Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Thomas Friedman is almost making sense today.

He's talking about all the different elements necessary to build a new Iraq, and seems to finally be coming around on the question of Iraqi sovereignty:

And that leads to the third point: we need to get the 25-person Iraqi Governing Council to do three things — now. It must name a cabinet, so Iraqis are running every ministry; announce a 300,000-person jobs program, so people see some tangible benefits delivered by their own government; and offer to immediately rehire any Iraqi Army soldier who wants to serve in the new army, as long as he was not involved in Saddam's crimes. It was a huge — huge — mistake to disband the Iraqi Army and put all those unemployed soldiers on the streets, without enough U.S. troops to take their place.

Together, all of this would put much more of an Iraqi face on the government and security apparatus, and begin to reclaim the mantle of Iraqi nationalism for the new government, taking it away from Saddam loyalists — who are trying to make a comeback under the phony banner of liberating Iraq from foreign occupation.

Again, I have to repeat the dictum of Harvard's president, Larry Summers: "In the history of the world, no one has ever washed a rented car." Most Iraqis still feel they are renting their own country — first from Saddam and now from us. They have to be given ownership. If the Bush team is ready to put in the time, energy and money to make that happen — great. But if not, it's going to have to make the necessary compromises to bring in the U.N. and the international community to help.
There's a fundamental problem here, though. It's not about Iraqi faces, but Iraqi choices- not about the appearance of sovereignty, but the reality of it. What needs to happen is that the Americans must give the Iraqis the choice to do what they see fit, not just to do what the Americans say they "need to learn to do".

Yes, this isn't absolute. There should be allowances for the possibility of a relatively small or extremist group taking control of a more popular process (as happened when the theocrats took over after the Iranian revolution), and the United States should act to prevent that to the extent that Iraqi sovereignty allows.

The important thing here, however, is that Iraqi must find its own path There is absolutely no doubt that said path will not be the path America took or that Americans would take in their place. That doesn't matter. It is not a question of turning the Iraqis into Americans; that would be disasterous. It's about Iraq becoming that rarest of creatures: a state with a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Not for Americans. For Iraqis.

No comments:

Post a Comment