It seems that Americans are very impatient when it comes to anything. Take Iraq for example. We expect the Iraqi people to quickly develop a representative government even thought they have no history of ever experiencing such. Let’s take a few moments and think about this in terms of our own government history.
On July 4, 1776 the American people declared their independence from the British Empire. Our first governing document, the Articles of Confederation was not fully ratified for almost 5 years until March 1, 1781. Like Iraq, we had years of war during this time.
Even after the American War for Independence ended in 1783, the new American government struggled under a weak arrangement that had many flaws. This became very evident by the mid-1780s as more problems arose and the states squabbled and did not sufficiently support the federal government.
In a nutshell, the bulk of these problems were addressed by the Constitutional Convention that produced the United States Constitution. Adopted on September 17, 1787, it was more than a year later on March 4, 1789, that the new federal government began operating.
So with this 12+ year timeline in mind, I suggest that forming good governments takes time and, as in our case, can even experience false starts. Given their unique set of circumstances, I think it is unfair to expect the Iraqi people to do much better than we did in our beginning.
True, they have our proven model and our assistance to guide them on their journey, but it seems they don’t have a wise group of founding fathers to speed up this process. But even while we experienced a better set of circumstances than they have now, we still faced many problems that required compromise, creative solutions and much patience. In spite of monumental effort and foresight, we didn’t get everything exactly right during these formative years — even in our second governing document. However, through the brilliant amendment process built into our Constitution, we have been able to “form a more perfect union” and right many of the initial wrongs (especially slavery). The result has been more than 200 years of liberty, prosperity, and growth.
With this in mind, I suggest we maintain a long-term perspective for Iraq. In my opinion, it is premature for us to expect them to immediately experience the mature fruits of representative government from the seeds we first sowed in early 2003. Good government takes time.
Of course we should push for them to develop a government that is honest, safeguards individual rights, and provides domestic security. It would be wrong to accept anything else. Other areas beyond these basics, however, can be addressed over time. Given the ingenuity of a free people enjoying liberty for the first time, I think the quick pace of positive change that would grow in such an environment would shock many skeptics.