March 7, 2003 | Executive Summary on Iraq
Iraq's failure to comply with its disarmament obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 is likely to trigger a war, with or without the passage of another Security Council resolution. The immediate goal of such a war would be to eliminate the grave threat posed by Iraq's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but another major benefit will be the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. In the aftermath of such a campaign, the United States should help the Iraqi people establish a new federal system of governance that provides representation for all the people of Iraq and poses no threat to America's national interests, its allies, or stability in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region.
Under no circumstances should the United States advocate the kind of top-down, highly centralized "nation-building" experiments that the Clinton Administration tried unsuccessfully in Haiti, Somalia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. That approach failed in those cases precisely because it ignored the unique political realities on the ground. To be effective, a new post-war Iraqi government must be pluralist, one that includes the three major sub-national groups in Iraq and advances their interests. A decentralized federal political system offers the best means of assuring local autonomy, protection against the return of a tyrannical central government, a fair political settlement in Iraq, and an equitable disbursement of Iraq's oil and tax revenues.
A good political model for such a successful post-war Iraqi federation already exists--the so-called Great Compromise of 1787 that enabled the creation of America's constitutional arrangement among the states. In Iraq's case, this type of system would give each of the country's three major sub-groups equal representation in an upper house of the legislature in order to protect each group's interests at the national level.
United States must implement a clear political strategy for
post-Saddam Iraq. It should stress that while the specific details
of the ultimate political settlement will be determined by the
Iraqi people, Washington will first lay out the broad
contours of an acceptable accord for the post-war government. Iraq's post-war government must:
Ideally, the post-Saddam Iraq will be one that espouses democratic and free-market principles, that is pro-Western and that cooperates extensively in the war against terrorism, and that supports a negotiated solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, measuring the success of U.S. policy in Iraq should be defined not by these highly ambitious goals, but by how well the three more realistic and more important war aims are achieved. Specifically, to help the Iraqi people build a stable, friendly, and non-threatening state, the Administration should:
It will be up to the Iraqis themselves to establish a state after Saddam Hussein's regime falls and its weapons of mass destruction are destroyed. They must build a new state that will protect and represent all the people of Iraq, that will not threaten U.S. interests or regional stability, and that ensures international stability to the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
In Iraq, the facts on the ground mean that the United States should push for the formation of a decentralized federal government, which would stand the best chance of ensuring stability and long-term peace. But it is ultimately up to the Iraqis themselves to flesh out the details of that political settlement. The United States should facilitate a positive outcome, suggest a course of action, and encourage the political and regional elites to reach agreement to put in place a political system that gives the various ethnic and religious groups a real stake in its success.
John C. Hulsman, Ph.D., is Research Fellow in European Affairs, and James Phillips is Research Fellow in Middle Eastern Affairs, in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. This paper is updated from Backgrounder No. 1593, published on September 24, 2002.