Saturday, September 24, 2005

Wrong Way in Iraq

"AS IRAQ MOVES toward a referendum on its new constitution just three weeks from now, many of its senior politicians readily concede that the charter is seriously flawed, and that its approval may worsen rather than alleviate the relentless violence. Leaders of neighboring Arab states and some Bush administration officials seem to share this view. Yet none of these officials or leaders has been willing or able to stop the political process from going forward. Some, like Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, speak hopefully of fixing the constitution by adding an annex between now and Oct. 15. Others, including senior Bush administration officials, more realistically look past the referendum to parliamentary elections at the end of the year. These, they hope, will produce a different and more representative group of Iraqis able to settle the many conflicts that the constitution leaves unresolved.

Faced with sinking domestic support, the Bush administration seems driven by an unwise zeal to produce visible results in Iraq -- such as a ratified constitution -- however problematic they may be. At best, administration policymakers are calculating that moving forward with the referendum offers better odds of eventual success than trying to stop and start over. Yet, judging from what even supportive Iraqis are saying, the risk is very great that the constitutional process will either tip Iraq decisively toward civil war or produce a state far from the goal of a tolerant democracy for which nearly 2,000 Americans have given their lives."


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