More on Charles Krauthammer's Iraqposted by Ron Beasley at 11/28/2004 01:41:00 PM
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Dr Cole's reference to 1789 come at a good time for me. I must admit that even though I am a 58 year old college graduate my knowledge of US history was nearly zip. With all of the arguments about what the founding fathers intended I decided it was time to remedy that sorry state of affairs. I have been reading John Ferling's A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. It covers the period from 1750 to 1800 in great detail, 500 pages worth of detail. It is truly amazing how close the United States came to not being. The divisions between the North and the South were sharp from the very beginning. I have just finished the lengthy section on the constitutional convention of 1789 and the ratification of the constitution by the states following the convention. Dr Cole is correct, if the South had not participated in the convention there would be no United States of America today. Any Iraqi constitution constructed without Sunni and Kurdish participation can only result in deep divisions and civil war.
Charles Krauthammer, after 18 months of blithe optimism on Iraq, has now suddenly decided that the country is embroiled in a Civil War and that the forthcoming elections will resemble those of 1864 in the United States, when the Confederate states did not vote for Lincoln.
As usual, Krauthammer is wrong. Historical analogies are always tricky, but this one is simply inaccurate. The problem is that Iraqis are not electing a president, even a war president. They are in effect electing a constitutional assembly. The main business of the new parliament is to craft a permanent constitution.
So, the analogy would be to 1789. What would the new American Republic's chances have been if the Southern states had not been able to send delegates to the constitutional convention, and so had been excluded from having an input into it? All sorts of compromises had to be hammered out in 1789, concerning southern slavery and how to count a slave for census purposes, etc. If the South hadn't been able to show up, the northern states would simply have ignored those issues, and the secession of those states might have come 70 years early. Would the North have been able to resist it so successfully at that point?
Likewise, Sunni Arabs have a big stake in the permanent constitution. Will it give Kirkuk and its oil to the Kurds, depriving Arabs of any share in those revenues? Will it ensconce Shiite law as the law of the land? Will it keep a unicameral parliament, in which Shiites would have a permanent majority, or will it create an upper chamber where Sunnis might be better represented, on the model of the US senate? If all those issues go against the Sunnis because they aren't there to argue their positions, it would set Iraq up for guerrilla war into the foreseeable future.
Get well soon Jazz.