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A Troubled Iraqi Constitution?

A common rejoinder bellowed from the Left to the claim that Coalition forces in Iraq are helping to build democracy is that the Iraqis don’t want democracy, that they are not “ready” for it. This strikes a person as fundamentally racist, echoing as it does the claims of recalcitrant Southerners after the Civil War. Can it be that only certain races are “ready” for democracy? Borrowing tortured analogies from science has become a staple of what passes for liberal discourse (see “social Darwinism,” “living constitution,” etc.), but looking back at Western Civilization does give an impression of evolution. The concepts that legitimate government rests on consent and that individuals have inalienable rights did not spring forth instantaneously but grew over time, passing through several unworkable stages (hereditary monarchy and plebiscite communes) to the point of the American Revolution, itself an incomplete manifestation of what we hold dear.

It is philosophically correct to say, as President Bush and many others have, that all people yearn to be free. However, reading reports of the Iraqi constitutional struggles casts a pragmatic pall over such platitudes. It is not unreasonable that Iraqi representatives should be having difficulty hammering out the relation of the central government to the regional governments. Nor should it be surprising that the exact allocations of oil revenue are proving problematic. In the old days in this country, before the Supreme Court Putsch, our elected representative used to struggle with issues of federalism and revenue all the time. Also, Iraq is a heterogeneous culture, which adds an additional layer to the proceedings. There are Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds all with interests to protect. One is reminded of the British diplomat at Versailles (whose name escapes me) who, when asked about the prospects for the newly created nation of Czechoslovakia, muttered that Czechoslovakia was not a nation, but a sausage.

However, it appears that one of the main sticking points in Iraq centers on the rights and liberties of women under the coming regime. Assuming that Islamic law is given a prominent role in the new constitution, women will become second-class citizens. Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes some sobering remarks in today’s Opinion Journal(hat tip NRO’s Corner) regarding what women can expect under Islamic law. If her understanding is correct, and the Iraqis are unable to mitigate these seemingly medieval attitudes toward women, can it plausibly be said that they are not ready for democracy? Do Iraqis get a pass on this since it is their religion that dictates their attitude towards women? If half of the population is at once discriminated against and limited from dissenting, can it be said that the new Constitution rests on consent?

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 16, 2005 9:23 PM.

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