Foundering Fathers


For conservative thinkers, whose views infuse Washington politics nowadays, Iraq presents a welcome opportunity to implant Western ideas in the Arab world. Last week, amid the city’s jubilation over the fall of Baghdad, some of these thinkers gathered at the Heritage Foundation to discuss the outlines of a new democratic Iraq. Two of the foundation’s scholars, John C. Hulsman and James Phillips, suggested that “a good political model” for a post-war Iraqi federation already exists: “the so-called Great Compromise of 1787 that enabled the creation of America’s constitutional arrangement among the states.” Such a scheme envisions the U.S. laying out the broad contours of a decentralized federal system that would ensure “local autonomy” and provide “an equitable disbursement of Iraq’s oil and tax revenues” and which would “pose no threat to the U.S. or its neighbors.” That means giving each of the nation’s major subgroups—Kurds, Sunni Muslims, and Shia Muslims—equal representation in an upper house of a legislature. Hulsman said the idea is to “set the bar low,” so as to “leave it [Iraq] better than we found it.” Oil revenue is the key to doing this, and he foresees using 30 percent of the revenue to finance this decentralized government, noting, “We’re not running an empire here.” Nile Gardiner, their British associate, warned that under no circumstances should the UN be permitted to run anything, save for perhaps something like a food program. As for participation by the old Europe, they saw some hope for Germany but none for France.

“The UN is slowly dying,” said Gardiner, adding that it should rid itself of countries that terrorize their own populations. He saw Great Britain and the U.S. taking the lead, with Britain emerging from the decay of the old Europe as the second most powerful nation in the world. Gardiner argued that, with its lengthy occupation of Northern Ireland, “there is a strong case to be made for Britain taking the command of the security element of a post-war force, under the overall command of General Tommy Franks’s post-war Iraq security operation.”

Phillips predicted that U.S. troops would be in Iraq for anywhere from two to five years.

Additional reporting: Phoebe St John and Joanna Khenkine

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 15, 2003

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