October 12, 2003

The weeds pop up right away ...

Tom Friedman has a good column, or at least good in parts:

....I spoke the other day with Amal Rassam, an Iraqi-American anthropologist, who has been spearheading this effort. Since April, U.S. Army officers and Ms. Rassam's teams from RTI International, an NGO, have gone out to all 88 neighborhoods of Baghdad, met with local leaders and helped them organize, through informal voting, 88 "interim advisory councils." Then the 88 councils elected nine district councils, and the nine district councils elected an interim 37-member Baghdad city council. For the first time ever, a popularly based city council, including women, is demanding to set budgets, set priorities and decide who will police their neighborhoods, and is making the city's managers accountable to them.

Similar town councils have been set up all over Iraq. U.S. and British teams have been schooling the Iraqi councils in how to hold a meeting, set an agenda, take a vote and lobby. They have also provided seed money for women's groups and all sorts of other civil society organizations that Iraqis are scrambling to start. They have not unearthed any W.M.D., but they have unearthed a lot of aspiring Iraqi democrats...

We are doing the right thing by going slowly in the transition to democracy and self rule in Iraq, or any similar situation. Why? Because the extremists and fanatics are always the first ones to get organized. They are ready to lunge for their goals at the drop of a hat.

Moderate and thoughtful people are much slower to organize and to get involved in politics. It's like a garden--the weeds pop up right away, the plants you want take longer, and have to be encouraged. And in Iraq, a lot of people are just starting to realize that they can form groups and parties, and get involved in politics...

Friedman wants the transition to go faster, and the UN to be more involved. That's a BAD idea. But I think he's the type who has internal conflicts here. He sincerely wants the people to be free to chose their own destinies...as long as they don't chose the local equivalent of Republicans.

Posted by John Weidner at October 12, 2003 1:16 PM
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