Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The key to Iraqi reconciliation

The AP reports: "BAGHDAD – Iraq's Parliament cleared the way Wednesday for provincial elections that could give Sunnis a stronger voice and institute vast changes in Iraq's power structure after the Oct. 1 vote." This is a critically important development. Here's why. (Hat tip: Fausta)

This measure is vital to institutionalizing the gains won by the Surge. Iraq has long been crippled by the defective, UN-designed "closed-party list" voting system, which created political parties based on sectarian affiliation. A UN website describes why it adopted this system. It had the advantage of being easy ("no census is required") and creating what in the UN view was an appropriate structure of political coalitions. The trouble was the system encouraged the very same fraction that took Iraq to the brink of civil war.

One of the key problems facing strategists of the Surge was to find a way to institutionalize the grassroots movement of the past year. Former insurgents would of course, be retrained and put under the discipline of the Army or Police. But what of the political leaders? The natural path was to encourage the leadership which emerged during the Surge to stand for office, which proved very difficult to do under the closed-party list system. They were dressed up with no place to go.

The impasse in Baghdad is partly the result of a logjam of sectarian interests. There are also a fair number of politicians, who because of the sectarian nature of the coalitions, are stooges of Teheran. A new election law could sweep the logjam away in a flood, with the stooges in the bargain. Electoral reform is supremely important for long term success. It is the linchpin of "reconciliation".

The new law is one of the most sweeping reforms pushed by the Bush administration and signals that Iraq's politicians finally, if grudgingly, may be ready for small steps toward reconciliation.

Passage of several pieces of legislation, along with a reduction in violence, were the primary goals of the U.S. troop increase that President Bush ordered early last year. Still pending and not likely to face positive action soon ...

The more reason to inform the American public of the logic behind electoral reform and why it is so vital. Iraqi and American lives have taken the country back from the brink of civil war and on the approaches to normalcy. But the last steps are the most important. This is where it all pays off.




18 Comments:

Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

"But the last steps are the most important. This is where it all pays off."

Yes, and this step is where the farm is betted on. America and the Coalition have bet on the Iraqi people to reconcile, be independent of Iran and become a functioning nation.

We shall find out in the next election this coming November. Will America put more chips on the table (McCain)? Will America fold (Obama)?

November 2008 will be a very good indicator of America's collective mental health. Will She continue further down the road to socialism (taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive)? Or will She return to the fundamentals of Her Founders (untangle from foreign entanglements, individuals reap the rewards from their efforts through less tax)?

Iraq may be at a crossroad but USA is too.

I pray both take the harder, more practical, long term course.

Salaam eleikum Y'all!

2/13/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Up to now the government has been essentially all central Baghdad and governing of the rest, rural folks, smaller cities towns and provinces, haves been establishing themselves somewhat independently. These new laws recognize the grass roots efforts and build the foundation of regional and individual requirement necessary to function as a nation.

Not only that it is Iraqi by Iraqi design.

2/13/2008 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger LifeoftheMind said...

America's singular Constitutional gift to the world is Federalism. Yes I know the Swiss got there first. Seriously if we can get the communities in Iraq to understand that the more diverse their overall society the safer they are as members of component communities then the drive for unitary political and moral domination which is at the heart of Islamism will be broken. That is why the Jihadis and their sponsors are in a panic. Bush got it right, our conversion of Iraq into something closer to a normal society poses an existential threat to backwards and totalitarian regimes across the region. Similarly the existence of a moderate multi-confessional Lebanon was barely tolerable when communications were primitive and the locals in some other backwater did not know it existed but in the modern age it is as great a threat as the presence of a modern democratic Israel.

2/13/2008 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Back to where the US and Iraqi were, on 28 Jun 2003.

Occupation Forces Halt Elections Throughout Iraq
By William Booth and Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, June 28, 2003; Page A20

SAMARRA, Iraq -- U.S. military commanders have ordered a halt to local elections and self-rule in provincial cities and towns across Iraq, choosing instead to install their own handpicked mayors and administrators, many of whom are former Iraqi military leaders.

The decision to deny Iraqis a direct role in selecting municipal governments is creating anger and resentment among aspiring leaders and ordinary citizens, who say the U.S.-led occupation forces are not making good on their promise to bring greater freedom and democracy to a country dominated for three decades by Saddam Hussein.


Right back to what the Iraqi wanted, from the beginning, local control. The Baathists and Tribal leaders remain in place in the Sunni triangle. The Shia of the Mahdi Army and the SCIRI, Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, remain large and in charge. Even if the names have changed

2/13/2008 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Sharia is the law in Basra, Iraq.
That showcase of Coalition success.

2/13/2008 06:28:00 PM  
Blogger kmg said...

It was predicted as far back as May 2006, that 2008 would be the year of Victory in Iraq. That is proving to be an accurate prediction.

2/13/2008 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger smitty1e said...

It's fairly easy to hammer the UN's initial political party layout, but keep in mind that politics is a heuristic problem.
Maybe there had to be a suck answer before the suck-slightly-less answer would be possible.

2/13/2008 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

"Sharia is the law in Basra, Iraq.
That showcase of Coalition success."


Oh, come on now!

That is the one place where "the surge" was *skipped* because those soft-power Brits had a more enlightened way.

2/13/2008 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Peter said...

Hush! You'll mellow his leftie harsh!

2/13/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger RasulGhaatel said...

Desert Rat - Heh heh - the postcolonial Leftards worship Shariah law, not only for Islamic countries, but also want it introduced in their own western societies so freedom of expression can be curtailed.

But when Sharia is implemented in Basrah, and it leads to assassinations, tortures, 300 women murdered with their bodies dumped on the streets, then the postcolonial Leftard is more than happy to pin that on the Americans who have no active presence in Basrah !!

The moral delinquency and intellectual inferiority of the left-wing postcolonial and the lefto-fascists is totally hilarious, if not so pathetic.

2/14/2008 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

The failure to immediately allow the Iraqis to elect local leaders was a huge failure -- the Liberation/ Occupation forces should have controlled/ influenced the Iraqi chosen leaders thru money. And only give cash aid to the mayors doing what the Americans want.

The US should also have had geographic districts, like in the US, and NOT party lists. Party lists lead to ethnic/ nationalist splits -- like the Slovak parties being different than the Czech parties even when it was one Czechoslovakia. (And today in Slovakia, the Hungarian-Slovaks have their own 10% 'coalition' that mostly pushes the Hungarian Language).

2/14/2008 03:43:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

This is so succinctly well stated that it’s worth re-reading a time or two:

LifeoftheMind "America's singular Constitutional gift to the world is Federalism. Yes I know the Swiss got there first. Seriously if we can get the communities in Iraq to understand that the more diverse their overall society the safer they are as members of component communities then the drive for unitary political and moral domination which is at the heart of Islamism will be broken. That is why the Jihadis and their sponsors are in a panic. Bush got it right, our conversion of Iraq into something closer to a normal society poses an existential threat to backwards and totalitarian regimes across the region. Similarly the existence of a moderate multi-confessional Lebanon was barely tolerable when communications were primitive and the locals in some other backwater did not know it existed but in the modern age it is as great a threat as the presence of a modern democratic Israel.

Although that line of reasoning is still very speculative, it’s presumption is the rarely articulated rationale behind the Bush/neocon WOT strategy, the strategy of taking great effort to liberate a couple of thoroughly oppressed nations in the heart of the Islamic world rather than attempt to engage or placate a wider Middle East hotbed of extremists.

I’m not aware of any evidence that the establishment of two or three virtual protectorates of freedom will have the desired effect of weakening or toppling Islamic regimes, but the shared belief that it might is certainly the Occam's razor explanation for the “root cause” of terrorism and “why they hate us so much”. It’s a conclusion that I’ve long shared.

2/14/2008 04:10:00 AM  
Blogger 3Case said...

"Maybe there had to be a suck answer before the suck-slightly-less answer would be possible."

Maybe we had to get past the egos of a couple of levels of bureaucratic dweebs before something beginning to be practicable could be tried.


Thanks Marzouq for "...(taking from the productive and giving to the unproductive)?" Remind me of a piece that Ramesh Ponnouru (sp?) did at Thanksgiving several years ago where he related a conversation with someone in his hometown in India who desperately wanted to come here no matter what the Indian media and anti-U.S. pols said because "I want to go where the poor people get to be fat."otklwzh

2/14/2008 05:01:00 AM  
Blogger DougLoss said...

Ken Timmerman in "Shadow Warriors" asserted that almost the entire pre-existing plan for Iraq after the fighting died down was thrown out by Jerry Bremer and others of the State Department and CIA permanent government, and their leftwing policies instituted instead. Hence we saw years of violence and little progress until the military managed to head off these (is it too strong to say?) traitors.

2/14/2008 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

DougLoss said: "Ken Timmerman in "Shadow Warriors" asserted that almost the entire pre-existing plan for Iraq after the fighting died down was thrown out by Jerry Bremer and others of the State Department and CIA permanent government"

Was that General Zinni's plan at CENTCOM? If so, his invasion plan was literally forgotten as well, presumably because it was outdated. If it was another, I'd like to know more.

2/14/2008 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

3Case,

"otklwzh" ????


"Out the kitchen lanai window, zippy head!"

Or did you just paste in the Word Verification group?

2/14/2008 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger TonyGuitar said...

Marzouq . . said,

** Yes, and this step is where the farm is betted on. America and the Coalition have bet on the Iraqi people to reconcile, be independent of Iran and become a functioning nation. **

What a long shot, yet we all hope for the best. . .

How does a blood thirsty head chopper like Muqtada al Sadr and his blackshirts, loyal to Iran, blend into a democracy?

This is bound to be bumpy roads. = TG

2/15/2008 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

bill,

Your observation agrees with my argument for OIF. When discussing the topic, I often point out that liberal peace operators and peace-building efforts in the WOT are a greater big-picture threat to the terrorists than our war-fighters and combat ops. The terrorists welcome war with us, but they are threatened by a liberal peace.

desert rat,

Thank you. That Washington Post article, in its entirety, is a highly worthwhile read as a snapshot of both the challenges we faced and the justification for our hopes at a critical early stage in the post-war. The WP piece agrees with stories told to me by a friend of mine who served in OIF I (as a soldier, not a CPA civilian). He was an EOD team leader whose jobs were the WMD hunt and destroying ammo stockpiles. He told me how local Iraqi leaders sought out any Americans in leadership positions - even him, an EOD SSG on a non-diplomatic mission - to start the process of building the post-Saddam Iraq. The problem was, while our soldiers were the only practical interface with Iraqis, it was not their job (as it is now) to manage the transition. It was the CPA's job, but they were absent on the ground.

It's terrific reporting by the WP. The Bush admin has been widely accused of being unaware of the conflictual complexities of Iraqi society. If anything, the record shows that the Bush admin was, perhaps, overly sensitive and cautious about those complexities (eg, Bremer's fear of Baathists and Sadrists filling the vacuum).

Given the internal conflicts, missing the right political structure, the Bush admin clearly didn't trust the Iraqi factions to avoid a civil war. In hindsight, perhaps we should have taken a step back from the outset, focused on security, and simply helped the Iraqis while they took the initiative in building their post-Saddam civil society. We would have needed to trust them that they could make that leap from their own history.

In any case, the WP piece captures the caution by Bremer over the complexities of Iraqi society, the desire to avoid the risks of local factions undermining national reconciliation, and the desire by Bremer for a deliberate controlled transition to a stable post-Saddam Iraq. He didn't want a nation-building project doomed to fracture due to a rushed transition cracked with instrinsic structural flaws.

Remember, we had recently watched Afghanistan and Yugoslavia fracture with bloody civil war. We didn't want that to happen in Iraq on our watch, and it was Bremer's job with the CPA to make sure it didn't happen.

The choice of Iraqi military leaders wasn't about creating a puppet government and keeping popularly elected leaders out of the political process, as was expressed by the disillusioned Iraqis in the article. Those generals were supposed to be interim managers who were trained to take orders, top-down, while the CPA organized a national political structure, according to a blueprint, that could incorporate democratically chosen leaders without the nation fracturing.

Sensitive tasks. On their face, Bremer's decisions made sense. In a more 'laboratory' setting, if Bremer had fewer variables, fewer destructive agents, more time, and better constructive agents, he maybe could have done his job.

Unfortunately, we know what happened. Bremer failed. He could not implement his blueprint for post-Saddam transition in Iraq in the deliberate controlled fashion he - and most of us - wanted.

The WP piece backs up my ex-EOD friend's experience that most Iraqis did, in fact, trust Americans and were willing to work with us in the early post-war. Clearly, however, that trust was (understandably) conditional and it had its limits. The enemy successfully moved to exploit those limits at the same time Bremer and the CPA, while well-intentioned, were insufficiently competent to accomplish their mission.

Some say that the Iraqis had to go through the bloody turmoil of the last 5 years, a cruel learning curve, to arrive to where they are today. I can't be certain that view is wrong, but I disagree. I believe if GEN Petraeus and his COIN warriors had been in charge in Iraq immediately in the post-war, we would have a far different story in Iraq today.

As is, the Iraqis gave us a real chance to fulfill the American promise in 2003, and we failed them then. If they've given us another chance, I hope we don't fail the Iraqi people again.

Thanks, desert rat.

2/18/2008 09:48:00 PM  

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