2003 April 21 Monday
Baath Party Members Will Hold Many Positions In New Iraq Government

So many were Baath Party members that Iraq can not operate without former Baathists.

The resurrection of the Ba'ath is, in part, acknowledgment of the daunting reality of governing a country as complex and battered as Iraq. Under Saddam membership was mandatory for teachers, police, the army, and senior posts in hospitals, universities, banks and the civil service.

The article argues that the looting and lawlessness after the fall of the old regime has increased the appeal of parts of the old regime's apparatus of government. This seems plausible. By not bringing a larger force to Baghdad and by not moving more rapidly to assert order as the new sheriff in charge of Baghdad the US lost some credibility as a deliverer of a new order. This has provided an opening for a lot of other groups to argue claim other sources of legitimacy for power.

The lawlessness has provided an opening for Mullahs to organize forces to maintain order.

In the power vacuum, that is just what they are doing. And rather than the free, secular power that Washington wants, the mullahs' authority is being asserted most forcefully. Vigilantes roam suburban streets and the mosques are organising club-brandishing crowds to set up road blocks at which they confiscate the looters' booty.

This ability of the Mullahs to organize a response to the lawlessness is helping to legitimize the Mullahs as political players. To the extent that religious leaders become political leaders the plans of the United States to turn Iraq into a democracy on more secular lines are undermined.

Still, there are other new players. Some are trying to get power by making decisions, giving orders, and posturing as if they have power.

Zubaidi, a Shiite Muslim dissident who has spent the past 24 years in exile and is a top official of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, said he was selected last week by a 22-member council of businessmen, clerics and intellectuals to run this city of 5 million people. Although his name elicits befuddled stares on the streets of Baghdad and his appointment has not been recognized by the U.S. military, he insisted he is the city's new leader.

It would not surprise me at all to see US administrators increasingly turn toward ex-Baathists as a counterweight against Islamists who will be making a play for power.

The battle in post-Saddam Iraq is going to be between semi-liberal democracy of the Turkish Ataturk model and theocracy based on the Iranian model. The question is whether the US has the willingness and determination to support the development of secular Iraqi Kemalists to do battle for decades against Muslim theocrats. The US could enhance the appeal of a Kemalist approach if it more vigorously maintained order and also cultivated the education and promotion of a secular elite. However, it is far from clear that the Bush Administration is willing to acknowledge the extent to which Iraq's development as a democracy depends on keeping the Mullahs out of politics.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 21 01:26 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation


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