell of gunpowder, rather than the diplomatic accreditation or academic distinction, seemed to be the coin of entry into the room. And I wondered how a traditional diplomat or aid worker would fit into this setting? Badly, is my guess. Yet maybe these types of situations represent the real challenge to the diplomats and development specialists of today. Because traditional representation based on liaising with the foreign ministry in the national capital may inadequate in a region ablaze with the flames of the Jihad and where small armed groups play such a large part in politics.