The Constitution: Best Hope for the Mideast
A fascinating fact seems to always baffle me when it comes to politics. Politicians are very engrossed in making statements that seem ideologically correct to the simpletons -- to cover their power quest or economic ambitions or other need. All too often they keep sticking later to the slogan that may work at first and continue to persist with it even though it becomes clear that it is not the best for them, politically or nationally. A more important consideration is that their country will be well served if the original principles will talk louder domestically and in foreign lands.
When the country is the USA, this habit is particularly inappropriate because the U.S. Constitution and amendments signify to me a more advanced stage than in almost all other human political organization. One of the principles I like best to apply is the federalist or, better yet, the confederating imperative. I like the idea of a state within a confederation with a well regulated militia and the right of people to keep arms (Second Amendment). I like the idea that the confederate order does, in fact, give the state the right to exercise powers if not prohibited by the Constitution. Another option is to let the people have these powers -- but in either case, i.e., state or people, there is no automatic preference for the federal government over the people (Tenth Amendment).
Article IV of the Constitution is also very useful in defining the nature of states vis-a-vis the Union. Section 3 reviews the principles of new states joining the union. Critical there is the perspective that no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state. The Constitution elaborates very wisely the cases of a junction of two or more states or parts of states.
As the founding fathers took into consideration a lot of their own related experience as well as Europe's, it is timely now to see how it is not applied these very days to critical scenes. Statements by political and scholarly personalities often refer to the need to stay militarily in Iraq for a long time to come and to realize a constitution for a strong as possible a democratic union. The fact is that this is read locally as a major threat to at least two of the main factions in Iraq -- and as it seems obvious from Amr Moussa's second Arab League mission's comments and reports - not too well reported in our inerudite press/media -- it will invite far more violent reactions in the Arab world to American ideas of democracy and the right mode of getting things done.
The most obvious result from the two constitutional referendums is that the ones ready for statehood have their own militias, have worked out internally a fairly advanced republican order (clearly different from an American 1776 vision, but this is is actually an advantage). They have tasted enough of the democratic mode, but also experienced the present insecurity when in other regions.
When you consider all good thinking that went into the American vision of state vs. union and our own historical reality, it seems best to start with the Kurdish North and the Shi'ite region as two basically separate units choosing their own type of next-stage union. Yes, there may be a need to consider the option that religion will dictate a different confederation for the Shiite region with Iran. This is bound to happen anyway and it would be a good move, for a change, to be the forerunner and a blessable angel in America's role vs. the Iranian complexity. The best short-term result would be better security within the two regions, excluding insurgent movements, and doing more to constrain their logistics and support.
As I see it, a Kurdish judge in the Saddam trials angers many of the common observers in Iraq, including even Shiites. His behavior toward the Baghdad Butcher is not well rehearsed or mentally confident, which is essential in this type of advertised trial. To have 14 or so separate legal trials will convince too many that this is just another humility inflicted by America on Arab freedom and glory. It will routinize the crimes of this horrible regime, while many more unflattering comparisons will be made with the U.S. Finally, any day these criminals are on trial live is another chance to reinforce those who support them and the killing and maiming of innocent civilians and necessary police personnel. Let us remember the Eighth Amendment's guarantee of a speedy, not just public, trial.
In the background hovers also a simple reality-- eradicating the terrorists is a clear issue of being smarter in cultivating good will among the masses. Not only in the Arab Middle East or Asia is this important. Considering the dire theological prism of radical Islam, we may soon expect a fatwa informing local cells that the effort to first eradicate the enemy from Arab territory has been not been as effective as testing the weakest links in the West's capacity to absorb pain, and that the war in Iraq should be relocated closer to enemy's home. Our recent New York and Baltimore exercises in panic may actually encourage this line of thinking.
The political solution I see is for proponents of freedom and America to convert enemies to friends, and there is nowhere better to start than with the Constitution. The constitutional model will lead to a Mideast confederation, and that is the clearest scenario to avoid strife and collision in the Arab-Israeli future, and the best chance of a Pax Americana that may work in our lifetime. Yes, there are other alternatives, if you want to live in Vanuatu.
Prof. Joseph D. Ben-Dak is an expert in international security, responses to terror, technology and global politics. He has served in numerous high-level international posts at the United Nations and other organizations. He holds a doctorate in Organizational Sociology and Research Methods from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.