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    Default USIP: Constitutional Reform in Iraq: Improving Prospects, Political Decisions Needed

    Constitutional Reform in Iraq: Improving Prospects, Political Decisions Needed

    By Neil J. Kritz, Sermid al-Sarraf, and J Alexander Thier

    September 2007

    U.S. and Iraqi politicians and analysts consistently agree on one central point concerning Iraq: serious political reconciliation amongst Iraqi groups is needed to reduce the violence and create a viable government. Centrifugal forces fueled by armed conflict, competition for power and resources, and the intervention of foreign powers and neighbors has stalemated the political process in Baghdad for months.

    Several key benchmarks of political progress are tied to the ongoing constitutional reform process. In accordance with Article 142 of the constitution adopted by referendum in 2005, the Council of Representatives (COR) established a Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) in late 2006, responsible for proposing amendments to that document. The principal reason for this constitutional review so quickly after adoption of the new constitution was to provide Sunni negotiators an opportunity to engage in the process of constitutional design from which they felt they were excluded in the prior round—the 2005 constitution is mainly a Shia-Kurdish compact. The CRC has 29 members representing the political blocs in the parliament, 13 of whom served on the committee that drafted the 2005 constitution.

    On May 22, the CRC submitted its report to the Council of Representatives (COR), proposing dozens of amendments. Given the sectarian tensions in the background of this process, it is notable that Sunni members on the CRC have indicated that they achieved the majority of amendments they were seeking and are inclined to urge their party leaderships to support the proposed package of constitutional revisions.

    What is needed now is a top-level decision to move ahead with amendments in as many areas as possible. Without that, improved prospects may never be realized and the constitutional revision process will—like so many other things in Iraq—fall victim to stalemate and uncertainty.



    Rest here: http://www.usip.org/pubs/usipeace_br...form_iraq.html

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default How, Where & When does Peace Happen

    Rex, a worthwhile bit of reading that should simulate some discussion,

    I heard a piece on D.C.'s NPR Channel (AMU I think) on the way home tonight. They were interviewing two men who had recently been facilitating a discussion between Iraqis with opposing points of views & fears of each other. These moderators' credentials were that they had both been involved in peace and reconciliation talks in N. Ireland and S. Africa (their on homelands) during the periods where it was hard, but necessary to get the different sides talking. Both had personal stakes during their own trying times, and both had experience with reconciling fractured societies.

    I thought it raised some good questions about how peace occurs, when peace occurs and where it happens first?

    We tend to focus on an organizational political body as the reflection of reconciliation, integration, tolerance, stability and peace, but does that mean it is the only means to accomplish the ends? If a government adopts a policy or enacts legislation, but for whatever reason the populace will not or cannot accept it - does that still make it valid? Will a domestic policy be sustainable if it does not have domestic support? Will a politician push or support domestic legislation if the constituents he or she represents threatens to abandon them?

    This is one of the problems I have with what I understand about the GAO report on political benchmarks, be they good or bad, do they reflect the willingness of the people to reconcile, share, integrate, etc. We say we'd like Iraq to adopt some form of democracy where individual freedoms are expanded, but to do so means walking a messy path that citizen and politicians alike are likely to find slippery at times - changes in political philosophy - even small ones are slow-go terrain because they challenge other cultural values. One of the problems I have with the idea of a timetable that demands large scale political progress is that it doesn't match the reality of how people overcome fears, learn to trust, and profess a willingness to change.

    I think we need to consider the side of our own politics that caters to voters - the one that fights for federal dollars for its districts and states, the one that spends millions on campaigns to get elected/re-elected. We need to consider why politicians cannot find the general consensus on tough domestic issues here to enact legislative reform, and why their approval rating is so low. Then we need to consider why the Iraqi government finds it so hard to move forward on issues of reconciliation.

    I think a more accurate barometer for Iraq's path to security and eventually stability at this juncture might be found at the grass roots level because if the people and their societal leadership have decided they can or cannot live with it, it will come to be reflected by the risks the politicians are willing to take. If we want an accurate assessment of potential and progress, we probably need to stop mirror imaging the type of consensus we wish we had in our own domestic politics, and instead see the challenges as they are.

    From a military perspective, I don't think we think and talk enough about peace or what it takes to build and maintain it. We describe it as a political solution that people can live with, but when described like that I think it emphasizes "politics" and "politicians" over the vast amounts of people they represent. There is something inverted about that.

    TT, I hope you'll weigh in on this. I'd greatly appreciate your thoughts

    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Rob and Rex,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Rex, a worthwhile bit of reading that should simulate some discussion,
    I'll second that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    We tend to focus on an organizational political body as the reflection of reconciliation, integration, tolerance, stability and peace, but does that mean it is the only means to accomplish the ends?
    I would have to say "no" while, at the same time, noting that this is a fairly recent historical development.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    If a government adopts a policy or enacts legislation, but for whatever reason the populace will not or cannot accept it - does that still make it valid? Will a domestic policy be sustainable if it does not have domestic support? Will a politician push or support domestic legislation if the constituents he or she represents threatens to abandon them?
    Some really good, and really tricky questions, Rob. I hope TT and John will jump in on them, since I'm not a political scientist . Having said that, however, let me toss out a few observations from mine own, biased, position.

    "Validity" is, to my mind, a social construct in politics. I believe that it is quite rare, possibly limited to the Anglo complex and, I think, Salic law, that a "law" that is invalid should be overthrown. I'm thinking about Magna Carta style right of revolt, ad yet your first question seems to be predicated on the assumption that something like that exists. I think that most societies have a very different, starker, view of governments and laws. Durkheim once wrote (Elementary forms of Religious Life) that religion is society worshiping itself (i.e. that religion is a sacralization of the social system). I that is true in some cases, and I think it is, then "legislation" has the power of "divine writ" and is not to be questioned. That certainly seems to fit into the older Temple States and a number of other societies.

    But if that is the case, and the populace cannot accept a piece of legislation, then there becomes a moral imperative to destroy the government that enacted it, since they are "polluting" the "sacred". It does strike me that the key word is cannot as opposed to just saying that there is no popular support for it.

    On your second question, I would have to say that it is possible to keep a piece of legislation if there is no support for it as long as it does not cross the line of becoming a "danger". Some legislative artifacts, i.e. remnants of moral codes from older historical periods that no longer have general moral support, certainly can be kept around. Sometimes, people have just forgotten about them and sometimes they have been exapted into serving a new purpose. Newer legislation would be harder, to my mind, but it could still be done if it was sold under an exapted purpose - the form of government in Afghanistan is a good example of that.

    On your final question, I think the answer depends on the political system and the motivations of the individual politician.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    This is one of the problems I have with what I understand about the GAO report on political benchmarks, be they good or bad, do they reflect the willingness of the people to reconcile, share, integrate, etc. ....
    I think a more accurate barometer for Iraq's path to security and eventually stability at this juncture might be found at the grass roots level because if the people and their societal leadership have decided they can or cannot live with it, it will come to be reflected by the risks the politicians are willing to take. If we want an accurate assessment of potential and progress, we probably need to stop mirror imaging the type of consensus we wish we had in our own domestic politics, and instead see the challenges as they are.
    I would certainly have to agree with this. A lot of the difficulties I have seen in both Afghanistan and Iraq stem from what I have to characterize as an amazingly naive assumption about what politics "should be". Some of my more left wing colleagues would describe it as the "imposition of American Hegemony" but, personally, I am more inclined to assume ignorance than malice . I'm calling it "ignorance" because the actions of imposing republican forms of government in both states seems to go against the expressed wishes of many of the populace. This is one of the paradoxes inherent in the promulgation of "democracy" by the west. Do "we" accept the democratically made decisions of other nations when they go against our own national interests?

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Just as an addendum to that last post...

    I think this really illustrates some of the points I was making. Have fun...

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    I would certainly have to agree with this. A lot of the difficulties I have seen in both Afghanistan and Iraq stem from what I have to characterize as an amazingly naive assumption about what politics "should be". Some of my more left wing colleagues would describe it as the "imposition of American Hegemony" but, personally, I am more inclined to assume ignorance than malice .
    Marc,

    While I would perhaps agree on a lack of malice, I would have to say the the degree of determined ignorance well exceeded the threshold for outright stupidity, the classic case being of course Paul Wolfowitz statement that there were no ethnic divisions in Iraq as in the Balkans. The real issue of course is whether reality has set in; I guess that it has, given that we are now hailing tribalism as an element of emerging democracy, an true oxymoron if there ever was one.

    Best

    Tom

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    I would certainly have to agree with this. A lot of the difficulties I have seen in both Afghanistan and Iraq stem from what I have to characterize as an amazingly naive assumption about what politics "should be". Some of my more left wing colleagues would describe it as the "imposition of American Hegemony" but, personally, I am more inclined to assume ignorance than malice . I'm calling it "ignorance" because the actions of imposing republican forms of government in both states seems to go against the expressed wishes of many of the populace. This is one of the paradoxes inherent in the promulgation of "democracy" by the west. Do "we" accept the democratically made decisions of other nations when they go against our own national interests?
    This is interesting to me, since I think a review of the history will show that direct elections and the rapid democratic transition in Iraq were in fact "imposed" on the U.S. by the Shia political parties and massive public demonstrations ordered by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani --- the original CPA plan proposed by Bremer called for "caucuses" where voters would choose from a CPA-approved slate of candidates (similar to Iranian-style elections). In fact, I have a hard time finding any sort of "anti-democratic" rhetoric coming from any Iraqi political figure outside the jihadi/ISI ranks - even Sunni politicians and groups like the Association of Muslim Scholars do not discount elections as a means of legitimate government.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Tequila,

    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    This is interesting to me, since I think a review of the history will show that direct elections and the rapid democratic transition in Iraq were in fact "imposed" on the U.S. by the Shia political parties and massive public demonstrations ordered by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani --- the original CPA plan proposed by Bremer called for "caucuses" where voters would choose from a CPA-approved slate of candidates (similar to Iranian-style elections). In fact, I have a hard time finding any sort of "anti-democratic" rhetoric coming from any Iraqi political figure outside the jihadi/ISI ranks - even Sunni politicians and groups like the Association of Muslim Scholars do not discount elections as a means of legitimate government.
    I certainly don't deny that "democracy" was being hailed by many Iraqis. But, I would have to ask, democracy to what end? First off, the Iraqi leaders are well aware that any rhetoric opposing democracy would be a failure - they're not stupid . There is no doubt in my mind that "democracy" is to the current world what the divine right of kings was to the 15th century - the generally accepted way of getting a government.

    Still and all, Hamas was democratically elected, the current Iranian government was democratically elected as were Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin and Pol Pot. And, as I think we all know, every tin pot dictator running around for the past 50 years has been "democratically" elected. My comments were aimed more at the difference between the form of legitimacy and the reality of power. The Western forms of democracy all have some connection between the form and the exercise of power. This is, in part, a result of certain cultural assumptions that exist in our background. That "should be" I used was a way to point towards that.

    The naivety that I was talking about was the blythe assumption that such a series of assumptions either existed or where strong enough within Iraq and Afghanistan to allow for a republican form of government that would work in the ways they do in the west.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    The Western forms of democracy all have some connection between the form and the exercise of power. This is, in part, a result of certain cultural assumptions that exist in our background. That "should be" I used was a way to point towards that.
    Actually, I think this is one example where the non-Western form of democracy --- direct elections --- had a far greater connection between the form and the exercise of power than the preferred American solution of indirect elections/caucuses from a preselected slate of candidates. Undoubtedly in the American scenario, power would have remained completely with CPA officials as opposed to Iraqi political figures.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Still and all, Hamas was democratically elected, the current Iranian government was democratically elected as were Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin and Pol Pot.
    Well no, they weren't (with the exception of Hamas, and the only partial exception of Iran). It is true that they all tried to claim democratic legitimacy (which is I think your point), but I think that only highlights the (potential) power of expressed popular consent.

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    The Western forms of democracy all have some connection between the form and the exercise of power. This is, in part, a result of certain cultural assumptions that exist in our background.
    The question of democracy and underlying political culture is a hotly debated (perhaps THE most hotly debated) issue in the democratization literature. Certainly it helps a great deal if underlying cultural values support democracy—but the "third wave" of democratization suggested that it could also take root in societies with no prior history of democratic politics.

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    The naivety that I was talking about was the blythe assumption that such a series of assumptions either existed or where strong enough within Iraq and Afghanistan to allow for a republican form of government that would work in the ways they do in the west.
    Yes, absolutely.

    "Validity" is, to my mind, a social construct in politics. I believe that it is quite rare, possibly limited to the Anglo complex and, I think, Salic law, that a "law" that is invalid should be overthrown. I'm thinking about Magna Carta style right of revolt, and yet your first question seems to be predicated on the assumption that something like that exists. I think that most societies have a very different, starker, view of governments and laws.
    I think the prevailing social practice in much of the world is not so much overturning laws, or the governments that made them, but rather simply ignoring them (or a passive-aggressive non-cooperation with government, in what James Scott called "everyday forms of resistance")--especially where the central government lacks the ability to enforce its legal writ.

    I tend to think that democratic politics has a lot to do with boundaries of the acceptable and unacceptable, in which public attitudes, capabilities, perceived intentions, and the local balance of forces play a key role. Democracies tend to work when political entrpreneurs are unwilling or unable to contemplate using nondemocratic methods to achieve policy ends. Its kind of like successful nuclear deterrence

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    This is one of the problems I have with what I understand about the GAO report on political benchmarks, be they good or bad, do they reflect the willingness of the people to reconcile, share, integrate, etc.
    This is why I asked about the objective when I first joined this prestigious group. According to RTK:

    In short, it's to win.

    As per National Strategy for Victory in Iraq published November 2005. This has not changed.

    Victory in Iraq is Defined in Stages
    • Short term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up security forces.


    The tactical COIN progress we're making isn't moving us toward the strategic objective. That's obviously a problem. Especially since the tactics are costing us so much in dollars and blood. Probably the best we can hope for is that AQI can't operate in Iraq. Changing the objective to, "Remove al Qaeda from Iraq" would enable us to win much quicker and cheaper than under the current objectives. Plus domestically, the majority of the population would support it.

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