Sunday, January 09, 2005

Making Iraq Safe for Democracy

The NYT prints an important article by Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution arguing for a delay of the Iraq vote. Diamond was asked by the Bush Administration to be a consultant for the CPA. Diamond told the CPA that a constitution based on proportional representation risked civil war; Diamond argued strongly that each district needed to elect its own representative: this was the only way to make sure the various groups in Iraq (Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish, etc) were adequately represented. Many otherwise pro-democracy Sunnis are now making the same point that Diamond made a year ago, and Diamond thinks they should be accomodated.

At present, the chances for a delay in the election look very small: both Bush and Allawi seem determined to press ahead, so the points raised by Diamond--as reasonable as they seem to me--are probably moot.

But it raises with me the whole issue of the CPA. It's not easy for an outsider to know what exactly happened in Iraq: but if I were asked to name the single biggest thing wrong with post-Saddam policy in Iraq, it would be the appointment of Jerry Bremer to head the CPA.

1. Bremer did not speak Arabic and had no expertise in either the region in general or Iraq in particular. A very bad move. It is true that Douglas MacArthur had similar limitations in post-war Japan, but the situations do not to me seem comparable. The head of CPA was a post that demanded the most detailed knowledge of Iraqi culture and history; to appoint someone with who couldn't even speak the language was a formula for disaster.
2. Bremer seems to have been gloriously incompetent as an administrator: the Marines quipped that CPA stood for "Can't provide anything."--a brutal summary of his administration by those who would know.
3. Bremer never seems to have appreciated the necessity of getting going on elections: the incessant delays led many Iraqis to conclude that the Americans had invaded for no other reason than to seize the oil; the longer Bremer delayed on setting a date for elections, the more legitimacy the Americans lost. Bremer's lethargy was a significant contributor to the spread of the insurgency.

I was opposed to the appointment of both Jay Garner and Jerry Bremer to CPA at the time the appointments were announced--principally on the basis of point 1 above, lack of expertise with Iraq. I'd be interested to see if anyone can provide a more cogent defense of the leadership of either.


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