Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Teaching Iraq the ABCs of Democracy

The current issue of Economist, the right-leaning but honest British magazine of business and world affairs, contains this gloomy "leader" (i.e. editorial) summing up the current state of violence in Iraq. "What began as a Sunni-dominated insurgency against the occupiers," say the editors, "is now beginning to look increasingly like a civil war between Iraqis themselves."

Not to worry, however. The editors offer a series of suggestions about what the fledgling Iraqi government can do to avert the growing disaster:

The Shia majority that came out on top in January's general election needs urgently to show that it is willing to share real power with the parties that represent the Sunni minority. . . . It is equally vital that key ministries--defence, interior and finance, among others--be shared out, with Sunnis getting serious ones, and that ministers are prevented from packing them, as before, with cronies. And the Shias should respond to the urgings of America's ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, that the present interior minister, a Shia who is said to have allowed sectarian death squads to operate out of his ministry, be sacked.

Well, that all sounds simple enough. We just have to explain to the Iraqis that, in a democracy, the party in power must be willing to share power fairly with the opposition; that government jobs must be filled by capable people rather than cronies; and that incompetent or venal officials must be fired rather than retained out of "loyalty" or sheer stubbornness. It'll be easy for George Bush to convey to his Iraqi charges these simple lessons in democracy, won't it?

Hmm. On second thought, maybe the outlook in Baghdad is even worse than we'd feared.

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