Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 30, 2004 / 9 Iyar, 5764

George Will

George Will
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Get to elections — fast


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | WHEN a student said he had consulted the great philosophers without finding evidence of G-d, Benjamin Jowett, master of Oxford's Balliol College from 1870 to 1893, replied, "If you don't find a G-d by five o'clock this afternoon, you must leave the college." Deadlines can be useful spurs.

But they also can be foolish fixations. On June 30, the deadline for transferring "sovereignty" to something Iraqi, no such thing will happen. There will be nothing to receive real sovereignty, and the United States, whose writ does not run throughout Iraq, does not yet possess real sovereignty to give away.

The new faux government will lack two main attributes of sovereignty - a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence and the ability to make laws.


  • U.S. responsibility for using violence to maintain - actually, to create - order will remain.

  • And Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. envoy to whom President Bush has delegated the task of devising the interim government that will serve until January elections, says the interim government should not legislate.

We may call this a government, but as Lincoln said: If I call a dog's tail a leg, how many legs does the dog have? Five? No, four, because calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg.

Brahimi is a useful reminder of how limited are the U.N.'s uses. He says Israel is complicating his governmental carpentry in Iraq, and force is "never" the right answer to problems such as the seizure of Fallujah by armed insurgents. So, calm would come to Iraq if Israel returned to the 1949 armistice lines?



Donate to JWR


Brahimi is called the best the "international community" has to offer, which may be true.

U.S. forces in Iraq can never be at the disposition of such people. Which makes it especially urgent to get to elections, the only possible source of legitimacy for an Iraqi government. The one clear use for the U.N. in Iraq is to help conduct elections. This prophylactic dose of U.N. involvement should reduce the need for any more involvement of the likes of Brahimi.

Elections should assure the Shiite majority that they will rule, thereby concentrating their minds on the practicalities of governance. Elections will put the Sunnis on notice that they must come to terms with majority rule.

Might elections provoke a Shiite-Sunni civil war? Yes. The presidential election of 1860 catalyzed the American Civil War. But in Iraq, civil war might be preferable to today's combination of disintegration tempered by violent Sunni-Shiite collaboration against U.S. supervision.

There is no historical precedent for the position the United States is now in. The fate of an immensely important undertaking - the entire Iraqi project - rests on the good will, or at least the forbearance, of one reclusive, inaccessible man, the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has never consented to meet with Paul Bremer, the president's man in Iraq. Sistani has it in his power to make the U.S. presence in Iraq untenable.

Democracy is not merely majority rule but it is essentially majority rule. Democracy should restrict the rights of a majority to work its will and should protect minority rights. Ideally, majorities should be unstable, shifting coalitions of minorities. This is why James Madison sought a geographically "extensive" and sociologically complex society that would generate a wholesome multiplicity of factions, which is the best guarantee against the tyranny to which democracies are prone, the tyranny of the majority.

But regardless of what democracy should do, broadly and over time it must mean majority rule. In Iraq, the Shiite majority needs to be assured now that it will rule soon.

Violent Sunnis must be crushed. Shiites need an incentive - protecting their capacity to rule after elections - to crush them and to discipline their own ranks. Iraq's third component, the Kurds, have representative institutions up and running, and an army to strengthen their hand in negotiating favorable parameters of federalism. They also seem amenable to a U.S. military presence in their midst.

The results of elections, including theocratic elements, may be markedly unlovely. That may break the big hearts of those in the U.S. government who hope for a luminously liberal democracy to shame the entire Middle East into emulation, thereby justifying the war originally justified primarily by the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But pursuit of that ideal can impede achievement of something tolerable - a stable, perhaps illiberal, even authoritarian Iraq which cooperates in the war against terrorism.

Call this an exit strategy. .

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


George Will's latest book is "With a Happy Eye but: America and the World, 1997-2002" to purchase a copy, click here. Comment on this column by clicking here.

Up

George Will Archives

© 2003, Washington Post Writer's Group