Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On Their Own

Yesterday in Iraq, the committee writing that the new constitution for that country gave themselves an extra week to finish the document and work out compromises on the last few issues facing them before sending the completed constitution to the Iraqi National Assembly. While the Iraqi leaders missed their deadline for completion, they did so in order to not send an incomplete document to the assembly. It is easy to say, as the Sunnis have requested, that they will work out issues of federalism and self determination, as well as women’s rights, next year, but this will lead to an unstable country filled with violence and the potential for civil war.

While the Bush administration is putting the best face that it can on the delay, it is obviously disappointed that the Iraqis could not complete the constitution by the August 15 deadline. The administration had long pushed for a vote on the constitution, even if it did not resolve all of the issues that Iraq is facing as it begins to make its way in a post-Saddam Hussein world. I am not going to speculate as to whether democracy can take hold and succeed in Iraq. However, what I do know for certain is that for democracy to succeed, it has to begin on Iraqi terms. They need to hammer out compromises and solutions to their problems. If they come to the United States with questions or for advice, then it is our place to advise them. Otherwise, the process needs to be their own.

If a new Iraq starts out with Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems, then that country can be a peaceful oil powerhouse in an increasingly globalized world. If, on the other hand, a new Iraq starts out with American solutions to Iraqi problems, it is very likely that the country will fail and collapse under internal pressure from opposing forces. The people writing the new constitution know that they have to finalize the document soon, or their country will never get off the ground, but the process cannot be rushed to a so-called "completion" that leaves the most pressing issues for a later date.

We can hope that the final product will include equal rights for all Iraqis, men and women, Muslims and Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, but we cannot dictate to them how to accomplish this. The greatest thing that a country can do for its own future security and success is to dictate how it will govern itself. Here in the United States, it was men like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Madison who wrote, debated, amended, voted on, approved, and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These men are celebrated as great Americans who changed the course of history with their words and deeds. How could we deny Iraq the right to have its own great leaders in the same vein?

The Iraqis will finish their constitution. Iraq will emerge as a peaceful economic power. There will be an additional measure of stability in one of the most historically volatile places on earth, the Middle East. The world will be a safer place because of what the Iraqis are doing for themselves right now. But this can only happen if the United States remains hands-off and lets the Iraqis find solutions to their own problems.