Iraqi Democracy

Idealism in The Days After (
I suspect democracy in Iraq will look significantly different than that of the United States or other western countries. There is a good reason for this and my opinion is that it rests on the separation of church and state. That will be hard to swallow since Islam doesn’t make that distinction, but it is a necessary precondition to freedom and should be insisted upon.

As I understand it, Turkey has a rather novel solution to this problem: their military is chartered with maintaining the separation of church and state. From time-to-time the military has had to take over the government when it has crossed the line from being secular to being Islamist. I suppose in a Muslim country this would qualify as a check — as in checks and balances — and may be necessary in Iraq as well. It isn’t ideal but religious liberty is a fundamental freedom and shouldn’t be allowed to be watered down in a post-war Iraq.

Until now, the administration had tactical reasons for delaying the establishment of a clear “day after” political context. But the flexibility it has needed to mount the invasion now must give way to clarity and coordination with a nascent democratic leadership that has, against tremendous odds and most expectations, pulled itself together inside Iraq — only to find immediate help scarce.

“We get no support, no interlocutors on the ground here, no effort to coordinate with us on defections from the army, on using our contacts in Baghdad to rise against Saddam, or on establishing communication networks to broadcast our message during the intervention and its immediate aftermath,” Ahmed Chalabi, the guiding spirit of the Iraqi National Congress, told me by satellite phone from an undisclosed secure location in Dahuk in northern Iraq a few days ago.

“Under U.S. protection, we established a functioning democratic administration in northern Iraq and started moving the Kurdish body politic toward becoming truly Iraqi,” adds Barham Salih, a senior figure in Kurdistan’s autonomous authority. “We can extend that to a federal structure of democratization for Iraq that will replace Saddam and enable us to change the opposition as well — to eliminate corruption and authoritarianism wherever it exists.”

Salih was in Washington last week for pre-invasion briefings. Kanan Makiya, a leading intellectual in the Iraqi National Congress who only last month publicly attacked the administration for not subscribing to the opposition’s democratic ideals, also met last week with senior U.S. officials here.

“They are beginning to structure a relationship with the new leadership council we have developed. The need for an interim Iraqi authority is becoming clearer to them,” a newly encouraged Makiya told me. “They are asking the right questions about involving the inside.” Other sources said that a high-level U.S. meeting with Iraqi National Congress leaders will be held in Turkey this week.

It has been easy and fashionable in some congressional suites, CIA offices and television studios to deride the efforts of these Iraqis and others as failing to meet the standards of “Jeffersonian democracy.” But they have risked lives and livelihoods for three decades to fight Saddam Hussein and are now close to triumph. It is in supporting Iraq’s committed democrats that American idealism will survive this war and its dangerous aftermath.

Expecting Jeffersonian democracy from a culture that won’t support it could make post-war rebuilding much more difficult. We would never consider chartering our military to take over the country in any circumstance, but allowing for that in Iraq may be a necessity to preserve religious liberty

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