Iraq is flying to pieces. The people of Iraq just can’t get along with each other, they were only held together by authoritarian force, the country is fracturing along sectarian and ethnic lines, and it’s inevitable that with its Shi’ite majority Iraq will become a Khomeinist theocracy, dominated by Iran. Right?
Maybe not. Consider this study from sociologist Mansoor Moaddel of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research:
So far, the surveys show a decline in popular support for religious government in Iraq and an increase in support for secular political rule, said sociologist Mansoor Moaddel, who is affiliated with Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).
“Iraqis have a strong sense of national identity that transcends religious and political lines,” Moaddel said. “The recent out-pouring of national pride at the Asian Cup victory of the Iraqi soccer team showed that this sense of national pride remains strong, despite all the sectarian strife and violence.”
In the March 2007 survey, 54 percent of Iraqis surveyed described themselves as “Iraqis, above all,” (as opposed to “Muslims, above all” or “Arabs, above all”) compared with just 28 percent who described themselves that way in April 2006. Three-quarters of Iraqis living in Baghdad said they thought of themselves in terms of their national identity, as Iraqis above all.
Click on the graphic above for more complete results of the study. Hat tip: IraqPundit who adds:
For what it’s worth, these findings match my own experience. That is, most Iraqis with whom I’ve had contact want secular rule. They’re also Iraqis first, and Shiites, Sunnis, or Kurds second
Note in particular that all groups including Kurds are trending towards greater Iraqi national identity rather than lesser.
Why then did the Iraqis vote in sectarian and ethnic parties in the last election? I’m open to suggestions.
There are all sorts of possibilities. Perhaps the study is invalid and Iraqis are only answering questions the way they think pollsters want them answered. Perhaps Iraqis believed that the sectarian and ethnic parties were willing and able to bring more security to Iraq. Obviously, that hasn’t happened, quite the opposite if anything.
My own view is that the Iraqi elections were premature. That’s not a slam on the Iraqi people whom I believe acted heroically and nobly under the circumstances. I’m skeptical that you can conduct elections worthy of the name when the political parties are armed factions. Under those circumstances the problem happens long before people arrive at the polls when candidates are being selected and when campaigns are being conducted. Only the best armed will get their messages out.
The people of Iraq are watching. The people of Iraq are learning. The people of Iraq, if given the chance to vote again, will probably be removing a great deal of dead wood from their political system. Iraq has a parliamentary system. Elections can happen any time when there’s nobody able to form a government. The question is whether Iraqis have learned enough about their politicians to vote enough decent ones in so that the next government can make political reconciliation happen.
And I don’t hear anybody on any side address this question in a realistic way. The political solution for deadlocked politics in a democratic republic is to elect new politicians who can get it done. That’s the real game, hold on militarily until the people have figured out how to elect decent leaders and those new leaders strike the compromise deal that’s necessary for us to be able to leave behind a viable Iraqi state.
A unitary secular Iraq is far more in U. S. interests than a partitioned one, especially a partitioned Iraq that acts as a battleground for ancient rivalries and the present-day political ambitions of its neighbors. Until and unless the Iraqi military and police have the ability and will to prevent this from happening on behalf of the majority of Iraqis who I continue to be convinced mostly want to live their lives in peace, the primary force that prevents the minority from getting their way and pushing Iraq into further chaos is the United States military.