A less optimistic forecast for Iraq

Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute (and formerly of the Cato Institute) has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq. While I don't generally agree with him (about Iraq), he's a very smart guy and not to be taken lightly. In this particularly interesting piece, he argues that the likely Shi'ite victory in this week's Iraq elections increase the chances for civil war in Iraq. "Making the World Safe for Theocracy" (Ivan Eland, Independent Institute, 12/12/05) http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1634
  • Christopher Sanders
    Comment from: Christopher Sanders
    12/14/05 @ 12:48:42 pm

    I have to take issue with Dr. Eland’s piece that you posted today, in all I found it to be fairly simplistic. This is not to say that it was all bad, I am sure that with further reflection one could find things of substance. It is just that substance is not readily apparent in his argument. The issues are broad and exceedingly complex. I will only touch on them here, as I do not have the time for a full dissertation at the moment. Should you desire I could go into more detail later. To start with the good doctor does not seem to grasp the importance of religion in everyone’s decisions. When dealing with the Middle East it is always about religion. But to greater or lesser degrees religion is a part of every political conflict. Ireland instantly comes to mind. France is having severe problems and the rest of Europe is not far behind. China has a great many bloody internal struggles that are religion based. Poor Tibet cannot raise its head without the Chinese boot being applied to its throat. Faith is key in most internecine political battles. To fret that religion will play a role that needs to be managed in a Middle Eastern election is like fretting that the sun will rise in the morning. A second point that he overlooks is that the Sunnis that are posing a problem are Wahhabi’s. Wahhabis regard Shiites as apostates. They deal more viciously with the Shiites in many cases than they do Jews and Christians. There fight is far more about the loss of control, the perceived “subjugation” by apostates and then somewhere oil revenues. The average Sunni in Iraq is highly unlikely to in any way see a part of the oil revenue. I find it a phenomenal leap to believe that Iraqi Sunnis are out risking life and limb for oil money. It is much more credible that they are seeking political and religious control. Additionally the troubled Sunni regions were, and to some degree still are Ba’athist. This war has meant the total loss of political power that was once their exclusive province. Absolute power and its attendant comforts are not easily surrendered. In making his theocracy argument Dr. Eland overlooks the fact that the vast majority of Kurds are Sunnis. Yet somehow the Kurds are able to get on well with the Shiites majority. Perhaps the Kurds have another enlightened self-interest that takes priority of religious affiliation. A point that profoundly undermines Dr. Eland’s credibility is his statement that the Iraqi constitution “barely escaped a Sunni veto”. That makes you think that the vote passed with 50.00001%. Maybe even as much as 51%? What did it finally pass by? 78%. The Sunni veto power was in the voting structure. If three provinces voted no by 66% or greater then the measure would fail. Two provinces voted no by that margin. Three quarters of the voters in the Sunni province of Nineveh approved the constitution. It passed in all the others. Four of the provinces are Sunni. Don’t forget that voter turnout was about 66%. A few facts that Dr. Eland leaves out of his analysis; the Iraqi government is being set up as a representative, federal democracy. Women hold a quarter of the seats in parliament. There are over 300 registered political parties in this election. In a recent poll done by ABC news 71% of Iraqis think things are going well and 66% expect them to improve. Iraq has a thriving cell phone industry. A flourishing satellite television business. Internet cafes are nearly ubiquitous. News media of all kind is growing exponentially. Iraqis are getting a taste of freedom and discovering that they like it. Iraq is not Iran. It has a different history, different tradition and even a completely different people. Al Sistani has shown that he is not like the mullahs if Iran either. There is a completely different dynamic at work in Iraq than there was in Iran in 1979. Yes there is the possibility of a civil war. But most Sunnis are moving away from that by embracing a political process. A small group of intransigent insurgents does not a civil war make. There is even evidence that the average Sunni is turning against the insurgents. I believe Dr. Elands dour read on the situation is inaccurate. His tone in this article clearly conveys a disdain for the president and his policies at the same time it show that Dr. Eland has not bothered to educate himself about the facts and issues at play here. Suggested reading. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19871