Thursday, August 18, 2005

Partitioning Iraq

My State Department friends tell me that questions of Federalism are in the forefront of efforts to finalize an Iraqi constitution. Within the USG and the blogosphere, the debate rages as to how much autonomy to give each of the three parties. Those struggling with the Federalism question would do well to consider how Dayton handled the question of whether to divide Bosnia. Just as with Bosnia, the correct answer for Iraq right now is yes... and no.

Consider what I wrote in "Lessons from the Mt. Igman Road" (below):

"the Dayton agreement's best endorsement takes the form of its near equal criticism from both sides on the question whether Bosnia should be divided or reintegrated. Idealists (and Bosniak sympathizers) believe the inter-entity boundary and the slow return of refugees reflects a failure of Dayton to live up to its own ideals. Realists (and Serb/Croat sympathizers) believe Dayton’s overly idealistic provisions of long term integration into a multi-ethnic state confuse and delay acceptance of new boundaries. In fact, Dayton achieved the balance and ambiguity needed to close the gap between unreconcileable deeply held divisions sewn in war. We Americans (and military thinkers particularly) tend to look for solutions to problems… preferably solutions with clarity and finality. Yet desires for solution, clarity, and finality are often the worst enemies of peace whereas process, ambiguity, and delay can be peace’s greatest friend."

If Rice and Khalilzad and their team understand this (not a given), they will push for language in the constitution that leaves much to the later implementation. Shorter declarations of principles work better than detailed divisions of Federal and provincial governance.

Iraq needs time and space to recover from Saddam's rule, war and insurgency. It would be best served by a constitution that allows some flexibility and differing interpretations as to the ultimate level of Federalism.