How to Rebuild a Nation

Posted on

There have been a lot of talk about political progress in Iraq so far this week, mostly negative references to a people trying to build a government to satisfy their current citizens. Regardless of your political affiliation, the outlook appears grim based on our own short memories. It seems that people expect quick results, as one might expect from a company going through a management reorganization. But, unfortunately, that is not how government works.

First, it is important to understand that a representative government does not develop overnight, or even in a year. If there has been no history of representative government before in human memory, then humans tend to look at their own experiences of government and perpetuate what is already known. But, you might say, other countries have managed to go through political upheaval without chaos, right? Let's look at a quick historical overview, and see just how governments have been formed.

The Tribe
The first government developed in human pre-history was a tribal government. Tribes represent family relationships, and were an extension of the family in and of itself. As such, strong bonds are developed and sustained based on this basic, social structure.

The Clan or Monarchy
An extension of the tribal relationship is the Clan, where a single family that is very successful provides support, security, and safety to those that ally themselves. The success can be in many forms, and one might argue that organized religion provides the same success in security and stability as any other clan organization. So, I place the religious organization of government into a clan government. An excellent example of this type of government was Ancient Egypt. This begins the idea of the Chief, or Royal family.

The Oligarchy
The next logical step is community organization. Community organization begins the idea of Statehood, or belonging to a greater whole. In this organization, several clans or tribes can band together to create unity for mutual benefit. In effect, the tribes and clans become one big tribe or clan. Here, because you have a number of successful families trying to lead, you have the emergence of an oligarchy. Senates have risen because of this organization, as well as Nobility or Aristocrats.

Monarchy will give way eventually to this form of government, or work in tandem with this form of government. The idea is that at any given time, the Oligarchy, Nobility, or even Democratically elected Senators can take the place of the executive (King, Chief, Imperator, President, etc.), which keeps the executive in check. The thing is, the state organization is still limited to a small community. City States represent this type of government, such as Ancient Greek cities, Rome, Carthage, etc.

Scaled Oligarchy
Finally, as one city state becomes more powerful than the rest, you begin to get domination over the others. At this point, you have what I like to call the scaled oligarchy, or an oligarchy that continues to grow with the reaching influence of their city state. Eventually, you begin to add additional oligarchical members from absorbed (or conquered) city states into the political process, which causes more strain on the system.

Now everyone wants to be part of the political process so the oligarchical base becomes widened, and is no longer based on blood. It's based on the economic contribution of the members. This increased political pressure begins to hemorrhage, and political unrest results. Depending on how the oligarchy handles it, it can be a peaceful transition to a new form of government, or a violent revolution. Which brings us to our next step.

Democracy or Representative Republic
A democracy or representative government is a result of sufficient economic growth to allow common people to afford participating in the political process. At this point, either by standing for office themselves or by bank-rolling their representatives, the people can participate. This again is a slow process and has many stages of suffrage, usually focusing on the economic impact of those participating.

That is a step by step outlook at the building of a national identity and democracy. Is it possible to short-circuit the process? As Simon Bolivar has shown us, the process cannot be successfully short-circuited without a dedicated economic base willing to change themselves. Unfortunately, those that live in a non-constitutional monarchy or dictatorship are used to having their political decisions made for them. Also, if the country is not sufficiently stable economically, the people are just simply not in a position to do anything about politics.

So why am I mentioning this? Mostly because people need to realize that when a government has been removed, it takes time to rebuild it. A lot of time, mostly based on the determination of the people within a tribe, clan, or community. Iraq will be in a lot of political turmoil for a long time, and it's a reality that we need to accept. The only "short-cut" would be to place a dictator in power and remove any gains toward democracy that currently exist.

My assessment of Iraq? It is currently in a tribal and clan state, slowly emerging into a community based government. We saw sectarian violence as a direct result of a clan state, people not seeing past their religious affiliation. That is now starting to change, either by reverting to a tribal state (shiites fighting shiites), or a community based government at evidenced in Anbar Provence.

So, where is the Iraqi National Government in all of this? They are just waiting in the wings. Quite honestly, I don't expect anything to happen on their level to better the situation. It all has to happen at the community level first, which will then provide supported political figures in national representation. They have tried to do this at the Clan level, and that has failed. It is now up to communities to see past any differences they may perceive, and bring stability to Iraq.