Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Grassroots Opportunity 

Score: IGC 2, US-UN-whoever 0.

Is Ghazi al-Yawar a good choice? Does it even matter in the immediate future? We have now a Sunni anti-occupation president and a pro-CIA prime minister; besides that they probably both don't really fancy the Pentagon, they don't exactly have much in common (disregarding their hopes for a free Iraq, which is all obviously for show anyways</sarcasm>). And I suspect that nobody actually knows how the power sharing will even work, although these president/PM schemes usually mean the presidency is a more ceremonial position. For all that I know, this might amount to jack squat on the security front if the United States decides to stick around to eradicate the last of the Baathists and Jihadists, which, in any case, should be the first priority for the US. Or maybe, John Kerry gets elected and we high-tail out of there.

Oh another thing: when I read stuff about how the "Americans" were pushing for whomever, I usually take that with a grain of salt because that's usually the State Department talking. If the Pentagon wanted such-and-such, you will read "Pentagon" in the papers, not "United States".

But I digress. The whole point of today's post is to ask an important question: how can America convince the Iraqi and American people that the US is needed in Iraq? I think why it's needed is obvious: kill the bad guys. But when we kill the bad guys, we must acknowledge that we are protecting the government that is in place, and if that government isn't popular, it weakens the case for coalition troops.

At this point, several million people will jump in with several billion ideas on how to create some "legitimate" central government in Iraq. But that takes time and every second means another second for pundits and naysayers to nag and complain about what's happening.

But the truth is that a legitimate government in Iraq already exist; oh wait, make that governments. Democratically elected local governments are sprouting in Iraq; even the Guardian is noticing (via Command Post). Yet I hardly hear the Bush administration make this point: it was mentioned as an aside in the previous Army War College address. But why not frame the entire argument differently? "America is not just fighting for the Iraqi people to build a government at their centre, but to preserve their sovereignty already exercised at the local level." Fighting for a bunch of city councils may sound a bit silly, but it repudiates the claim that there is no popular government, and it says to the Iraqi people: "we're not talking about some theoretical concept of central government (which, historically, have been nothing but woe for Iraqis anyways), we're talking about the government that you already voted for." It also gives a sense of progress and realism to the American audience.

The truth is that an emphasis on local governance and a bottom-up approach to government building would've probably made the job so much faster, instead of wasting time haggling over elections and interim governments. I must admit that offering this idea at this point is somewhat late: the best opportunities for this idea have already past. But I'm not paid to think these things: what about those who are?

As for what's happening now, one can only hope that thrusting Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds, into a single government would knock some sense into them in creating a weak central government. In that aspect, the US must stand firm against giving expanded powers to the interim central government, especially before July: the interim government is already itching to get its hands dirty, the IGC having self-dissolved. A statement now on the behalf of local governments would also be a powerful reminder.

"Full" sovereignty be damned: an appointed government isn't as credible as an elected one, and a stand for future democratic progress in Iraq will do a whole lot more for Iraqis in the long run than an immediate encroaching unelected government.
Comments: Post a Comment