Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, February 10, 2005


It looks like Allawi has lost the election, and Lee Harris, at Tech Central Station, wants to keep him at the helm anyway:

in the case of Allawi, his task had only just begun -- so that excuse doesn't work in this case. Indeed, here we clearly have the case of changing horses in the middle of the stream -- to use the metaphor Franklin Roosevelt came up with, in order to justify his running for a third unprecedented term on the eve of World War II. Only Iraq is not in the middle of a stream; it is in the middle of a struggle for its survival as a nation. It is in desperate need of continuity, strength, and unity.

Regrettably, the next man to be chosen to lead Iraq will depend for his power on an inherent fragile and unstable coalition of Kurds and traditional Shi'ites, and this means that not only will he be weak, but he will be more interested in keeping the support of his political backers than in winning the struggle against the terrorist insurgents...

Pressure, bribe, coerce -- even send the magnificent and miracle-working Condoleezza Rice, if all else fails. But do whatever it takes to keep Allawi at the helm.

This seems like a bad idea to me. The elections won't have meant much if we overturn their results. One of the difficulties of democratization is that leaders tend to consider themselves indispensable. If Allawi moves out of the spotlight but the Iraqi state hangs together, it will be Iraq's first lesson in the continuity of the state separate from the persons that run it at any given time-- an essential element of democracy, and one of its great strengths, too.

Reuel Marc Gerecht at the Weekly Standard thinks that Allawi was making his share of mistakes:

We are lucky that Iyad Allawi's moment has passed. Spiritually and physically, Allawi would have kept the new government in the Green Zone, the surreal, guarded compound in central Baghdad where the American embassy is located. The United Iraqi Alliance will ensure that it is in all aspects pulled out. No real political progress among Iraqis can be made unless the Green Zone becomes a memory of occupation...

The Alliance and the Kurds will be much more demanding than was Allawi, who built his outreach program to Sunnis in large part on bribery. By offering them jobs in the new army, police force, and intelligence service, Allawi led Sunnis to believe their positions in these organizations would not be subject to democratic politics. Allawi actually created the opposite dynamic among the Sunnis from what he intended. The Sunni insurgency was emboldened. Those elite Sunnis who should have felt the need to compromise and come on board did not do so. With the January 30 elections, the Sunni Arabs now know the old order is dead. The Shia and the Kurds will certainly reach out to them--Sistani has been doing so since Saddam fell--but they are unlikely to continue any form of bribery that touches upon Iraq's military services. Washington should welcome any change of tactics in this direction. Allawi's way was not working.

The other thing Lee Harris misses is the value of Allawi in opposition. Democracies need good opposition parties. A problem with new democracies (in Russia, for example) is a lack of strong figures in opposition. Also, in parliamentary systems, small parties are often disproportionately power because they hold the balance in coalitions. Hopefully Allawi will prove to be a strong opposition politician, loyal to the government, a focal point for secularist resistance if the Shiite clergy become overbearing, strongly pro-American, pro-democratic, a man to be taken seriously; and with less opportunity to discredit himself by big mistakes than he would have in government. Let other Iraqis get leadership experience. (Including Chalabi, who has been making a comeback...)

Belmont Club has more.


  • Overturning the election would be ridiculous. They have to live with their own leaders, so they certainly have the right to elect them. It would be a recipe for disaster, not to mention utterly unjustifiable.

    Now that these people have been elected, let's see what they do. The process is set up so that the people have another chance to vote the constitution up or down. They will have to be responsive to their own voters, and I believe the people of Iraq don't want a tyranny of any description.

    It's amazing how many people really don't believe in freedom, isn't it?

    By Blogger MaxedOutMama, at 5:21 PM  

  • Chalabi is poison. Perhaps he's making a comeback, but that's no good thing.

    By Blogger Nato, at 9:07 AM  

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