Across the Bay

Friday, March 18, 2005

Juan Man, Juan Vote

Longtime reader Matt Frost brought this diarrhetic BBC News article to my attention. It attacks the Iraqi political system and transitional law, and quotes --who else?-- Iraq luminary Juan Cole, and that beacon of Leftist integrity, Naomi "Muqtada is my hero" Klein. This nauseating piece reflects the biases I touched on in my post "The Semantics of Numbers."

So what's Khwan pissed about now? He's pissed at the "neo-colonial" imposition of requiring a 2/3 majority when it comes to major political decisions. Khwan thinks that a 51% secured by the Shi'a should be enough for them to take over. And to show just how enraged he is, he passed one of his infamous JuanCologies:

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the two-thirds super-majority is characteristic of only one nation on earth, i.e. American Iraq. I fear it is functioning in an anti-democratic manner to thwart the will of the majority of Iraqis, who braved great danger to come out and vote.

Before I actually rebuff this nonsense, I must pause at Khwan's remarkable sleaziness. Remember folks, this is the same Juan Cole who called the elections a "joke" (his comrade Helena Cobban just called them a "mockery").

But back to his fantastic assertion about (the ultra-condescending) "American" Iraq. He "wouldn't be surprised" if 2/3 majority was applicable only in "American Iraq." Well, that's because Khwan knows jack about the various democratic models in the world, especially in what's known as deeply divided (or segmented, or plural) societies. That's because he's ignorant of the workings of consensus models and minority representation. Let's take a look at some examples provided in Arend Lijphart's Democracies:

Written constitution and minority veto:
The Belgian constitution can only be changed by two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the legislatures. This rule also entails a minority veto, if the minority, or a combination of minorities, control at least a third of the votes in one chamber. Moreover, the 1970 constitutional reforms introduced a minority veto on nonconstitutional matters for the purpose of protecting the French-speaking minority against the Dutch-speaking majority. Any bill affecting the cultural autonomy of the linguistic groups requires not only the approval of two-thirds majorities in both chambers but also majorities of each linguistic group -- a good example of John C. Calhoun's "concurrent majority" principle. On all other nonfinancial bills, the French-speaking minority in each chamber may appeal to the cabinet, composed of equal numbers of the two language groups, if it feels that its vital interests are threatened.

All of the eight elements of consensus democracy aim at restraining majority rule by requiring or encouraging: the sharing of power between the majority and the minority (grand coalitions), the dispersal of power (among executive and legislature, two legislative chambers, and several minority parties), a fair distribution of power (proportional representation), the delegation of power (to territorially or nonterritorially organized groups), and a formal limit on power (by means of the minority veto). (pp. 29-30)

I guess that makes it "American" Belgium! This is what I touched on in my "Semantics" post about how these people come up with their own theories of numbers and majoritarian models and just throw them around carelessly (see Cobban's recent piece where she comes up with a fantastic concoction of numbers and statistics making the Lebanese Shiites "just under half the national population" and decided that "other Muslim sects account for a further 10-12 percent of the population." You'll remember Angry Hair's fantastic "at least 55%" etc.)

As Matt points out in his own critique of this piece of crap, the author and all the "experts" ignore "any concerns that Iraqis themselves might have, either for or against the 2/3 clause." Matt notes that the piece doesn't quote a single Iraqi, for or against, on the issue. Their "cause" is entrusted to their representative (who knows them more than they know themselves), Juan Cole.

And just to add insult to injury, let's call upon Naomi Klein, who about a year ago was supporting Muqtada's thugs as the true voice of Iraqi nationalism. Klein serenades us with her pearls of wisdom:

Naomi Klein criticises all these measures for giving Iraq’s minorities power beyond their numbers, and she blames Washington.

A US “terrified at the prospect of an Iraq ruled by the majority of Iraqis”, she wrote in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, was tilting the scales of power to allow the US-friendly Kurdish parties the power to shoot down parliamentary decisions they did not like.

Matt, commenting on this incredibly insulting depiction of the Kurds, correctly notes "[t]he notion that the Kurds are US agents is not an entirely new idea." That's right, and that's the same kind of vitriol thrown at the Lebanese Christians (cf. Bashar's speech and Nasrallah's recent interview on al-Manar which I will comment on in a post shortly). Matt attacks the incredible dishonesty of Klein and the author of the article for not mentioning how the Sunnis benefit from this arrangement, "since to do so would recognize that the minority protections in the TAL are intended to secure the rights and participation of the pan-Arabist, anti-American Sunni minority just as much as of the putatively pro-US Kurds."

But like I said time and time again, this is not about Iraq. All this venom is local partisan politics. All this is meant to attack Bush. If we need to bash the Iraqis to do so, then so be it. This fact did not escape Matt:

In their hysteria to condemn any Iraqi government as illegitimate, Cole and Klein (and their transcriptionist at the BBC, Becky Branford) adopt a reverence for pure majority rule that has little to do with actual concern for Iraq’s security, its Shiite majority, or its democratic future.

That's why Khwan's been busy recently popping up posts, op-eds and articles to "prove" how Bush is wrong about democracy in the ME. In the process of this pathological Bush-bashing, he ends up sounding like a clone of the worst totalitarian Arab dictator (like I showed a few days ago), and ends up dogmatically adopting a rigid majoritarian model, irrespective of what Iraqis agreed to!

I won't waste time on that useless Klein. Matt has a post on The Nation and Arab democracy that shows how they're a bunch of useless zealots, which is exactly what Cole is.