Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blaming Mr. Maliki

Recently, Democratic senators Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin have called for Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to resign. So has French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. President Bush took some potshots at Maliki a few weeks ago.

The Iraqi leader hit back, telling all these people basically to mind their own damn business.

He's right. Americans should mind our own damn business and start withdrawing from of Iraq immediately.

Unfortunately, Maliki's become the convenient whipping boy for Democratic and Republican politicians alike who are too cowardly to look in the mirror at their own failings.

Attacking Bush's Iraq policy-of-the-week is risky because the far right will pass this off as undermining the troops. And calling for a withdrawal of US troops risks being tarred as 'surrender,' rather than returning Iraqi sovereignty to Iraqis. This may represent intellectual deceit designed to stiffle serious debate, but historically, such smearing has worked. Bush can't directly attack his own policy for obvious reasons (which is why it changes constantly). And most politicians in Washington voted for the Iraq aggression in the first place. So they don't want to directly admit the obvious: they messed up.

Scapegoating Maliki may be the safest option for the careers for Washington politicians, but is undermining a moderate leader in a snakepit in the interests of anyone else? We can see how well that strategy worked in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon.

The whole rush to blame Maliki for everything under the sun seems more than a bit tawdry. Especially when the fundamental problems are nearly all related to security, a domain which Maliki's government has little practical control. When Sen. Clinton holds her admit up and admits she screwed up in voting for the Iraq invasion, then maybe she just might have the right to criticize the way Maliki is trying to clean up the mess her vote authorized.

Maliki is not an executive president who can snap his fingers and get things done (nor is he the spouse of one). And his party does not command a large parliamentary majority, in contrast to Tony Blair during most of his premiership.

The Iraqi leader heads a shaky coalition government in a 'democracy' that's only a few years old and whose security (such as it is) is provided by an occupying foreign force. If the US couldn't stabilize Iraq during Paul Bremer's tenure when he was essentially the country's absolute monarch and ruled by fiat, how can any one expect that of any coalition prime minister?

Maliki is only one man in a system explicitly designed to prevent the return of a single strongman. Italy has changed prime ministers 36 times in the 61 years since becoming a republic. That's the risk in setting up a parliamentary democracy in a divided country. Having a bunch of foreign politicians dictating things from half way around the world isn't going to make things any better. Clinton, Levin, Kouchner and Bush should mind their own damn business and run their own countries and let Maliki run his.


Mark said...

Maliki does deserve blame for running a govt on such religious sectarian lines. It is dysfunctional at best, counterproductive at most.
Criticism is needed, but that criticism must be joined by stronger and real threats of removing our troops even sooner. Perhaps when Iraq at last really collapses will Maliki realise his problems.

Brian said...

I never said Maliki didn't deserve any blame. However, Iraqis must be free to make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences. Bush has run this country on religious sectarian lines but not even the ardent Bush-haters would want foreigners to tell them what to do.