Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal: Reconciliation Seen Unattainable Amid Struggle for Power
Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.
While at first glance this appears to be bad news, the reality of a Kumbaya-free Iraq is what we face and at least some seem to see what needs to be done:
Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.
“Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself,” he said. “You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that ‘I want to reconcile with you.’ ”
The first step, of course, is a relatively safe and secure environment. Though much headway has been made over the summer, there’s a long ways to go before “safe” or “secure” will apply to Iraq. Until clean water and dependable electricity flows, even relative safety won’t be enough for anyone to start thinking about getting along.
A lot of ground was lost on this front in 2006, and most of 2007 has been spent just trying to get back to where things were at the end of 2005. One area where things have really changed, though, is the size and capability of the Iraqi army. Hopefully, this will allow more headway to be made by the end of the year.
Reconciliation doesn’t happen because you want it to. It happens because time passes, grudges fade, and folks realize that it makes more sense to get along than to fight. There isn’t going to be meaningful reconciliation on a personal level for generations. What needs to happen is that fair laws are enforced fairly. Nothing happens until that does, and even when it does it will take many years before enough people trust it enough to begin getting over old differences. And many differences, unfortunately, cannot simply be gotten over and will need to pass away with the individuals who harbor them.
Look at the long, rough road the United States had to travel following the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t reconcile the differences between black and white in America, and neither did the defeat of the Confederate rebellion. Reconstruction, of course, didn’t do much to rectify things, and even today, thirteen decades later, total ‘reconciliation’ between white and black remains elusive.
I wouldn’t hold my breath on a sudden outbreak of peace, love, and understanding between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis. I’d settle for a cessation of open warfare between the sides and fair equal rights laws enforced fairly at this point.
As for the frustration with the polarized Iraqi government, I wrote in early 2003:
If we’re lucky, they may merely have to deal with a harsh, never-ending, bitterly fought struggle between rival factions resorting to every low, demeaning, dastardly trick they can invent in a constant battle for national supremacy. And the local media, biased to one side or another, will probably fan the flames and leave the average citizen woefully unable to make informed decisions. Mobs of protesters will march and try to cause havoc when they don’t feel that they’ve received the government they were promised.
Things could be a lot worse than that. The “struggle about power” has been going on in the United States for over two hundred years, and it isn’t going to stop any time soon.