Monday, June 21, 2004


Available Administrative Tools

The previous regime, like so many other totalitarian ones, was highly centralized. One aspect of such a system is that, administratively speaking, it had to be highly organized. This was necessary for it to maintain control.

This organization can be made use of for the rapid implementation of a democratic process.

• Iraq is divided into 18 Governorates (Counties).

• Each Governorate or County has a number of Districts. The District (called “Naheya”) is the smallest administrative unit in Iraq. The structure already exists in the country. These Districts are fully defined (with borders, administrations, municipal units, police, schools, etc).

• Each District is further divided into neighborhoods (called Mahallas) that comprise relatively small “electoral” wards of less than a thousand families. Residents of these Mahallas know their borders.

On the question of identification, there are two tools available:

• An important tool is the National Identity Card; every single Iraqi citizen has one.

• Also, ever since the UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1990, a “ration card” system was introduced and was efficiently used for over a decade. Every family has one. The data is computer-based and the Ministry of Trade has the data on disc.

Late-in-coming comments of another meddlesome American. :)

Brilliant start. You seem to have a real understanding of political principles, (unlike most so-called politicos these days).

Question: How big are these Naheya (pl.?)? Probably no council (on any level) should serve more than 100-150 adults/households. (Of these, only interested, self-appointed persons need participate.) If Naheya are too big, another level would be desireable.

By now, national elections have been held in Iraq, but how could this exercise in mass democracy be expected to empower people? Just the opposite, I think, as we can see in the U.S. and many other democratic nations. Democracy by itself does not automatically grant legitimacy, and can lead to the worst sort of oppression.

I believe the key is, as you suggest, local self-government, not mass democracy. Local government should be empowered to perform all tasks that it feels competent to undertake. (This may vary from region to region.) Authority should then be formally granted to higher councils to deliberate about wider regional issues.

Higher councils should be composed of "graduates" from lower councils. (I think the notion of "graduation" is more felicitous than "representation". These higher councils must be free to act independently of lower councils, and vice versa.) This simple mechanism would produce an Iraqi President/PM with the personal respect of his peers, and the full authority that implies.

You know, even if it's too late to undo the bungling of the CPA and Transitional Government, an informal, nation-wide political structure of this sort, even erected parallel to the official government, would prove its worth in little time.

To cite just one pressing issue: What makes these "terrorist networks" so difficult to counter? I wouldn't be the first to suggest that it's their organizational structure, autonomous cells and bands aligned by little more than mutual respect. (Contrary to prevailing opinion, I think ideology is a weakness, not a strength.) Mass society is the perfect hideout for this type of association, as mass society's lack of small-scale political structure means they can simply melt away without running into political interference, (e.g., locals are not organized to find them out or resist them, and their members will not be drawn into debate, which could start them thinking).

The good news is that such conspiracies are at a huge disadvantage to well-intentioned associations. These "insurgents" are organized as a conspiracy precisely because their activities and motivations would not stand up in the light of day. They would come under attack from good people, (which would start their members thinking, etc.) Unlike a local council government, conspiracies must expend valuable resources and forego opportunities for action simply to maintain a veil of secrecy.

Going all the way back to 9/11, the most disturbing failure of American society--nay, Americans-- was their utter inability to demonstrate to such lonely men living among us for months and years at a time, the benefits of life and liberty. (Friendship, respect, a regular chat, I think any of countless little things could have meant one less hijacker on 9/11.) I pray this does not remain the case in Iraq for too much longer.
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