Across the Bay

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Iraqi "Consociational Patriotism"

Josh Landis turned me to this blog called "Postcolonial Iraq." Despite its name, it's actually an interesting blog. Its author, Jelloul, is very supportive of consociationalism. In his latest post Jelloul writes:

I must say that, apart from political scientists, no involved party, whether in Lebanon or Iraq, is expected to self-evidently acknowledge virtues of consociation. Naturally, every party would rather see its own values adopted by every other party. I mean, no one person is entirely happy with compromise solutions; compromise systems are only reluctantly tolerated.

As to Arab popular reserve against consociational democracy, and apart from a certain grievance against the part played by the French in the 1932 Lebanese census, it is simply unfounded. For example, according to wide spread belief among Arabs, Lebanon’s confessional system was a French colonial imposition on the Lebanese people; the truth is, the system was rather imposed upon the French by the people of Lebanon.

One need only consider the diametrically opposed constitutional archetypes; the French -- state-unitarian, majoritarian, secular, liberal -- and the Lebanese -- consociational, power-sharing, confessional, communitarian. Should we, on the other hand, attach great importance to the common republican aspect, we must then admit that a very strong alteration or hybridization of French metropolitan law had taken place on Lebanese colonised soil. (Following in emigrants’ wake, this subversive process has now reached the very French metropolitan soil, where much energy and money is spent these days in order to stop the new specter haunting la République or what the French call with strong disapproval "le communautarisme.")

Indeed, the proportionality system from 1926 ("the quota system") was not so much colonial as it was pre-colonial, Ottoman (Millet system) and more generally Islamic. The 23 May 1926 French Constitution for Lebanon, while inspired by constitutional laws of 1875 French Third Republic, made actually official the local traditional system of power-sharing between communities, with Article 95 in particular providing that communities were to be fairly and proportionately represented in public office, ministry and parliament. Mandatory power France was then pressured by then prevailing international law, in general, and precise recommendations by the League of Nations from 24 July 1922, in particular -- minority protection was of course much stronger prior to our UN. The nearly parity system of the 1943 National Pact, on the other hand, was conceived in purely anti-colonial consociational-patriotic spirit. As for the more or less integral parity system of the post-civil war Ta’if Accord (1989), this, in addition to strengthening Lebanon's confessional political system, was a definitely post-colonial legacy, as no colonial powers whatsoever were directly involved in it.

"Modern" Arabs in particular are reluctant or reticent, not only because of their after all understandable sectarian motivation and natural pan-Arabist leaning, but because they literally feel ashamed of the confessional system in Lebanon. Whether their fetishizing attitude toward secularism stems from their long standing in awe of the former French colonial power is an open question. The fact remains that general inferiority complex towards Westerners inhibits the appreciation of a local original achievement. Hence, the constitutionally inscribed character of confessionalism as an always temporary arrangement. And hence the modernizing part devolved upon (sic) the Syrians in Lebanon, and hence the motive (or alibi) provided by the Ta’if Accord for them to stay until de-confessionalization is completed.

Apparently Jelloul is not aware of my blog, which has done nothing except "acknowledge the virtues of consociation"!

Take a look.