Give Iraqi government a chance

Don Norvell

On Dec. 15, 2005, the Iraqi people elected their new constitutional government. Sadly, although not surprisingly, dissenters question the legitimacy of this freely elected government.

I know a large group of creative dissenters could easily devise dozens, perhaps hundreds, of reasons to claim the new Iraqi government is a bastard government. At least half of these reasons de-legitimize the Republican-controlled Congress which resulted from the 1994 elections, but I digress.

What is legitimacy?

The Play of Power defines legitimacy as “the belief that a decision maker has the right to issue commands, that he or she is competent to formulate them, and that such orders ought to be obeyed.” That’s great for a textbook answer, but how is such a belief created?

A legitimate government must meet two qualifications.

First, there is practical legitimacy. The government must have a military to repel invasions and suppress insurrections, a police force to maintain everyday law and order and tax-collectors to compensate the military and police for their services.

Second, there must be philosophical legitimacy: i.e. the structure and behavior of the government must be logically coherent with the best assessment of the human condition. While the choice of philosophy is easily the subject of a multi-volume work, I shall assume Natural Law because it is the foundation of democratic government and individual rights.

Saddam indubitably had practical legitimacy. If he didn’t, the Iraqi people would have overthrown him years ago due to his lack of philosophical legitimacy. However, if Saddam tried to gain philosophical legitimacy, he would relinquish a lot of power, and the people would eventually take the rest away.

Saddam always was and always would have been a bastard! (He still had more legitimacy than the United Nations, but I digress.)

The new Iraqi government is very different. The Iraqi Constitution has 34 articles protecting individual rights, many of which have subsections. Members of the Council of Representatives are elected for four-year terms. The president serves a four-year term with a one-term limit. There is also a Supreme Federal Court independent of the president and the Council of Representatives.

While the new Iraqi government still depends upon the United States and allies for practical support, this will be temporary because the Iraqi people have a genuine interest in ending the U.S. military presence, and the politicians must quickly act to build up practical legitimacy in order to win re-election.

As of today, the Iraqi government is a bastard government, but it will become fully legitimate soon enough.

The top objection to my theory is U.S. intervention is responsible for this new government. The Iraqi people did not rise up to institute change on their own. As I have already said, that bastard Saddam had practical legitimacy. If not, U.S. intervention would have never been necessary.

Don Norvell is a physics graduate assistant and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]