Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ease Them In

While I have great sympathy for the view that we may risk coddling the Iraqi Sunnis too much, a little giving to get them to give up the guns and join the political process is not unreasonable. While no one wants to reward violence, we do want to end it.

So when Frum writes that nobody worried about giving South African whites special favors after Apartheid was dismantled, I have to disagree. Frum writes:

After the end of apartheid in South Africa, nobody dared suggest that the country's new constitution institutionalize special protections for the white minority. The South African constitution did not attempt to mollify whites by declaring South Africa part of a "global community of white nations." Nor did anyone say that the new post-apartheid regime would be legitimate only if whites accepted it. The constitution protected property rights, civil rights, freedom of speech and religion--but did so equally for everybody.

Recall that white South Africans did indeed get special protections for a short time to reconcile them to the new South Africa and to give them some assurances during the transition. For five years, any party getting more than a set percentage of votes for parliament would get seats in the cabinet. This made sure whites would be in the government for five years:

These agreements on the transitional government represented important compromises by both the government and the ANC, and they helped to set new precedents for future negotiations. The NP won agreement on its refusal to give the new state president broad and extensive powers during the transition period. (Under the previous system, the president could override the views of minority parties.) At the same time, de Klerk compromised on his demand for a permanent consensus-style arrangement to be enshrined in any new constitution by agreeing to a five-year transitional government. The arrangement satisfied the NP demand for legally binding checks and balances to protect the country's white minority. The ANC, for its part, compromised on its earlier insistence on full and immediate majority rule, by agreeing to participate in a powersharing arrangement for at least five years. At the same time, many ANC leaders hoped that their party, as the dominant party in the transitional government, would win a suffic iently large majority to enable it to enact most of its policies, even without the consent of other parties.

I repeat, by that 5% provision, white South Africans guaranteed that they would be in the cabinet for five years. Clearly, the country's Black population would dominate but it could not exclude whites from the government. And the reassurance worked both ways. By working in the government the former exploiters could build confidence among the Black majority that the whites would work for the future and not try to reclaim the past.

So relax that the Sunnis are getting extra coaxing for now. So are the Kurds. In time, the special protections should be removed and all should be treated the same. To end the Baathist part of the insurgency, temporary concessions to ease minority concerns may be just fine.