Tuesday, July 26, 2005

WFB on Iraq

Bill Buckley makes a great point about the struggle to write up a new Iraqi constitution:
Most recently a division arose in the matter of women’s rights. [Newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay] Khalilzad has laid down the law, that women’s rights are to be held as sacred as men’s rights, which is all very well, but requires adaptation to different protocols involving, for instance, inheritance, and divorce.

Communicants of western ideals cannot at this point go back and say simply that Iraq’s three major sectarian divisions will need to work out their own compromises on the authority of the laws, federal and local. We engaged the challenge as arising from the constitutional loins of the West, and we speak as if western accomplishments which required generations of nurture can and should be simply implanted in the new constitution. If we were devising a mathematics textbook for the schools, we would incorporate in it known advances in geometry, rather than proceed as though such refinements would be left to be intuited by Iraqi students. In the United States we took one hundred years to go from the promulgation of laws of equality, to a civil order that demanded true equality — from 1864 and the end of the civil war, to 1964 and the passage of the civil rights bills. Mr. Khalilzad is asking, in respect of women’s rights, that we begin right away with the third act.

It is a very important public question: Will we succeed? Are we traveling at a rate so ideologically prepossessing as to scorn human and cultural experience? Or are we overcome by the universality of insights we grew to know and love? President Bush certainly speaks language of this kind, defining an advance toward liberty as the purpose, pure and simple, of our foreign policy. It is awesome to remind ourselves that in a mere three weeks we are expected to know whether the Iraqi version of our Constitutional Convention is taking off.


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