Michael Ubaldi, November 28, 2003.
Headlines are fluttering with the latest grandstanding from the boastful Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani. Some on the right are anywhere between knit-browed and ready to size up cemetary plots for Iraq's future. Certainly, a would-be theocrat punching above his weight and disrupting plans for a secular establishment is no small challenge to Paul Bremer and Iraq's Governing Council. But I'm curious as to what these worriers considered would be the inevitable political and societal obstacles in Iraq's transition to freedom. Extremists are in their element while nations reform - it is, forgive the pun, an occupational hazard. What's more, fundamentalist Shiite rule is questionable, especially since Shiites are the least of the CPA's worries:
The US, which has been wary of installing a government dominated by Shiites in Iraq, has concluded that such a development is virtually inevitable and not necessarily harmful to US interests.
US officials said that fears of an Iranian-style - and Iranian-influenced - theocracy in Baghdad had faded because it had become clear that Iraq's Shiite population was not a monolithic bloc and not necessarily dominated by Tehran.
We've known this for a while, too. And although it is a concession by observers that Iraqi Shiites are attracted to at least the romance of Iraq officially recognizing Islam, a recent op-ed echoes the statements of perspective I've been making in light of theocracy fears in Afghanistan:
It's no wonder that we're having a hard time teaching Jeffersonian democracy to the Iraqis. It's still controversial in America.
Take the precincts where Roy Moore holds sway. Moore, recently ousted as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has become the standard-bearer for Christian conservatives who believe that the United States is a "Christian nation." He has inspired hundreds of thousands of followers.
Culturally recognizing divinity as the basis for law, which I enjoy doing, is one thing; recognizing as much by completely ignoring an order of the state is quite another. And yes, it happened right at home. Church and state: the argument is an eternal one. The bottom line? Politically canny troublemakers like Sistani, while potentially dangerous and undeserving of more concessions than strategically necessary, can neither hold the public's attention nor enjoy its support for long if their respective desires are only tangential. As we've seen, most Iraqis want nothing to do with totalitarianism - secular or religious.