[Originally posted by Myrkury on DK, reposted here with permission of author]

[…]I’ve been hammerring away at [this] for quite a while-  Iraq will be a failed state if there is not some sort of power sharing arrangement [soon].  Due to the U.S. predisposition for geographic Federalism (and a desire to have the oil located in easily exploited rump mini-states) we have been discussing divvying up Iraq into cantons.  [Opponents of this idea are often portrayed as supporting either ethnic oppression or Islamic fundamentalism…] Juan Cole [gives his take on one alternative proposal to secularists federalism in Iraq]:

The system he [presumptive P.M. Jaafari] is proposing would put Shiites under their ayatollahs with regard to laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance, alimony, custody of children, etc. Sunnis would be under their clergy, and Catholics would be under canon law. Since 97 percent of Iraqis are Muslims, 97 percent will be under shariah or Islamic law.

For some reason Prof. Cole sees this as an abandonment of Iraq to Islamicists.
I call BS on that- has Prof. Cole been out drinking with Bernard Lewis?

First, my point of agreement with Juan Cole (and  with Prof. Lewis):  Establishing a modern secular liberal democracy is possible but, here is where Prof. Cole and I have parted ways with Prof. Lewis, for the U.S. to establish such a regime would require killing so many Iraqis that it would not be morally justified.  Even Prof. Lewis has come around to this POV in his WSJ article where he regrets his support for the war, stating that he failed to understand that the U.S. lacked the policy capacity to do “it” right.  

Second,I don’t know why Prof. Cole seems to be moving in the direction of the unredeemed Bernard Lewis or Thos. Friedman of the times.  Jaafari represents what could be termed the political middle in Iraq; I’ve compared the Daawa party to the American GOP and while being ruled by the GOP sucks- it would be a definite improvement from Iraq’s present situation (being ruled by the American GOP.)
Third, what is so bad about allowing personal status law based of an individuals confessional beleifs?  Christians and moderate muslims would be under the rules of their choice and fundamentalists would get to do their thing too.  ANd this isn’t some innovation that would allow Islamicists to accuse the new Iraqi government of “selling out”- the personal status law desribed by Jaafari and condemned as a stalking horse for “Islamic Law” is a traditional form of government dating to the period of the Caliphate and has much orthodox Islamic support.  

Additionally, Islamic Law per se is really no more inherently good or bad than the “Common Law”- which has some pretty greusome and outdated provisions based in archaic Christian thought.

I think Jaafari and the Daawa’s approach is the best possible means of getting us the heck out of there and stopping the killing to some extent.  I beleive that it is in the interests of peace, the U.S., Iraq, and the Democratic Party to support the agenda of Jaafari against the geographic factionallism (aka oil grabbing) being pushed by the White House and its allies: the Kurds and the SCIRI separatists in the southern provinces.

Holding out against Jaafari for perfection in preventing the harassment of unveiled women on University capuses is a nice ideal, but it plays right into the hands of the Neo-Cons and their allies because the only thing that could guarantee such a dramatic social change in Iraq would be a brutal authoritarian regime- just like Saddam.

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