Sunday, May 25, 2014

Halal Sausage-Making

Iraq isn't as good as I'd like. But we're not there to influence events as much as we could. Yet let's at least be grateful that voting and negotiations are the basis for figuring out who sits in the big offices rather than shooting and prison terms:

There is therefore no doubt that al-Maliki will be asked by the president (when parliament can agree on one) to form the new government. In 2010, he had to battle with Allawi for months to get that chance. But putting together a coalition with the needed 164 votes may prove even harder than in 2010, when the process lasted nine months, only coming to an end with an agreement to form a government of national reconciliation in which all parties participated.

This time, al-Maliki has already announced that he does not want another government of national unity, but he will find it difficult to get sufficient support. After four years of increasingly authoritarian rule, the prime minister has little backing among Sunnis and Kurds, and has even failed to unite Shias behind him.

The article focuses on the possibility that Iraq will eventually become a loosely run confederation as the result of these negotiations. Perhaps. I hope not. The abstract notion of confederation is probably a better idea before you start negotiating actual boundaries on the ground.

So if things don't go our way in Iraq after we bled and spent to achieve something better, this failure to remain engaged in Iraq will be a dark chapter in the history of the Iraq War:

We are winning the Iraq War on the battlefield. We need to win the long-term battle for a free, prosperous, and democratic Iraq to start the process of providing an alternative to despotism or jihadi rule in the Arab Moslem world.

We did well enough so that when the Arab Spring against despots broke out, Arabs spoke of "democracy"--even though they did not know what that really meant in practice (rule of law and not just voting)--rather than Islamist rule as the alternative.

But we've yet to provide the working example. We may yet despite Iran's attempt to subvert democracy and despite the grip of Iraqi history that impedes movement towards democracy. Again, this is why I wanted to keep 25,000 garrison and training troops in Iraq after 2011.

But if Iraq does split as the result of negotiations over the new government, at least it could be done peacefully, like Czechoslovakia, rather than like Yugoslavia. That's not a bad day's work, really.