The case for a Shah of Iraq
By Bruce Walker
The success of the surge and the failure of the Iraqi democracy to take should lead us to consider pushing the Iraqi people into a different direction. Iraqi sovereignty is one important domestic problem, and that can be provided by a leader who is not chosen by the people. A good Shah, in whom a majority of the Iraqi leaders had confidence, might be the best solution. The sort of parliamentary democracy that Iraq has is, probably, the worst of several forms of democracy that could be chosen for Iraq.
Some nations, like America, France and Mexico, have presidential systems in which a plurality of political power resides for a fixed term with a specific political leader. This provides stability in a strong political leader whose term of office is finite as are his powers. We Americans are so accustomed to this that we tend to forget how fragile governments are in other functioning democracies.
The problem with electing a president of Iraq with strong powers is that this person would almost inevitably be tied up in sectarian disputes and would be perceived as a stalking horse for one of the three major divisions of Iraq. Moreover, his term would end and another election could produce a divisive new president.
What most Iraqi people and probably most Iraqi leaders now want is a modicum of real peace and a chance to have democracy begin to really work. A ruler, a referee who is well respected by all Iraqi and who is not a politician would be the ideal solution to this problem. Monarchies have worked very well in fulfilling this role.
Although our American Revolution soured us on kings, the other English-speaking democracies have all evolved out of a monarchial system – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and Britain – and the system has worked quite well. Even today the head of state of those nations (except Ireland) is the monarch or the representative of the monarch of Great Britain.
What worked in the English speaking democracies worked in Spain as well. The presence and the moderating influence of King Juan Carlos of Spain played a critical role in the almost effortless transformation of Spain from an authoritarian state into a fully functioning democracy after the death of Franco.
This is hardly a European phenomenon. Although Japan is a lively democracy, the Emperor remains the head of state and the focus of respect. What was true of Japan has been true of other nations in Asia and Africa: a monarch with some power but much respect can stabilize a nation that is otherwise troubled.
Iran, which had a very strong Shah, was much better off and much more truly democratic and free under the Shah than under the mullahs. There is nothing in West Asian culture that considers kings bad and Islamic rule has nearly always been through rulers who do not derive their power from the people directly.
So why not push the Iraqi leadership to coalesce behind a man of very good character who is not a politician but who is respected by all Iraqi? This man, this Shah of Iraq, could be given broad powers – or at least the right to exercise emergency powers – but ideally this should be a Shah who rises above the differences that divide the Iraqi people and who influence, rather than compel, them to act along certain paths.
This monarch would technically choose the Prime Minister, but who would be able to choose a Prime Minister who would unite the Iraqi people or call for new elections if he could not. This Shah of Iraq would not have a finite term of office so, like Queen Elizabeth and King Carlos, he could nudge Iraq gently and slowly in the right direction.
Democracy is a messy business and we often forget that it evolved nearly always out of monarchies – Britain, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Spain and Japan, to name a few – while efforts to move directly from tyranny to democracy have often resulted in chaos, like Revolutionary France or Weimar Germany.
The reality is that a Shah of Iraq would be at least as legitimate as President Assad or President Mubarak, the rulers for life of Syria and Egypt, (and in the case of Assad, the heir to the throne of the Presidency of Syria) and much more legitimate that Kim Jong Il, who inherited his throne as “Dear Leader” of North Korea.
We know what has not worked in Iraq politically. Perhaps it is time to try something that might: a traditional, hand-picked, moderate ruler with limited powers whose duty was to his own people and his own nation of Iraq. Nation building often start with monarchies. A Shah of Iraq just might work.
Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990. He is a contributing editor to Enter Stage Right and a regular contributor to Conservative Truth, American Daily, Intellectual Conservative, Web Commentary, NewsByUs and Men's News Daily. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie by Outskirts Press was published in January 2006.