All of Washington wants the Iraqis to be more expeditious than our own Founding Fathers, who took years of trial and error to hammer out the mother of all modern constitutions.
Yet the Iraqis are where we want them to be: divided on critical matters of politics and faith, but still determined to resolve their differences through a binding written compromise. Their discussions are hot and sometimes intractable because all the parties know these debates matter. Federalism and the political role of Islam--perhaps the two most troublesome subjects--are critical issues throughout the Middle East. No one in Washington should want these debates toned down or curtailed.
Many in America may not like the outcome--liberals are already overwhelmingly defining Iraqi democracy's success by whether women's social rights are protected and advanced--but the deliberations foretell what is likely to happen elsewhere in the region as it democratizes. Contrary to so much commentary in the U.S., it is the compromises--the liberal "imperfections"--in Iraq's experiment that may have the most positive repercussions in the Middle East.
Assuming American anxiety, the Sunni insurgency, and jihadist terrorist attacks don't derail the political process--and the violence could only do so by penetrating constantly into Najaf and Karbala, the shrine cities, and the southern Shiite and northern Kurdish heartlands--the new constitution's drafters are likely to produce a document that has a decent chance of gaining the assent of the country's three major communities: the Sunni and Shiite Arabs and the Kurds.
Yes, they will have to sort it out. Much as I'd like everything to be perfect the first time around, it wasn't so for the U.S. constitution. And because we neglected to debate a very important issue, it led to a civil war a few decades later.
We can free them; we can nurture them; we can defend them. But soon or later they must grow up and take care of themselves. The debate is on. As Ms. Frizzle says, "Go ahead! Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!"
That's what freedom is all about.
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