Thursday, May 04, 2006

Iraq Needs a Unitary Executive

After a graduation ceremony for new Iraqi soldiers this past Sunday, dozens of Sunni recruits ignited a controversy when they insisted that they would only serve in their home provinces and began ripping off their uniforms. A number of critics of the War in Iraq, including Democratic chairman Howard Dean, now believe internecine fighting has gotten so bad that we should just give up hopes of a united Iraq and divide it into three countries. I think this kind of defeatist talk is counterproductive. There is actually one simple solution that could unite Iraq and stabilize the country: Install a "Unitary Executive."

President Bush is a great believer in the Unitary Executive Theory, which gives the President great leeway in how he chooses to interpret the Constitution and what laws he chooses to enforce. During wartime, which is a state we will probably be in for the foreseeable future, the President's powers are not reviewable at all by the other branches of government and his power is theoretically unlimited. In the wake of 9/11 President Bush has been trying to reverse some of the dangerous modern trends that limited the power of the President, especially after Watergate. The terrorist threat has exposed some weaknesses in the way democracy has evolved in the United States, so the President has quietly been shoring up the power of the executive branch to make our democracy stronger. He has by-passed the meddling judiciary to lock up dangerous enemy combatants and gather intelligence without a warrant and he has quietly been challenging hundreds of laws passed by Congress with "signing statements" that make it clear he will enforce only the laws he particularly cares for.

But while the President has been making great strides in shoring up democracy at home, it appears that in Iraq we are installing the wrong kind of democracy. The new Iraqi Constitution sets up just the kind of weak "liberal" democracy that the President has been making efforts to reverse in this country, with all of its bothersome checks and balances on presidential power. The result of dispersing too much power and equality to the people could lead to an unstable government that would precipitate a Civil War in Iraq.

What Iraq really needs is a powerful Unitary Executive. It needs one man who will be able to overrule the bickering that is sure to break out in the legislative branch and will not be unduly concerned with rulings from the judiciary branch that could hobble his ability to get things done. Perhaps like George Washington he should be a military man who has risen through the ranks, a charismatic figure who could bring people together through the sheer force of his personality, but someone secular who would not impose one set of religious beliefs on the minority. He should be a strong leader with an efficient domestic intelligence agency that would provide an early warning of dissent that might threaten Iraq's unity so that he could take steps to stop it. He should be powerful and unpredictable enough that dissenters fear him, someone who would not be afraid to take whatever actions are necessary to preserve the unity of Iraq, even if it meant suspending elections temporarily. Yet he should also project the benevolence of a kind uncle, the kind of man the people could love, who would smile in the presence of children and tousle their hair on television. And he should be a man of the people that average Iraqis could identify with, a man who likes to cut loose and party on occasion, the kind of guy Iraqis would go out drinking with if they were allowed to drink. I'm not sure where we will find such a man but a strong Unitary Executive might be the only way to save democracy in Iraq.

Some say that we should be culturally sensitive to the kind of democracy we impose on the Iraqis. But actually a democracy with a Unitary Executive is in many ways closer to traditional Iraqi forms of governance than liberal democracy is. It may in fact be the most culturally sensitive form of government of all.

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Patricia said...

You're a genius. Have you sent this idea to whoever is in charge of Great Ideas for Iraq? I bet you'll get a medal.

Greg Stewart said...

I saw we just need to pump in both channels of MTV and start opening McDonalds restaurants. Their malase and complacancy will start to put them to sleep to what ever ruffie we want to give them.

Anonymous said...

And I know just the candidate! He's conveniently available in U.S. quarters at this very moment and, according to pictures I've seen, an old friend of Rummy.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this won't be a popular comment, but, according to the Wikipedia article referenced in this article: "those who argued for a unitary executive advanced the argument because they considered that the best way to limit the executive’s power and keep it subordinate to the legislature, in opposition to arguments that a plural executive would support the executive’s independence; and the term "unitary executive" was thereby bound up with the intention of keeping executive power checked and restrained."
George W. Bush was not elected because it was believed that he would pick and choose the laws he wanted to follow. He sets a very dangerous precedent.

benmerc said...

Anon sez:

"George W. Bush was not elected because it was believed that he would pick and choose the laws he wanted to follow"

Maybe I am not following you here, but that is precisely why Bush was "elected"...He spoke to the average uninformed American and told them that he was going to do what it took to bring “decency” and the "common sense" everyday Americans like he, his base and working America represented, back to Washington. Bush was all about being "outside" Ivy League law and " Liberal activist judges" that meddled in our daily lives and the core American values of doing whatever it is you want to do… (Except what the conservative authorities want you to do). Unfortunately for working Americans all George Bush brought back to Washington was a boat load of power grabbing corruption that panders to the wealthy and their corporate brethren. Mr. Bush has little respect for anyone’s law, and certainly harbors no desire to watch out for working Americans, who historically have had a bad time asserting what is in their best interest when throwing the lever for elephants and their like. And yes, he sets a dangerous precedent...but that was to be expected.

Anonymous said...

They had a unitary executive

He is, in fact, still probably available to fill the position. The only problem is that Saddam might drive a pretty hard bargain, and demand a pretty steep price, in exchange for leaving the comfort of his quiet prison cell and resuming the hectice life of a unitary executive in an oil-producing state smack dab in the volatile Middle East.

melior said...

Surely that would be the best of all possible governments!

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