- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2003

An Iraqi interim administration occupied by unelected exiles and indigenous Iraqi grandees and mullahs is contemplated by the Bush administration in less than 30 days. During the following 18 months, the provisional wise men, purportedly steeped in the arts of self-government and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women of whatever faith, ethnicity or tribe are created equal, are expected to reconcile centuries-long estrangements between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Kurds, Arabs,Turkmen and other rival and antagonistic groups. The self-appointed mayor of Baghdad, who was arrested last week by the U.S. Army, and the self-anointed mullahs in the south insisting on a right of theocratic rule are said to be aberrational or unworrisome. A democratic constitution will be drafted by counterparts of the celebrated 55 who fashioned the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, laurelled by Gladstone “as the most remarkable work known to me in modern times to have been produced by the human intellect.”

The U.S. military will recede to a shadow as democracy blossoms on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates after 4,000 years of agonizing gestation. A first step toward transforming the Iraqi legal landscape from grisly to humane was taken last week with a two-day crash course on the Bill of Rights for a score of Iraqi policemen who had served under Saddam Hussein. But none has yet been captured on CNN reading Miranda warnings to suspects held in custody or leaving civilians undisturbed absent probable cause to believe a crime is imminent as prescribed by the Fourth Amendment.

The Bush administration envisions that a democratic Iraq will be plucked from the political genius that blazes forth like shooting stars from a whirlwind of New England-like town meetings. The Iraqi common man, unschooled and unpracticed in democracy and democratic customs, is expected to display the wisdom of a Nestor, Merlin or Ben Franklin in fashioning a new constitutional dispensation. The intense and meticulous intellectual labors and seasoning of Madison, Hamilton, Washington and Wilson, Mr. Bush’s gurus apparently think, were superfluous to America’s constitutional jewel.

The administration’s playbook for democracy’s instant triumph over a police state and mullah theocracy in Iraq deserves a respectful hearing. It has been created by honorable men and women. They are endowed with beneficent motives. Neither the denial of a cameo appearance for democracy in Arab nations and Arab culture nor despotic family hierarchies earmarked by unquestioning obedience has shaken confidence in their democracy formula.

But the ability to summon Iraqi democracy into being from the Tigris and Euphrates is not self-evident. In “King Henry IV, Part I,”, Glendower similarly insisted to Hotspur that he could “call spirits from the vasty deep.” Hotspur retorted: “Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?” Will Iraqi democracy come when summoned by the Bush plan?

Political science is too primitive to be definitive. Explanations for the American, French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, for example, remain elusive despite years of meticulous research and volumes of scholarship. No expert anticipated the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Empire two years later. South Korea and Taiwan evolved from authoritarian military regimes to democratic self-government for reasons only dimly perceived.

The Bush blueprint for supersonic construction of an Iraqi democracy might possibly confute skeptics. Political science features no equivalent to Newton’s Laws of Motion that can categorically discredit a political hope. But enlightened foreign policy rests on strong probabilities, not improbable miracles. Gen. Douglas MacArthur needed seven years to set post-World War II Japan on a democratic course. The Allied powers retained supervisory power over post-Nazi Germany until 1990. Bosnia and Kosovo remain subject to NATO proconsuls years after civil warfare ceased. Even tiny East Timor required three years of international tutelage before the trappings of democracy emerged. Experience is the best teacher. And nothing in the history of democracy suggests that Iraq is a candidate for a quick democratic birth, especially because freedom of speech, religious, ethnic and sex equality, as well as individual rights, have never flourished in Arab states.

Of course, there is a first time for everything. But Saddam did not interrupt a democratic journey. As Nathan J. Brown underscores in “Constitutions in a Nonconstitutional World: Arab Basic Laws and the Prospects for Accountable Government,” Iraq’s maiden 1925 monarchical constitution was a faade for arbitrary government. It was replaced after a military coup overthrew the monarchy in 1958.

Mr. Brown elaborates: “In Iraq, constitutional documents written since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958 have contained no effective means of accountability. Indeed, republican Iraq has been remarkable for its hostility to anything beyond the bare forms of constitutionalism. The leaders of the 1958 revolution established a body, the Revolutionary Command Council, that, like most similarly named bodies in the Arab world, exercised absolute authority.”

Munther al-Fadhal, an Iraqi exile living in Sweden, has been selected by the Pentagon as a senior adviser to the Iraqi Justice Ministry to help shape a new Iraq. As reported in the New York Times (May 4, 2003), Mr. Fadhlal voices a symphony of moderate views: a separation of church and state, sex equality, skepticism about the death penalty and official relations with Israel. But he firmly disbelieves that either his beliefs or leadership will be welcomed in Iraq. At least five or six years will be necessary, Mr. Fadhlal opines, and he will initially be scorned as an American agent or spy. Accordingly, six Kurdish bodyguards will supplement his U.S. military protection when he sets foot in Baghdad.

Isn’t the Bush plan for a democratic Iraq exemplary of the wish being father to the thought?

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