Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Iraq optimism?

This NYT analysis suggests that the Administration has conceded that democracy--such as it is and will be in Iraq-will not stop the violence there. Well, yes: the Administration is talking not about an "insurgency," but as Iraq as the central front in the GWOT. But the Times analyst can’t bring himself to concede that this is a point the Bush Administration has been making for quite some time.

On the other hand, this WaPo analysis can’t find a single "independent" analyst who hails the referendum results in Iraq. Of the four--the ubiquitous and vitriolic Juan Cole, Larry Diamond, Anthony Cordesman, and Clintonista Martin Indyk--Diamond comes closest to being positive:

"The fundamental problem is this is not a consensus constitution, and one part of the country has massively rejected it," said Larry Diamond, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former adviser to the U.S.-led Iraqi provisional government. "This was not a joyful vote. It was a pragmatic vote to continue the process."

No one asked him what he makes of the fact that two of the Sunni-dominated provinces apparently voted for the Constitution. And the lack of balance in the entire article suggests that the thesis was there before the experts were consulted.

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The whole WaPo article is a textbook example of how a reporter can call a handful of experts whom he knows will piss on whatever he wants pissed on.

It should be recalled (and Larry Diamond, to his credit, does point this out) that the original Sunni Arab approach to the whole process of elections and constitution-making was to rely on a combination of terrorism and boycotts to sink it. (Apparently the Sunnis went for the boycott option in part because they really believed--as Saddam’s propaganda had encouraged them to--that they are still about half the country, when in fact they’re more like just a fifth or so of the population.) The Sunnis, in other words, thought only months ago that they could just make the electoral process and all it means somewhow go away.

Having learned from their January mistake, the Sunnis participated this time. While many voted NO (as is their right), the original Sunni strategy on the constitutional referendum (or so we had been told by the Western press) was to sink the document by getting three of the four Sunni-majority provinces to vote it down by 66% or more.

Now that strategy, like the boycott strategy, has flopped: Only two Sunni provinces voted the document down by sufficiently wide margins, and the constitution has passed.

I would expect, therefore, to see another step in the Sunnis’ slow, hard learning process (let’s recall that just a few short years ago they were Iraq’s longtime ’master class’ and its self-perceived majority or near-majority).

While it’s important to keep working on bringing the Arab Sunnis into the process (something the Bush people have been very energetic about), at a certain point numbers matter, and the fact is they’re 20 percent or so of the population. They cannot rule as a bloc. Saddam is not coming back. The Ba’ath Party regime is not coming back. Insurgents can rage and bomb with open or tacit Sunni support, but nothing that they can do will put the Humpty-Dumpty of Sunni dominance over Mesopotamia back together again. My guess is that this is all sinking slowly into most Sunnis’ skulls, if fitfully and in a way punctuated by violence. I expect more turmoil, but probably taking place on a substrate of pragmatism (and the pragmatic restraint of the Kurds and Shia has so far been as good as anyone could have expected, with the former not insisting on sovereignty and the latter not reacting to the provocations of Sunni-extremist suicide bombers--most of them probably foreigners, but at least de facto allies of the Iraqi Sunnis).

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