Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Fareed Zakaria has been named to the U.S. Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim world. I agree with Fareed Zakaria half of the time--if not most of the time. I disagree on him on some fundamentally religious stands but overall I think he will be a good contribution. It's always better to have Zakaria here--who's Indian--than some neo-con, or some Islamophobic bigot by the name of Daniel Pipes.

The Governing Council in Iraq announces that it will not write the constitutution, but rather it would "devise the mechanism." I guess that means guide and direct the proceess.

In one of its first major decisions, Iraq's interim government appointed a 25-member team today to draw up a procedure to produce a new constitution. Ibrahim Jafari, president of the Iraqi Governing Council, said at a news conference that the committee would not write the constitution itself, but rather devise the mechanism by which it would be drafted.

"The task of the constitutional committee is to move with all segments of society to decide on the best mechanism for writing the draft of the constitution," Mr. Jafari said.
This is a good move. I doubt that if Ahmad Chalabi writes the Constitution, the mullahs and everyday Iraqis alike will respond with gun-fire celebration, like they did after the partial end of Arab absolutism. Pushing democratization too aggressively is dangerous and will probably backfire--especially in the Middle East. Without a sufficiently high GDP per capita, respect for the rule of law, and construction of a rich, complex social order democracy either takes illiberal forms or curdles into rump authoritarianism. A slow and cautious process towards Islamic or secular democracy (it does not matter to me which one it is) must be taken. The members of the Governing Council are indisputately not the representatives of the Iraqi people, but they are the right mix of people from all ethnicities, religion and gender, which can show that democratization is possible in the Arab and Islamic world. (Only one fatwa coming from the still fragile and unstable An-Nasiriyah. I'm looking up Sheik Asad al-Nasseri's credibility and history.) A long-term military occupation is also in Iraq's interest: Germany and Japan are success stories that went to a similar kind of process. Bosnia and Kosovo are stable and to different degrees democratic. The jury is out on Afghanistan and certainly must not be forgotten. What I would like to see in a stable Iraq is a show of indepedency: oppose Washington. By doing that, the future leaders of Iraq will earn both respect and credibility, from everyone. From the mullahs, to the Sunnis, to the Kurds. Maybe even Washington.


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