Debaathification redux

In an earlier post, I noted that the Iraqi parliament had passed a law allowing the re-hiring of rank-and-file members of the Baathist party, who had lost their jobs in one fell swoop as a result of a decision by Paul Bremer in the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion. As has been the case on numerous prior occasions in Iraq, the news may not be as good as originally hoped. From the NY Times we find:

A day after the Iraqi Parliament passed legislation billed as the first significant political step forward in Iraq after months of deadlock, there were troubling questions — and troubling silences — about the measure’s actual effects.

The measure, known as the Justice and Accountability Law, is meant to open government jobs to former members of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein — the bureaucrats, engineers, city workers, teachers, soldiers and police officers who made the government work until they were barred from office after the American invasion in 2003.

But the legislation is at once confusing and controversial, a document riddled with loopholes and caveats to the point that some Sunni and Shiite officials say it could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets back in, particularly in the crucial security ministries.

Once again, the crux of the issue in Iraq is the sectional and interethnic struggle amongst Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs, and non-Arab Kurds, and who get what, when, and where. There are no easy answers.

The State–Weber’s definition, the role of legitimacy & Iraq

The state is an important concept in politics, and it is often one that is difficult to grasp for many students new to the study of comparative politics. Probably the most studied work on the state is that of German social scientist Max Weber, who in a lecture given in 1918 (which would eventually be published in 1919 under the name “The Politics of Vocation”) set out a formal definition of the state, and demonstrated the link between that and what is called “legitimacy”.

Below the fold, I’ll provide what I consider to be the crucial part of Weber’s lecture, with an assessment of how this relates to the contemporary situation in Iraq below:
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Hope for a united Iraq?

Apropos of one of the paper topics I assigned my class this past semester, here is an article that addresses the potential for a shared sense of community and destiny in Iraq. Based on this article, however, it seems that the basis for unity in Iraq is, in fact, the presence of the US military in that country. If this is true, then it leaves the Bush administration–and any future US president–caught between a rock and a hard place. Here are some snippets:

“raqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of “occupying forces” as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some “shared beliefs” that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.”

Ethnic Cleansing and Violence in Baghdad

The Washington Post carries a story on the front page of its Sunday edition, which describes the changing nature of residential segregation in Baghdad, from the perspective of returning refugees and displaced persons. Included is a compelling map [click the link on the left for a larger view] of Baghdad showing the dynamics of the process of ethnic cleansing (and ethnic consolidation) of Baghdad’s map_ethnic_cleansing_baghdad.gifneighborhoods between April 2006 and November 2007.

This could have something to do with the decreasing levels of violence in Baghdad over the last six months or so. (Of course, the increased US troop presence helps, but a more compelling argument comes out of work by many political scientists on the rational, or strategic, nature of inter-ethnic violence. The violence that is perpetrated by the respective sides during episodes of inter-ethnic conflict is rarely random.

In my own work in Croatia, there was a compelling strategic logic to the violence perpetrated by both sides. Territory–towns, regions, cities, etc.,–that was deemed strategically important was targeted, while territory that was not strategically important was left alone. A similar dynamic may be occurring in Baghdad. With the task of segregation of Baghdad’s neighborhoods a fait accompli, the need and desire, on the part of the sectarian militias, to use violence has diminished considerably.