Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Realistic Policy Discussion

This morning’s Meet the Press demonstrated exactly the kind of discussions the country needs to engage in about Iraq. First American Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalizad, corrected some of the misperceptions that have been flying around the MSM, regarding the new Iraqi Constitution. When Host Tim Russert pointed out with concern that the new constitution calls for Islam to be the official state religion and a main source of law, Ambassador Khalizid pointed to other facts in rebuttal.

Khalizid: No. Those were exactly the same words that were in the constitution of Afghanistan which we celebrated. And also do not forget that immediately after what you just read, there are two other requirements that the draft mentions, one, that no law can be against the practices of democracy and also that no law can be in violation of the human rights enshrined in that constitution. What you have, Tim, is a new consensus between the universal principles of democracy and human rights and Iraqi traditions in Islam.

This, by the way is an awesome step for Iraq, for Islam, and for the mideast!

Russert also raised concerns about the constitutional issues regarding women’s rights under the new regime. He also expressed the widespread fear in Iraq and here in the US about the influence of Sharia, Islamic Law, and especially the constutional basis for seating clerics as Judges. Again the ambassador countered the mis-assertions of the media with the facts.

Khalizid:This constitution, this draft, recognizes equality between men and women before the law and disallows any discrimination. It also disallows violence in the family. It encourages women's political participation. And it grants a 25 percent minimum women's representation in the National Assembly. With regard to family law, which is a controversial article, it recognizes the freedom of choice, that people can choose which law, whether secular or religious, can--will govern their personal matters having to do with marriage, divorce, inheritance. This is no different than what is the case in Israel.

With regard to the role of the Supreme Court, I think your comments reflected an earlier draft. The current draft does not establish a separate constitution review court but gives the responsibility to the Supreme Court here and it doesn't call for Shariah judges. It calls for experts in law, which includes expertise in Islamic law, but also expertise with regard to democracy and human rights, to be represented in the Supreme Court and it allows the next parliament to legislate on that.
Finally the ambassador pointed out that like in America, the constitution is only the foundation.. It is the first step in a process to building a democracy. The participation of the citizenry in shaping it is the key to the future of the government.

This is a living document, as all constitutions are, Tim, and as Iraq evolves and changes, this constitution will also change and adapt to the circumstances. Our own Constitution, as you know, had to change in order to remain relevant. And this will be the case with Iraq as well, as it will be the case with other countries. Constitutions are not just one-time documents. To be relevant, they will have to adapt.

The second half of the show featured four retired US generals at least one of whom, Wesley Clark has been unabashed in declaring our involvement in Iraq a mistake. Unlike Chuck Hagel and the anti-war chorus on the left General Clark was able to talk lucidly about what he thinks our strategy and Goals should be.

Clark: Now, every one of us who serve in top positions knows that there has to be hand-in-glove teamwork between military force, diplomacy, economic power and informational power. This administration has relied excessively on the courage and skill of the men and women in uniform. It doesn't want to talk to the people in Iran. It doesn't want to talk to Syria. It doesn't want to do the hard work and heavy lifting of diplomacy because of domestic politics at home.

I'm talking about having something like a contact group which we set up in the Balkans at the diplomatic level, at the representational level, in public where you can get nations' interests out on the table, where you can talk about regional issues, including trade and travel, you know, tourism, visiting Najaf, where the airport are going to be. All of these are regional concerns, and they need to be dealt with in an open fashion.

This administration needs to bite the bullet and say, "Look, we're in a part of the world where there are going to be people that we wouldn't necessarily run their countries the way they're doing it. But they are the governments, and we're going to talk to them even if we don't agree with everything they say." It's up to us find areas of common interest and try to work this.

This is the way to criticize the administration. Find a spot where they realistically might try doing more. Or where there is different approach that has possibilities. While I understand the Bush teams reluctance to engage these nations, particularly Iran in public discussions about Iraq. It might actually be useful to get them to commit publicly to diplomatically agreed policies. At least Clark is making suggestions.

The other Generals were more optimistic and supportive. Wayne Downing, former snake eater in chief as head of USSOCOM, the special operations headquarters made some particularly useful points.

Downing: I think one of the problems that we're having is that the news media, the opposition to the war are framing this entire discussion in the terms of casualties and casualties only. I think what we don't have is a serious discussion about why you take those casualties.

We're not out there roaming the roads in Iraq and Afghanistan, looking for IEDs to blow up. Everything we're doing in a military campaign, both the U.S., the coalition and the Iraqi forces, are aimed at objectives. And those objectives are to promote the political process, number one, because what we're doing, Tim--for the last six weeks we've been doing this--we're preparing for the election in the middle of October--I mean, the referendum on the constitution and then the following one, the election in December to ratify it.

The other things we're doing is we're supporting the economic development of that country and the social development. That's why these military operations are going on. And I really think that it's incumbent upon you and the others and the responsible American press to put the casualties into these kind of context. In other words, what is it that they're accomplishing? I mean, can you imagine us and, you know, it's been quoted out there in the Web, judging the D-Day invasion of Normandy back in 1944 by the casualties that were suffered?

Amen to that Sir!

I can’t say I agree with everything that was said here. But again, at least this was the way to criticize. There were no shrill calls for cutting and running. General Clark the most critical of the guests, was critical by making positive suggestion, maybe not all of them workable, but at least demonstrating some reason aforethought. This is the kind of discussions America needs more of. Let’s look realistically at what’s happening in Iraq. And if we are going to Criticize policy let’s make sure we can suggest alternatives that make some kind of sense. The full transcript is available here

See also PoliPundit


Blogger bethtopaz said...

Thanks for this post! What you do you think of Tim Russert? I really haven't watched him very much.

And what do you think can be done to enlist the Mainstream Media, if anything, to be more supportive of our efforts in the War on Terror?

Sun Aug 28, 11:17:00 PM 2005  

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