Thursday, February 03, 2005

"The Lessons of 1787"

Leslie H. Gelb fears that the newly-elected Iraqi Assembly doesn't adequately represent Kurds and Sunni's. Thus, she looks to the Lessons of 1787 learned by the U.S.: form a committee for the job.
. . .the new Assembly should forgo drafting the constitution and establish a special constitutional committee for that purpose. Such a committee would be selected to better reflect both Iraq's population and its power elites.

It's easy to keep the process legal and ensure it does not subvert the election. The election law gives the Assembly the responsibility for putting together the constitution. But it does not say the Assembly has to draft the document itself, or forbid it from assigning the duty to another body. Of course, the special body would still have to submit the draft for the Assembly's approval.

Members of this special constitutional committee would be chosen by the Assembly itself and could be Assembly members as well as appointees of the new government. The composition of the committee is critical. It should include Sunni Arabs in sufficient numbers; if they are not given a stake in the new Iraq, most will continue to help their vile insurgent brethren, willingly or unwillingly.

The committee must also engage Iraq's James Madisons and Ben Franklins. The constitutional committee has to include the real power brokers in religion, politics and commerce. It's not at all clear how many of these types were elected on Sunday. American officials probably don't know them all, but Iraqis do.

As a practical matter, these local leaders would provide the political cushioning necessary during the yearlong drafting process and would be essential to the final passage of the constitution. The public vote on its approval comes a year hence and requires a nationwide majority. But Iraqi leaders have agreed that the constitution can be blocked by a two-thirds vote in three of the nation's 18 provinces. That could happen in the three Kurdish provinces or in the four controlled by Sunni Arabs. With such stalemate would probably come civil war.
To assume that civil war naturally follows from such a "stalemate" is presumptuous and ignores or underestimates the foresight of those who will draft the constitution. Wouldn't one think that compromises would be accepted prior to risking civil war? Gelb may be correct in believing a committee is the only feasible way to construct a constitution, but she still underestimates the political acumen of the Iraqi people. After coming so far, it is hard to believe that any committee would allow any civil war "trip-wires" to be written into the constitution. But many in the West have been underestimating the Iraqi's for quite a while now, haven't they?

No comments: