Monday, October 16, 2006

The Bush 43 Iraq Legacy

One of the recurring rationales for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by Bush 43 was to finish what Bush 41 could not or would not do with more than twice the number of troops – a form of generational one-upmanship with a political twist.

Few whose experiences in policy formulation and implementation stretch back to 1990-91believe that Bush 41 had any option other than to stop the ground offensive once the Iraqis had been driven from Kuwait and the combat capabilities of the most forward deployed Iraqi military units had been damaged or destroyed. Absent a UN mandate to crush the regime in Baghdad, an attempt to overthrow Saddam Hussein by military force would have ruptured the alliance between the Arab states from the Western nations led by the U.S., UK, and France.

In the current embroglio, Bush 43 seems unconcerned about which countries are with him, were with him and have left, or never joined. He sees as a central element of his legacy the creation in the heart of the Muslim world of an “enduring” democracy with all (or substantially all) the freedoms that U.S. citizens enjoy.

With the security situation in the middle of Iraq, including Baghdad, so precarious and so close to if not into multiple civil wars, the steady call from most quarters is to strengthen the political mechanisms, pull back U.S. and other foreign forces, and to give increased responsibilities to the Iraqis to run their country.

One problem with this is that Iraq doesn’t even have all the political bodies called for in its constitution even though it has gone through the western processes of democratic governance and has the forms of democratic societies that elections produce. It has held ballots for a constitutional assembly and a 275-member Council of Representatives (parliament), a basic constitution has been accepted, and a chief executive (prime minister) and his cabinet approved by the parliament.

What has not been formed yet is the other part of the legislative branch – the Federation Council – originally meant to be a rough equivalent of the U.S. Senate in that it is not based on population numbers, according to Beirut professor Chibli Mallat. Provided for in Article 62 of the constitution, it received no attention in the media coverage of the rush to meet the time deadline for the constitutional referendum.

The Federation Council is suppose to provide representation for any governorates or other areas that may not be organized into regions. (The Kurdish areas in the north have long been organized into a semi-autonomous region, and of late some Shi’ites have been trying to form a Shi’a region in nine of the southern governorates. There may also have been a thought to provide representation in the Federation Council for the various small ethnic and religious groups who otherwise would have absolutely no voice in governance. But Article 62 was never developed to provide any details other than to make it the total creature of the Council of Representatives. The latter body is to “regulate the Federation Council formation, its membership conditions and its specialization’s (sic) and all that is connected with it.”

Since the referendum and the elections that have been held do not seem to have changed much in Iraq except to worsen the violence, the inaction on Article 62 might be a blessing in disguise. As it is, al-Qaeda-in-Iraq and other insurgent groups have now declared a new Islamic republic from Anbar province through to Baghdad. Even more ominous, hints that a palace coup might be shaping up in Baghdad are starting to take shape. These suggest a five-member ruling council might be anointed by the parliament to replace the current government and be empowered to take on the foreign “jihadists" and others unwilling to fall in line.

Of course when one starts down this road, some would be sorely tempted to dispense with a parliamentary “invitation” altogether.

Either way, it would wreck Bush 43’s vision of his legacy – not to mention the additional carnage and death that would become the legacy of the Iraqi people.

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