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Consolidating Iraqi Democracy: The Institutional Context

04/11/2005 5:00 PM 1-190
Noah Feldman, Professor, New York University School of Law; Kanan Makiya, The Sylvia K. Hassenfeld Professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, Brandeis University; Founder, Iraq Memory Foundation

Description: Can constitutional democracy unfold in Iraq? Noah Feldman details a hybrid model of democracy-building currently under way in Iraq whose outcome is far from certain. Iraqi exiles, selected by the U.S. occupation force, formed a governing council to help draft a constitution. But these Iraqis were not elected representatives of the people, and Shiite leaders protested that such a constitution would not be viable. Says Feldman: "What do you do? You fake it and ' call things other than what they are." So instead of a constitution, the governing council wrote a "transitional administrative law." But Sunni Arabs steered clear of the council, and of subsequent Iraqi elections. Feldman says they were "intimidated by people who threatened to kill them." As a result, the insurgency continues and in some places, "fear that goes into making everyday decisions is comparable to that under Saddam's rule." Feldman believes that the lack of security, for which the U.S. is to blame, "threatens the emergence of a democratic structure going forward."

Kanan Makiya sees a fundamental crisis of post-war Iraqi leadership leading the country to breakdown. Because the U.S. chose the governing council, they got "a beautiful but ineffectual body from the governing point of view." From the start, Iraqis had no actual say in the reconstruction of their country, which led to low morale. Then Iraq had "a magnificent moment where eight million people came out to vote, an important statement about the insurgency and about the future. But in the eyes of much of the public, that moment is being traded away by politicians." The Shiite majority must cultivate Sunni leadership, and the sense of personal victimhood most Iraqis carry with them must be replaced "by an idea of Iraq that's bigger than my own personal suffering."

Noah Feldman served as senior advisor on constitutional law to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and as advisor to Iraqis involved in the constitutional process there. Among his publications:What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building,(2004); After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy,(2003). His third book, Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem, will be released in fall 2005.

Feldman joined NYU from Harvard University, where he was a Junior Fellow. He received his A.B. from Harvard University, was selected as a Rhodes Scholar, received a doctorate in Islamic Thought from Oxford University and his J.D. from Yale Law School. He also served as a law clerk to Justice David Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kanan Makiya was born in Baghdad but left Iraq to study architecture at MIT. In 1981, Makiya left his architecture practice and began to write a book about Iraq, Republic of Fear (1989), which became a best-seller after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. His next book, The Monument (1991), was an essay on the aesthetics of power and kitsch. Both Republic of Fear and The Monument were written under the pseudonym, Samir al-Khalil. The award-winning Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising and the Arab World (1993), followed, and most recently he published The Rock: A Seventh Century Tale of Jerusalem (2002). Along with these books, Makiya has written for The Independent, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and The Times.

Host(s): School of Architecture and Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Tape #: 19854

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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