Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where To Find The Bad News

How come the worst news in a bad news story is always buried on the second page? In this New York Times article mentioning the possibility of a power-sharing agreement in Iraq between Maliki and Allawi, it notes this possible permutation of the compromise:
The idea of a new power-sharing arrangement has been discussed for several months. Soon after the election results were certified in June, Christopher R. Hill... and his political aides drafted a paper ... reflecting ideas discussed among Iraqi politicians.

The aim was not just to curb the powers of the prime minister, but in a game of reverse musical chairs, to create new positions that could be occupied by members of a broad governing coalition. Toward this end, a largely advisory Iraqi government body — the Political Council for National Security — would be given the power to review security, budget and oil export policy.

…current and former American officials said that a number of specific possibilities had been discussed with the Iraqis, including having Mr. Allawi lead the new committee or having him serve as president with clearly defined veto authority, a position occupied by Jalal Talabani, a Kurdish leader thought to be reluctant to give up the job.

According to one early variation of the plan, the new committee would be headed by a secretary general and would include the prime minister and the president.

Other members of the panel could include the head of the judiciary and the head of Kurdistan’s regional government as well as members of some powerful ministries. Some of Mr. Maliki’s authority over security would be shifted to the new committee, but he would retain his role as the commander in chief of Iraq’s armed forces.

Discussing the new committee, Mr. Allawi insisted that it must have executive power, a budget, advisers and the right to call ministers to testify, effectively making it a position whose influence would compete with the prime minister’s.

All this sounds like an excellent way to make the Iraqi government markedly less effective than it already is. And if there’s a governmental structure this “reverse musical chairs” plan is particularly reminiscent of, it’s Lebanon’s, which has an explicit quota system to dole out ministerial positions basically equally to its Shi’ites, Sunnis, and Christians. Basically equally, but not representatively—the ratio of Shi’ites to Sunnis to Christians has long been tilted towards Shi’ites; it’s simply that the Christians won’t allow a census to conclusively prove that they’re, in fact, a distinct, distinct minority. (And of course there’s tons of gridlock associated with a system in which every group must get paid off, as anyone familiar with the phrase “health care reform” can attest.)

The proposal that sounds particularly daft re: gridlock is Allawi’s with its competing executive structures, which sounds like a rejected idea from the Constitutional Convention. (Only one government I can think of off the top of my head that has two executives—that’s France’s, and in practice the Prime Minister does whatever the President tells her/him to do.) On the other hand, you can’t exactly blame Allawi for wanting that power, given the various shenanigans—of a Nixonian flavor—that Maliki has participated in.

That it has to come to this is yet another demonstration of what a state Iraq is in: namely, an unstable one that lacks the prerequisites of effective governance. For those who were keeping track, this is exactly what the surge was supposed to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment