A CONSTITUTION FOR IRAQ
had some interesting comments on Saturday regarding a proposed Iraqi constitution:
"The only question is whether an Iraqi constitutional convention can draft a constitution in only six months or so. Of course, they have some models, not only past Iraqi constitutions but also those of other countries. I personally think they should avoid as models other Arab constitutions, which seem to me deeply flawed. And, they should think seriously about taking some leaves from the US constitution. It is important that each of the 19 provinces has its own elected legislature and governor, and that two-thirds of the provinces approve any subsequent change in the constitution. A bicameral Federal legislature with a senate would allow Sunni Arabs and Kurds to be slightly over-represented, guarding them from a tyranny of the Shiite majority, whereas a lower house could be based on population. And, they should think seriously about adopting some form of the US first amendment. I know they will probably want to make Islam the religion of the state, so the Establishment clause is unlikely to be in there, but they can still require tolerance for non-Muslims. (The UK has a state religion, Anglicanism, but Catholics, Baptists and Muslims are not necessarily ipso facto mistreated there). "
I agree with much of what Professor Cole has written here. While on the surface granting each province it's own legislature might seem excessive, the future Iraqi state needs to be balanced by independent local governments and a healthy and vibrant civil society. Bremer and an Iraqi Convention face three key problems in crafting a Constitution - limiting the central government's traditionally repressive grip on Iraqi citizens, preventing the territorial disintegration of Iraq on ethnic and religious lines and preventing one ethnic/religious group from highjacking the machinery of government to dominate Iraq and reimpose a dictatorship.
To Professor Cole's list I would add restrictions on the future Iraqi state's ability to monopolize and regulate Iraq's economy. Unlimited statism which has been the economic model for much of the Arab world has served primarily as an engine of impoverishment, oppression, corruption, debt and war for the peoples of the Mideast. A freer market economy in Iraq will alow civil society to accumulate capital for private enterprise, educational and non-profit institutions, all of which will serve as interests to counterbalance the tendency toward authoritarianism and central control. An Iraqi version of the Federal Reserve, relatively independent of the executive, will stand a better chance of ensuring a sound currency and preventing a future government from expropriating the wealth of the citizenry via devaluations and inflation, as happened in post-Soviet Russia.