Ready for Democracy?

Although I’d rather be playing with the Meme of Fours, there’s serious stuff going on out there.

Nancy A. Youssef and Huda Ahmed report for Knight Ridder
that “An Iraqi court has ruled that some of the most prominent Sunni Muslims who were elected to parliament last week won’t be allowed to serve because officials suspect that they were high-ranking members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.”

Following a week in which several hundred thousand Sunni Iraqis demonstrated against the election results, this move seems somewhat less than conciliatory. Shoving former Baathists out of the government will not, I think, placate former Baathists into accepting the new government.

If I had more time I could probably work up a comparison with the United States after the Civil War. Former Confederates were disenfranchised for a short time but regained power and influence fairly quickly, partly through violent means — race riots and the Klan, for example — and partly through political corruption — e.g., the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876, which was settled by an agreement that Reconstruction would end — leading to the Jim Crow era. So those who were eventually “punished” for the rebellion were the former slaves, not their masters. Funny how that worked out.

I understand Iraq less well than I understand the postbellum U.S. South, but I assume that the former Baathists retain wealth and property out of proportion to their numbers in the population. The world being the way it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if they eventually gain political power out of proportion to their numbers in the population, as well. We’ll see. They’ll be competing with the influence of Iran, which is formidible. But in the short run, unfortunately, we may see increasing violence in Iraq just as the U.S. plans a troop “drawdown.

For more learned and detailed analysis, see Juan Cole, who points out “The Bush administration’s fear of Iran and of its reigning Iraqi allies in Baghdad may be destabilizing Iraq by giving ammunition to disgruntled Sunni Arabs. How many feet does the Bush administration have left to shoot itself in??”

Update: Speaking of the Civil War, don’t miss “What Bush Could Learn from Lincoln” by Robert Kuttner in today’s Boston Globe. Then read “Bush’s False Choices” by Ellen Goodman from yesterday’s Boston Globe.