By Thomas E. Brewton
We tried it in the United States from 1781 until the Constitution was ratified in 1789.
Columnist Charles Krauthammer observes that the political process in Iraq is moving in the direction of informal partitioning into a Kurdish region in the north, a Sunni region, and a Shiite province in the south, with Baghdad as a mixed religious/ethnic capital region.
In superficial respects, such an arrangement is similar to the government in the United States under the Articles of Confederation, instituted after our War of Independence.
There is, however, a crucial difference between the arrangement among the original thirteen states and the situation in Iraq. The American states were unified, whatever their geographic, economic, and religious sectarian differences, by a common English heritage of constitutional government and by the fact that ours was a Christian nation in which religious toleration was firmly established.
Even so, the United States under the Articles of Confederation, as George Washington described it, became a bad joke. Congress had no power to compel states to obey its laws, to pay taxes, or to provide soldiers and sailors to protect the nation from foreign aggressors. States, from time to time, simply ignored requests from Congress.
Will Iraq, with deep-seated religious and cultural differences, function even as well as did the United States under the Articles of Confederation? Memories of savage repression by the Sunni minority under Saddam Hussein further exacerbate matters.
From the standpoint of our own foreign policy, the major danger is that a weak Iraqi confederation of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites may lead to continual aggression by Iran on the western border and by Syria on the northern border. If the Iraqi confederation begins to fall apart, Turkey will probably enter the fray to forestall Kurdish nationalism within its borders.
Should Iran pursue its aim to dominate the Middle East, we could find them controlling, directly or by threats, all of the Middle East's oil, from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, to Iran itself. Iran could then hold us hostage to shut-offs of oil supplies, for example, if they decided to annihilate Israel.
As Mr. Krauthammer notes, even a weak confederation, if it holds, will be better than the current terrorist strife. Conceivably, if the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites feel that their own religious and political aspirations are sufficiently respected under a confederation, they will be motivated to cooperate against aggression from Iran and Syria.
The most encouraging sign is that, as American troops push out terrorists and impose military order, from neighborhood to neighborhood, local tribal leaders are turning against the terrorists and providing better intelligence to our troops. This suggests that, given a path toward anti-terror stability, Iraqis of all religious and cultural stripes, will take it.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is The View From 1776. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.