The U.S. pushes for a theocratic Iraq

You could have seen this one coming.

So the U.S. ambassador to Iraq is actively pushing secular Iraqis, and in particular the Kurdish leadership, to accept a more-theocratic rather than a less-theocratic constitution, one that will subject family matters to clerical jurisdiction and provide that no law can be made contrary to the “fixed principles” of Shari’a. (Scroll down about 2/3 of the way for the details.)

It would be easy, but false, to sneer about the Bush Administration’s consistency in being friendly to theocrats at home and abroad. The truth is much more discouraging.

A democratic Iraq cannot be a liberal Iraq, because the Iraqi majority is profoundly illiberal: illiberal to a degree that makes the majority in Alabama or Texas look positively Whiggish by comparison. With the (otherwise desirable) destruction of the Ba’athist regime and party, there is simply no remaining secularist force capable of competing with the mullahs.

It was perfectly predictable that occupying Iraq would put the United States in a position of needing to cater to the desires of the Shi’a clergy, and in particular to Ali Sistani. Now, their hands strengthened by the long string of blunders that has characterized the occupation, the mullahs are collecting their ransom.

Sad? Yes. Disgusting? Somewhat. But not surprising.

This is the sort of problem which led the Bush I team to stop short of conquest when the road to Baghdad was open.

Hat tip: Jeanne d’Arc.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: