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Monday, October 17, 2005
It looks likely that the Iraqis have voted to accept the proposed new constitution. But what if they had not? The New York Sun makes a good point:
Even a rejection of the constitution, because of the Sunni turnout, would not be bad news for Iraq. While in sports winning may be almost everything, in democracy taking part is really what counts. By voting the Sunnis have tied themselves to the democratic process. A democratic referendum involves a yes or no option. Only in dictatorships like Iraq under Saddam could a referendum only yield one result. Respected Iraqi democrats, such as Nibras Kazimi, who writes on these pages, have recommended rejecting the constitution, warning it risks giving too much power to clerics. If the constitution is rejected, democracy will continue. Elections will take place as planned in December, and the new parliament will simply start writing a constitution again. And if it the constitution is passed, the agreement made means amendments can be passed dealing with these concerns.On the same lines, every now and then someone raises the spectre of a future democratic Iraq hostile to the US or the West generally. My response is that compared to the spectre of a future Iraqi dictatorship or Islamist gangster state, that ghostie can haunt me any time. So President Chelsea Clinton might have to put up with an Iraqi version of Chirac or Schroeder? Sheesh, that's politics for you. She'll cope.
In fact, I'll go further (this part of the post is being written half an hour later). Even if democracy were to fail in Iraq the fire has been lit and it would return. What a tragedy it would be if, after so much courage has been shown by Iraqi voters, the country were to suffer civil war or a military or religious coup. I do not think that likely but I do think it possible. People often say that Iraq, or the Middle Eastern countries generally, lack a tradition of democracy or a culture of legal, rather than violent, settlement of the question of who should rule. There's something in that. But your traditions grow and your culture is what you do. Twice in the last year great masses of Iraqis have voted, and in the same act have voted for the right to vote. For months, stretching into years now, the Shia majority have not turned to pogroms against the minority Sunni despite anti-Shia terrorism. And for their part the Sunni, this time, have also gone home in their thousands with defiantly purple fingers.
The Iraqi democratic tradition is young. It may die in infancy. But I suspect that even then it would not stay dead. Look at Turkey.
(NY Sun article via Real Clear Politics.)