Bremer’s last gift
As the American ruler of Iraq, Paul Bremer had the amazing knack of being able to pick the worst possible decision on every occasion. From the dissolution of the Iraqi army to his refusal to hold elections in 2003, when there was some chance they could have worked, he did everything wrong he possibly could. Now he’s gone, and most of his policies have been abandoned, but he’s left one last gift, which may turn out to be the most poisonous of the lot.
When Bremer set up the electoral system for the elections that are supposed to be held in January, he went for a single nationwide electorate, rather than having representatives of provinces or individual constituencies.
In any case, what this means is that, to the extent that fighting depresses the turnout in Sunni areas, Sunnis get less seats. Being a minority, they’re bound to lose most of the power they’ve traditionally held in any case, but under Bremer’s rules, they could be excluded almost completely. By contrast, under a constituency system, provided some sort of ballot could be held, Sunni candidates would be elected from Sunni areas.
To address this problem, Juan Cole is suggesting an emergency intervention, setting aside 25 per cent of the seats for Sunni candidates. It’s probably about the best that can be done in the circumstances, but the outlook is not that good.
Meanwhile, the onset of civil war has been announced, not by leftist opponents of the war, but by arch-hawk Charles Krauthammer who complains (haven’t we heard this before) about the unreliability of our native allies
People keep warning about the danger of civil war. This is absurd. There already is a civil war. It is raging before our eyes. Problem is, only one side is fighting it. The other side, the Shiites and the Kurds, are largely watching as their part of the fight is borne primarily by the United States.
I don’t recall Krauthammer mentioning civil war as part of the plan in 2003. But maybe this is one of those four-war things.
fn1. I don’t think this was simple stupidity. His orders were, as far as I can see, to establish a secular free-market democracy that would be a reliable ally of the US and Israel. Any halfway realistic policy would have required him to abandon these objectives, and settle for a moderately theocratic, semi-socialist and imperfectly democratic state, on the “Iran-lite” model, because that’s what a majority of Iraqis want. Instead, he followed the dream.
fn2. My guess is that his motive was to allow votes for Iraqi exiles who could be presumed to be more favorable to the occupation than the people who were actually experiencing it.