Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Voices for a Lebanese-style constitutional solution

Here’s some good news despite all the tragedies:

If you’re Arabic speaking, please read my comment "Scenario Number Seven" on the nearly revolution going on in Arab political thinking; namely, in Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo (director Abdel-Moneim Said) and the Arab League (Secretary General Amr Moussa).

Even expert Juan Cole (1/4/2005) is arguing for the Lebanese solution, in spite of himself of course. He’s arguing (with urban, population and economic intermingling) basically in the way late Edward Said did against territorial partitioning in Israel/Palestine, although Said did so while advocating for a bi-confessional state, not for some one-man-one-vote state and, therefore, not for some eventual Palestinian tyranny over Israeli minority.

Finally, please read the excellent article of Patrick Seale in The Daily Star:

Iraq: first reconciliation, then elections
By Patrick Seale
January 10, 2005

On the contrary, a six-month postponement, or an even longer one, could create much-needed breathing space in which to clarify a number of unresolved issues that, at present, cast a dark shadow over the Iraqi political scene. Some of these issues are: the future of American forces in Iraq; the prospects for an Iraqi Army; the role of the Sunni community in the institutions of the state; the possibility of national reconciliation around a blueprint for Iraq's future; and the role of Iraq's neighbors. The biggest uncertainty in Iraq today concerns American intentions. To put it bluntly, does the U.S. want to stay or leave? This is the most pressing question U.S. President George W. Bush will have to answer at the start of his new presidential term on Jan. 20.
To address legitimate Sunni fears, a new constitutional formula needs to be found in which the rights of all communities are guaranteed. Like several Arab states, Iraq is a mosaic of ethnic and religious communities each concerned about the future. The U.S. occupation has sharpened differences between the communities, reviving the specter of civil war. The answer might be to devise a system in which posts and power in a new Iraq are shared equitably between the communities, on the model of the National Pact that Lebanon adopted in 1943 to satisfy the aspirations of Muslims and Christians.

Related readings:

Minority Retort
Iraq's Sunni violence may partly be due to fear

By Michael Young
December 9, 2004

In 1943 Lebanon adopted a "consociational" system, where the religious communities are represented in parliament and in the national bureaucracy according to a ratio not necessarily reflecting their demographic weight. The idea is to give all groups a protected stake in the state. Today, that ratio is 50-50, so that although Christians are a minority, they nevertheless have half the seats in the legislature, and still hold the presidency. Everyone understands that if communal representation in parliament were decided by majority vote, even based on proportional representation, the minorities would consider this the beginning of an irreversible slide, and would probably abandon Lebanon, resort to violence, or both. This is the essence of what is known as the minority syndrome—the belief that any loss of power by one's own group in a multi-communal society will ultimately lead to the eradication of that group.
That doesn't alter the fact that the solution in Iraq is indeed a devolution of power and other mechanisms permitting its minorities, particularly Sunnis, to have a say in a state that they will not consider an existential threat. That means the hard conventions of majority rule may have to be reconsidered and replaced with something guaranteeing effective minority representation. The election plan for Iraq fails utterly in this regard, and the insurgency will be fortified as a consequence.