Saturday, August 27, 2005

Andrew Arato on the Iraqi constitutional breakdown

In my recent messages dealing with (and in large part agreeing with) Brendan O'Leary's analysis of politics and constitution-making in Iraq, I pointed out that a sharply different analysis has been offered by Andrew Arato.

(Incidentally, one of the more informed and sophisticated versions of the alternative viewpoint--most of them are superficial and uninformed, in my non-expert but also non-humble opinion--has been pushed for the past few years by Andrew Arato, for example in this recent "Guest Editorial" on Juan Cole's "Informed Comment" website. Arato focuses very heavily on the urgency of overcoming Sunni Arab "exclusion," sees the Kurds as an important part of the problem, and--unlike O'Leary--has always regarded the Transitional Administrative Law as a big mistake. In an earlier version of his piece that I happened to see, Arato remarked that he has "nothing but admiration for the Kurds"--but, admiration aside, it doesn't seem to me that he gives their bottom-line concerns very much consideration. Also, Arato quite properly emphasizes the need for political forces representing the Shia Arabs and Kurds to make significant compromises with the Sunni Arabs, but seems a good deal less troubled by obstructionism and unwillingess to compromise on the part of political forces representing the Sunni Arabs--not to mention their need to come to terms with the fact that they can no longer present themselves as the natural rulers of Iraq. Arato's valuable and intellectually serious analyses of these issues, which I have followed with some care over the past several years, need to be taken seriously, and they offer a refreshing contrast to the usual journalistic simplifications and mindless sloganeering ... but, in the end, I have not found them entirely convincing. However, that's a subject for a longer discussion, another time ....)

Arato is convinced that the latest developments in the Iraqi constitutional negotiations vindicate his position (which, ironically, has increasingly become that of the US government--though too late, from Andrew's point of view). He ends the message below by telling me: "Send this to all your correspondents." I'm forwarding it intact, for people to consider ... with just a few interspersed comments.

--Jeff Weintraub

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: bush pleading and the rule of law
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 23:34:04 EDT

Now even Bush agrees with me, but in vain, because what he gave Hakim (also day before yesterday with his bellicose statement to the Sunni) he cannot take back. He was in a big hurry, and thus delivered himself to the guy with over half the votes. Lets face it, only iran wins no matter which way this bad deal turns out. They did not attack the unity of Iraq, but they get the 9 province mega state. And if that fails, it will be the treachery of the Americans...
Are you ready to say uncle yet, or does it have to get worse still?
OK. As to the rule of law, what has been happening since August 22 is clearly illegal. A committee presented something to the NA.....the NA did not write anything.
Nor did it again amend the TAL.
Nor did it dissolve itself.
So, whehter or not they vote now, they have no right to submit anything to a referendum. But the Iraqi Gov even says they do not have to vote......So who presents the draft to the people, by what right? How do we know it is the Constitutional Assembly's draft? Did it ever have a majority? the law does not say that Hakim and Talabani present a draft to the Iraqi people....nor that an expanded commission does.....the tAL does not know these things even exist. Who wrote this thing? The tAL says the NA writes it....meaning...a committee drafts it and the NA adopts it.....
Some way to build the rule of law (which the draft mentions repeatedly). No consensus. No legality. No publicity. No representation. No nothing. Legitimacy? Maybe to those who know nothing about this subject.
(Dont be afraid to say uncle as you read on....i will think so much more of you if you have enough courage to admit that you were hopelessly and totally wrong. It happens to the best of us. E.G. to your president when he was told to call Hakim.
As to the disinfo campaign against the intractible Sunni leaders, who supposedly dont represent anybody anyway.....Are people who say this kind of stupid thing interested in dealing with the insurrection at all? Three of these Sunni nothings have already been killed, by the indicate their potential importance.

[JW: Yes, the Sunni Arab figures who have participated in the constitutional negotiations have done so at great risk, so there's no reason to doubt their seriousness. But that's not necessarily enough, by itself, to establish that it's disinformation to describe their position as rigid and uncompromising. It may be that, whatever their intentions, they were boxed into a situation that made it objectively and ideologically impossible for them to act constructively, even if the Kurds and Shiites had been more accommodating. Juan Cole's article in Salon on Friday suggests, almost despite itself, that this might well have been the case. Cole's analysis is generally in accord with yours, and he agrees with you that much greater efforts should have been made to accommodate the Sunni Arabs. But along the way, he provides a lot of evidence to indicate that, in fact, the Sunni Arab political forces, including the these constitutional negotiators, have been unwilling and/or unable to negotiate in a constructive or reasonable way. Like you, he thinks there are reasons for this, for which he places the long-term blame on other actors. But be that as it may, it is not disinformation to recognize reality ... even if it's nto the whole picture.]]
I dont know why i am still trying to help you, to do you this favor still. I guess I am generous, and because you say nice things about me. But if by some amazing chance the US government followed my recommendations all along they would be in better position now by far, and on a small scale, and the same is true for you. OK you were for the war. That has something to be said for it, though it is far outweighed in my view by other stuff. The O'Leary-Galbraith-Gelb position has nothing to recommend it at all. There is no peace without the Sunni.

[JW: True. But there is also no peace, and certainly no stable political solution in Iraq, without the Shiite Arabs and Kurds--who do, after all, amount to some 80% of the population.]

You either kill them all, or fight them for ever, establish an ironclad dictatorship over them, or make peace with them. Me and Bush (at the moment, when his generals are bitching at him!!!!) are for the last guys must be for one of the other three, because no peace is possible on the ground of a Shi'a - Kurd exclusionary bargain. Basta....
Send this to all your correspondents