Friday, December 23, 2005

The Other Monkey

Last Sunday night President George W. Bush, addressed the nation regarding Iraq. You can find a transcript for that speech here:

Again, though I feel awkward saying so, I find myself supporting the President. I was against invading Iraq. However, the choice to engage and the choice on what to do once in Iraq are two very separate questions. We are in Iraq and to leave without establishing stability would be a greater offense than entering was in the first place. I agree with the President that there is no room for defeatist mentality or for an exit timeline. It takes a great effort to establish a democracy--government is difficult and government by the people is the most difficult. We need pragmatic solutions in Iraq not partisan politics.

Iraq currently faces a great difficulty in uniting Sunni, Shia, and Kurd into a national identity of Iraqi. The Sunni who have traditional held power in Iraq and have thought themselves to be the majority are now realizing that power will now lay with the true majority the Shia. Fearing that a Shia led government would be heavily influenced by Shia dominated Iran next door, Sunni's came out in full force in the election last week. This highlights the greatest fear surrounding democracy: Tyranny of the Majority over the Minority. (I would suggest that you will find sufficient evidence of this struggle in our own history.) This becomes especially cumbersome when attempting to unite groups with strong ethnic or religious identities that trump a national identity.

So here is my suggestion to Mr. Bush: read or hopefully re-read my favorite advocate of democracy, James Madison in the Federalist Papers. Skim past all the parts about large states vs. Small states; leap over the obvious that men are not angels hence the need for government; and land, Mr. Bush, on the need for a multitude of factions. In other words, for Iraq to function smoothly as a democracy we cannot have a government led by Shia's dominating over the Sunni and Kurdish minority's that certainly will, as we have all feared, lead to a civil war. No, we need to push a strong market economy within Iraq. This in turn will weaken ethnic identities as well as induce real one on one relations between groups. Further, as most importantly it will produce lobbies or factions. No longer will it be Kurd v. Sunni v. Shia but rather Oil Interest v. Religious v. Poor v. Small Business v. Academia. In otherwords create an environment where factions are developed and then protected. The multitude thus requires coalition building to gain power and finally the greatest word within government--moderation.


At 3:22 PM, Blogger That one guy said...

You make several good points.

I applaud you for taking (what would be) the awkward step of supporting the President. While I find myself closer aligned with his views, I understand that aligning with Bush (on any topic) is unthinkable for some.

For the most part, I agree with both you and President Bush, so there's not much more I can add.

You do a good job of giving some of the political theory behind what President Bush was saying. I see your suggestion fitting straight into his speech.

In his speech, Bush mentioned the three legs of the plan in Iraq at this point: security, democracy, reconstruction. Each is vital.

If we ignore that there are violent factions in Iraq, they will not tire; the violence will not cease on its own. Does this mean that we stop when we have reduced violence or that we pull out when the Iraqis have a full army of their own? Not necessarily; there are two other legs on which our policy stands.

As you pointed out, the Sunnis are realizing that they might not hold the same role in government that they previously held. Conversely, they fear that the Shia will impose their (religious) views on the rest of the country, essentially transitioning Iraq into a democratic theocracy. This can be avoided. Madison, indeed, has something to say about this. So, how do we create these alternate factions? Professor Sunderland explains the role that factions play in a democracy and the options for breaking factions. You, alternately, aptly explained Madison's (and Sunderland's) explanations. It is based on the third leg of the stool:

We must "revive Iraq's economy and infrastructure -- [and give] Iraqis confidence that a free life will be a better life." When Iraqis have interests outside their current groups they will be free of current religious constraints. To some degree, it sounds like what we need to do is pit Sunni v. Sunni, Shia v. Shia, Kurd v. Kurd. But this isn't a violent opposition, merely an economic interest. It has worked previously; it could work in Iraq.

That being said, however, there comes a point where we are powerless. We can provide security; we can assist in establishing democratic outlets; we can help different industries take off. But, we cannot create these factions; we cannot make a Kurd align her/himself with a Sunni. We must be resolute, but we must also be patient.

Props for the fresh view.


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