Wall Street Journal
February 1, 2005
After The Vote: A "courageous new order"
By Jay Garner
The Iraqi people -- having shown more bravery than any group of voters in modern history -- now start the construction of a courageous new order. America's role, therefore, becomes more critical than ever. There are key strategic initiatives the U.S. could undertake to influence Iraq's future. Some of these we can do by ourselves, others we can do in partnership with the new government. The fact that we should have done these things already only adds to their importance.
Adopt a national policy to negate hostile foreign influence in Iraq: Syria and Iran have taken every opportunity to extend their network of militants in Iraq. What we need is a national strategy formulating that these states are the enemies of democracy in Iraq. The Truman Doctrine once stabilized the economy of Turkey and saved Greece from Communist conquest. We need a similar doctrine to halt repressive Islamist influence and a terrorist takeover of Iraq.
Influence the development of the constitution to prevent "a tyranny of the majority": It is unlikely that any one of the major religious/ethnic forces -- Shia, Sunni or Kurd -- will allow itself to be controlled by the other. We must recognize the fears and desires of the Iraqi people and reflect them in the development of their constitution. This can be done through a federalism which creates strong, self-governing regions and a corresponding weak central government. One "federal entity" already exists. The Kurdistan region is ethnically homogenous, secular, and tribally compatible. Several others could be formed: a Sunni Federal region encompassing the areas immediately to the north, west and east of Baghdad; a Shia region consisting of the provinces south of Baghdad; and a fourth region, the metropolitan area around Baghdad. This last area is already a tangled "confederation." An integrated Federal region would be more representative of the population and would provide the new constitution with the best protection against another centralizing dictatorship or tyranny from either the Arab nationalists or the Islamic fundamentalists.
Guarantee the rights of minorities: This flows from the last point. Minority rights represent the core element in the foundations of democracy and stand as a fortress against violence. If we are to achieve success in Iraq, the preservation of minority rights is key. Minority rights must be one of the fundamental principles in the new constitution, allowing the Shia and the Kurds to gain control of their freedoms while also providing the Sunnis with safeguards.
Share the wealth of Iraq with the people of Iraq: Oil will be an indispensable element in the economic recovery of Iraq. Production is approaching prewar levels, and in Northern Iraq there are numerous untapped oil fields. Oil revenues and production will be significantly higher than ever before. The issue for the future is how the government will use its petrodollars. There must be a harnessing of oil revenues so that a defined portion is shared directly with the Iraqi people, much like the Permanent Fund adopted for Alaska in the late 1970s. Such a fund would give the Iraqis a shared interest in their natural resources, alienate them when the pipelines are attacked, and also bust the myth that the U.S. harbors claims to Iraqi oil revenues.
Employ the unemployed: About half of Iraq's population is under the age of 20, the age most receptive to incitement. We should review Roosevelt's Depression-era administration and analyze the way America's youth were used in national projects that not only employed the youth, but restored the economy and helped provide a new infrastructure for the nation.
Stimulate the economy: We need a "Marshall Plan" for Iraq, just as we had one for Europe. Good economics makes for good politics and we have not done well here. We blundered by failing to promote Iraqi small business and by failing to involve thousands of Iraqis in the reconstruction of their country. We need to establish a strong U.S. position on the debt claimed against Iraq. If we don't control this debt, it will exceed $125 billion and the economy will fail.
Develop a strategy for an independent Kurdistan should the Iraqi government fail: This year the Kurds celebrate 14 years of regional autonomy. They have made excellent headway toward a good market economy, minority rights, and democracy. They will not give up what they have won through terrible sacrifice. Should our efforts in Iraq fail, we must support their independence. Kurdistan will have immense strategic importance for us. As the Philippines, after the turn of the century, served as our launchpad to maintain a presence in the Pacific, Kurdistan, at the turn of this century, can serve as our launchpad for the Arab Middle East. Kurdistan can be an economic and democratic beacon and the Kurds will accommodate any arrangement, economic, political, military or otherwise, to gain our support. This may turn out to be the only pony in Iraq -- if so, we should ride it.
The issues outlined should have been accomplished previously. However, because they have not been, they are even more important to the success of a new Iraq. The Iraqi people have shed massive amounts of blood and supported the elections despite personal danger -- it is now time for us to make it truly worth their while.
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Garner was director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq after the April 2003 U.S. intervention in Iraq
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