Friday, August 26, 2005

Why can't we all just get along?

The U.S. invaded Iraq. Our leaders were/are operating under a plan that they could invade and "install" a "moderate democracy", and that by inserting moderate democracy in the middle of the Middle East that it would sway the neighboring countries toward moderate democracies and away from hardline fundamentally religious theocracy. Or something like that. It always seemed rather ridiculous to me.

Having a "moderate democracy" is hardly worth expending thousands of lives, both Iraqi and U.S. Considering all the hardline autocratic regimes around the world that the U.S. isn't invading to impose regime change, this isn't a very good justification for the war. I've always thought that was a smoke screen, and that something else is the root justification for the war ... namely ... that Iraq sits on a very large pile of oil.

The current step is to get the Iraqi's to agree to a constitution. But that process is very wrangled, with the radical cleric al-Sadr calling on his troops to fight, and in general an increase in violence accompanying the development of the constitution.

Iraq's unhealthy constitution The Bush administration's desperate insistence on an instant Iraqi constitution hurts both Iraq and our broader national interests. But when your polls are falling and you need to declare victory, who cares? (By Joe Conason, salon.com, August 26, 2005)

It's the constitution which Joe Conason talks about ... He says, and I agree, democratizing Iraq ought to be bringing the Iraqi's together. But the process taken by the Bush administration didn't give them time to work together, and indeed their main desire is to split the country apart into ethnic divisions. With the Shiite's having a theocratic regime that's probably in cahoots with Iran. The latter point would deny the U.S. access to the oil that is probably the true reason this war was launched.

The writing of a democratically legitimate constitution must be genuinely inclusive, which means that all the concerned groups have to be represented. The Sunni boycott of the parliamentary elections last winter made that essential prerequisite unachievable for now -- which ought to have encouraged American and Iraqi leaders to reevaluate the most desirable "path to democracy."

What they should have realized is that there is simply no way to write a real and functional constitution for a democratic state while a third of the population or more is in revolt. The Sunnis should have been persuaded to stop fighting and join in reconstruction before the constitutional process began, even if that meant new elections.

Elsewhere in the article he talks about the constitution writing process as "rushed". It's timed to fit the Bush Administration needs, the Oct 15 deadline being just before the U.S. elections allowing the positive result of being able to wave the Iraqi constitution in his hand and say "See!!! It was worth it!! We have a new democracy!!" would say our elections in his favor. But, gosh, for this to be a long term good result, and not just another farce of a "Mission Accomplished" show, Joe suggests the constitution writing process ought to be taking a lot longer than being allowed by the Bush administration.

All this makes me think of a prior nation building exercise. Think back to Germany, 1945. The Allied powers have won the war and there are several countries without functioning governments because Germany had swamped all the local governments, but they had been defeated.

I don't know much about that history, but it strikes me that the U.S. is still occupying Germany 60 years later.

And that even though the U.S. is still occupying Germany, there has over the last 10 years been a rise in what they're calling a neo-nazi movement.

Okay, that's interesting. It implies something about Iraq which Joe is pointing to. How I see it is each country has its national identity and way of being. The way of being for Germans is autocratic yet at the same time the Germans I know are very friendly and fun people to be with. In any case that autocratic streak that led to the rise of the Nazi party hasn't washed out of the German soul after 60 years, witnessed by the rise of neo-nazi activity.

If we're expecting to wash something out of the Iraqi soul, how long will it take, and will U.S. troops have to remain there for 60 or more years?

And, by the way, one little snippet I know about German history shortly after 1945 comes from an art movie I saw in the mid 90's. There was a lot of violence in Germany, factions fighting factions, that strike me as very similar to the fighting we're seeing in Iraq today. It's probably the "power vacuum" effect, that you remove the power that dominates an area, and that leads to fighting by the remaining factions to become the dominant power of the region.