Preparing Iraq for the rule of law.
By Ann Marlowe
Ever found yourself fuming about a bad government policy? Probably. Ever been asked to join a private army to fight it? Probably not.
Because we live in the world’s oldest democracy, we know that authority is not bestowed by a gun, but by the consent of the governed. And because we’re a politically mature people who take the rule of law for granted, we sometimes forget what we also know: that an elected government isn’t just entitled but obliged to exercise authority. Otherwise, it’s not doing its duty.
The Iraqis are not yet politically mature. How could they be? They endured a dictator who moved heaven and earth to make sure they couldn’t be. Going further back, Iraqis have hardly known the rule of law since Caliph Al-Mansour founded Baghdad in 762. What they’ve known is conquest. Even before Western colonialism came into the picture, Baghdad was captured in 945, 1055, 1258 (when it was one of the two biggest cities in the world and the Mongols killed as many as 800,000 of its inhabitants), 1339, 1401, 1410, 1508, 1534, 1623, and 1638. If you grew up in Iraq — or many other places in the Arab world — you might think an authority is just someone with a gun. Or on the other hand you might think that no one with a gun could have any moral standing or should have any authority. (more…)