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Help Not Wanted

From the August 18, 2003 issue: European and U.N. political involvement will harm Iraqi democracy.

Aug 18, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 46 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
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None of this means, however, that the Iraqis who detest the French or the Russians or the United Nations would fail to use any of these parties against the American administration in Iraq if by doing so they could advance their own interests. The process of drafting Iraq's new constitution over the next 12 months may turn out to be a bruising affair, as the various groups in the country try to advance their concerns. This battling will likely be healthy, revealing the seriousness of the Iraqis' constitutional intent. The Arab Sunnis, Arab Shia, and Kurds could naturally try to introduce outside parties into the internal Iraqi debate to gain advantage or protect their flanks. The United States is going to have a discreet (one hopes), front-row, judge-and-jury seat. The U.S. officials who oversee this affair may be tested severely, as the Iraqis wrangle among themselves about what belongs in a constitution.

This process can only be made messier if more Europeans and the United Nations play political roles. (There is, on the other hand, nothing wrong with the Europeans or the United Nations increasing their humanitarian assistance.) The Iraqis don't need any more temptations to faction and fractiousness. The Americans don't need non-Iraqi distractions. Only a successful conclusion to the constitutional process will bless American efforts in Iraq. In the eyes of the Iraqi people, legitimacy springs from there, not from the members of the United Nations or its Security Council. The French, Germans, Russians, Turks, and the Arab League cannot give what they do not possess. Nor can they save American soldiers' lives. But the gradual creation of a functioning Iraqi democracy can, and only the Americans and the Iraqis have the desire and the means to bring that about.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.