Progress and Peril in Postwar Iraq

Good afternoon, everyone. I’d like to thank the American Enterprise Institute for organizing this event, and for playing such a critical role in fostering intelligent discussion and debate concerning Iraq and the war against terror.

 

I’m also glad to deliver my maiden AEI speech today. I’m thankful for this first invitation, and I hope I don’t say anything that will make it my last.

 

While I’ve only been in Washington for a short time, I am already learning how this town works. I’ve learned why politicians sometimes avoid visiting think-tanks - lest they be confronted with the uncomfortable job of actually thinking, which is always hard work.

 

And I’ve learned what hell may feel like for a former judge - to stand on the floor of the Senate and realize you are in a room filled with lawyers, with no way to get them to be quiet.

 

I come before you today not as a scholar of international relations, but as a student of the rule of law, to say a few words about how the lessons of history and human nature can help America from being mugged by the reality of a post-war Iraq.

 

I wish that I could say it is a pleasant reality, but that would be false. The truth is not as grim as the picture painted daily by The New York Times - few things are - but it is still chaotic.

 

Today, Iraq is rife with ethnic conflict, looting, and roving bands of armed street thugs. Yet even this temporary disorder is preferable to the brutal and bloody rule of Saddam Hussein. I was struck by a comment I heard recently at a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague, where a representative from Estonia recalled Spinoza’s admonition that peace is not merely the absence of war, and reminded us that: "Peace, for those living under repressive regimes, has been far more bloody than war."

 

To understand the full measure of Saddam Hussein’s cruel and inhumane regime, you need look no further than the mass graves, the torture chambers, and the packed prisons of Baghdad. In his hellish gulag of stone and iron, Saddam’s political opponents and their families - old and young alike - were unjustly imprisoned, viciously abused, and murdered.

 

I join with all freedom loving people in gratitude that the military conflict in Iraq reached a swift end, with relatively few coalition lives lost. And because of the efforts of our brave men and women on the ground and the leaders of the coalition forces, the Iraqi people today are free from Saddam. But they are not yet free from fear.

 

While some are fixated on the short-term gratification of an immediate discovery of weapons of mass destruction, I believe rebuilding a democratic Iraq presents the greater challenge. And we must take the long view.

 

The current unstable situation is, at least in part, an unintended by-product of the speed and efficiency of our military forces. Never before has the world witnessed such a marvel of technology, training, dedication, and leadership in war. And unlike other countries that we have successfully nurtured to democracy following a war, there was relatively little time to plan for the all-important aftermath.

 

Hindsight is 20-20. But we must now look forward to a reconstruction of Iraq, one in which we can demonstrate that the victories won, the lives risked and lost, and the heartache of proud but grieving families - will not be in vain.

 

Freedom from fear continues to be our challenge in Iraq. The world is watching, and the risks we face are enormous. Unless the United States and our coalition partners act forcefully and decisively, the idea of Iraqi self-government may be recalled, years from now, as nothing more than a fleeting dream.

 

That aspiration of the Iraqi people may seem far off today, but as John Adams aptly noted, "People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity."

 

First, we must ensure the basic security of the Iraqi people.

 

Iraqis must be able to go to the market without fearing armed robbers or kidnapping. They must be able to worship without fearing snipers or skirmishes. Their children must be able to go to school without hearing the sounds of gunfire.

 

We must eliminate the remnants of the Baathist party, the armed gangs of militants, and the common criminals who control the streets and highways. We must end the looting, and restore the property rights of the Iraqi people. We cannot construct the foundation of a peaceful and just society when lawlessness still reins in Iraq.

 

Dr. Karim Hassan, director general of Iraq's electricity commission, recently put it this way: "Give me security, and I'll give you electricity."

 

Currently, the only thing preventing the outbreak of conflict between Iraq’s rival ethnic and religious groups is coalition military forces. But this stopgap is no substitute for a long-term solution. The Iraqi people must learn to govern themselves.

 

Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the police were merely shock troops doing the dictator’s bidding. A new police force must earn the complete confidence of those who were formerly dominated and abused.

 

Iraq looks like the Old West right now, and we need lawmen to restore the peace and protect the populace. The Texas Rangers have a saying: "One riot, one Ranger." But Iraq will need more than one Texas Ranger - it will need a substantial, professional, civilian police force.

 

We shouldn’t underestimate the sheer scope of this need. In Kosovo, there are more than 4,400 UN police officers assigned to a population of two million people. That same ratio for Iraq’s 24 million people would require a police force of nearly 53,000 - and probably more, considering that Iraq is the size of California.

 

We can harbor no illusions: the current occupation will not, and should not, be brief. While the Administration understandably wants to return Iraq to the Iraqi people as soon as possible, this well-intentioned desire will likely backfire.

 

Iraqis still remember what happened after the Gulf War in 1991, when UN troops pulled out after encouraging a civilian uprising, only to have thousands of rebels crushed and slaughtered by Saddam. Enemies of democracy in Iraq, both inside and outside of the country, will exploit any short-lived commitment.

 

As we seek to make Iraq secure, we must also be on guard in a dangerous neighborhood. Many who disagree with our mission and goals surround Iraq - and we cannot allow them to dictate the outcome of reconstruction.

 

We need only look to post-war Japan and Germany to provide us some realistic idea of the commitment required. In Japan, the Allied Powers stayed six years and eight months. In Germany, direct military government lasted four years. Coalition forces must stay in Iraq long enough to insure that freedom is not smothered in its cradle.

 

Second, we must help the Iraqi people forge a nation governed by laws, not men.

 

At the beginning of our country, George Washington, rather than seeking to hold onto the reins of power as a king or president-for-life, returned to his Virginia farm at the end of two terms as President. It prompted Washington’s old foe, King George the Third, to call him "the greatest character of the age."

 

But Washington's actions were no political accident. Washington recognized that for freedom to flourish, America must first be a nation founded on law.

 

We do not yet know who will lead Iraq. But ultimately, his identity is far less important than establishing the rule of law. While leaders come and go, it is the law that guards our freedom.

 

It is not up to us to determine the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Nevertheless, we must ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another, or that Iraq becomes a theocracy where freedom of religion and equal rights for women are outlawed. Working together with the rest of the civilized world, we must insist in the literal establishment of what UN resolution 1483, unanimously adopted by the Security Council on May 22nd, calls "a representative government based on the rule of law that affords equal rights and justice to all Iraqi citizens, without regard to ethnicity, religion, or gender."

 

We should not kid ourselves, however, into thinking that the outcome will be a mirror image of Philadelphia circa 1787. The constitution of Iraq will build on the nation’s own legal traditions, stretching all the way back to the Code of Hammurabi. It will be a charter founded on the proper role of government: to protect and preserve freedom.

 

Despite our relatively short history, America has one of the longest uninterrupted political traditions of any nation in the world. The late Allan Bloom once pointed out that what sets America apart is the unambiguous nature of that tradition: "It’s meaning," he said, "is articulated in simple, rational speech, that is immediately comprehensible and powerfully persuasive to all normal human beings. America tells one story: the unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality."

 

Iraq's government must now undergo a fundamental change, and that means the creation of a constitution that protects life, liberty, and property. The constitution of Iraq must, like our own, tell one story.

 

To further examine this issue, today I am proud to announce that, as Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, we will hold joint hearings later this month on the Iraqi Constitution, in conjunction with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

 

We do have some experience in this arena, and the Japanese constitution of 1947, among others, is worth considering. Following World War II, Japan's new constitution placed sovereign authority with the people in place of the longstanding authoritarian rule of the emperor. It also renounced war as a sovereign right, and stipulated that armed forces would heretofore exist for defensive purposes alone, not for purposes of aggression.

For Iraqi democracy to have a reasonable chance of success, similar measures must be included in its new constitution - even if, as in Japan, those measures originate in the occupying authority. After defeating our enemies in World War II, we left behind constitutions and representative government, not permanent military authorities - and we can do the same in Iraq.

 

This task will be difficult - but that is hardly surprising. The world is watching. But the Iraqi people are not the first to undertake an experiment of this magnitude. Even in this country our founders sometimes doubted the likely success of their enterprise.

 

Gouverneur Morris, an author of our Constitution, observed: "History, the parent of political science, had told [our Founders] it was almost as vain to expect permanency from democracy as to construct a palace on the surface of the sea. But it would have been foolish to fold their arms and sink into despondence because they could neither form nor establish the best of all political systems."

 

INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY

 

Third, Iraq must have a strong and independent judicial system.

 

Saddam Hussein subverted Iraq’s judicial system, bending it to his personal will. The security forces and the military had their own courts and tribunals, but all courts reported to the Ministry of Justice, acting as mere instruments of the dictator.

 

Along with a new constitution, criminal and civil codes, Iraq requires an independent judiciary. Without an independent judiciary, the rule of law cannot succeed. While the political climate in Baghdad will, no doubt, fluctuate over the next few years, the judiciary must exist as an independent actor in this process, to defend basic human rights, protect private property, and ensure stable conditions that lay the foundation for the prosperity and happiness of the Iraqi people.

 

These three things - security, the rule of law, and an independent judiciary - are the irreducible requirements for establishing Iraqi freedom and democracy. They deserve the highest priority.

 

Situated in the very cradle of civilization, Baghdad itself was once viewed as a center of learning, prosperity, and cultural activity - until that legacy was hijacked by Saddam Hussein’s fascist regime. With a new government, founded on the rule of law and the basic principles of human freedom, Iraq will enjoy flourish once again.

 

Human rights and property rights will be honored. Travelers and investors will be welcomed. Iraqi citizens will be free to build a new economy, new centers for education and science. They will start businesses and open shops, speak and assemble freely, worship and study at will- in short, they will enjoy all the blessings of liberty.

 

Milton Friedman has written, "I know of no society that has been marked by a large measure of political freedom, and that has not also used something comparable to a free market to organize the bulk of economic activity." The new Iraq, founded on the rule of law, will see the invisible hand of the free market benefit both the Iraqi people and the entire region of the Middle East.

 

There is great promise in a nation where 60% of the population is under the age of 25, and more than 40 percent under the age of 14. All that most Iraqis have known of government is brutal dictatorship, fear and state-sanctioned poverty. Soon, they will know freedom, security, and a better life.

 

The world is watching. For the sake of those who risked and lost their lives so that the Iraqi people might know the blessings of liberty - for the sake of the promise of peace in the Middle East - and for the sake of the children of Iraq - we must not fail.

 

 

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