Building A Government From The Ground Up

Bill Ardolino takes a deep look inside the tumultuous politics of Iraq in The Long War Journal. He gives a level of analysis we never see in the mainstream media, delving deeply into the structure of the Iraqi government and examining what is working and what is not:

While divisive politics and naked sectarian interest receive most of the blame for Iraq’s political inertia, government inefficiency, corruption, and administrative inexperience arguably pose larger problems.

“We think our system is bureaucratic … their system is even more bureaucratic. It tends to be a paper-based system. … They tend to require lots of signatures from different technocrats along the way. They tend not to delegate much,” said Brigadier General Terry Wolff, the Special Assistant to the President and the Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Policy Implementation on the National Security Council.

As an example, a paper-based system of requisitions adds layers of difficulty for various provincial police headquarters getting equipment from the Ministry of the Interior. Thus, both Western observers and police officers in a Sunni province like Anbar might view equipment shortages as the product of sectarian hostility by the Shia-dominated federal government, when much of the delay is really administrative.

Iraq’s problems are becoming less visible, but the Iraqi government still has a long way to develop. The Iraqis are returning to the model they know, which is the corruption and centralization of the Ba’athist regime. It will take some time for their to be the political transitions necessary for Iraq to have a truly stable government. That will mean clearing out corruption in the various ministries and streamlining bureaucratic processes. It will also require the Iraqis to have a view of government that promotes democratic accountability rather than the centralization of the Ba’athist era.

Those are all multi-generational changes. The Iraqis have not had anything even close to democratic government in at least a generation. The transition from dictatorship to democracy is never easy, and it cannot be accomplished in the space of a mere 5 years. The Iraqis are making some progress, but that progress is slow. What matters is not that the Iraqi people have a fully functional government quickly, but that they carefully start building the legal, political and administrative foundations for good government.

Ardolino’s look inside the Iraqi government gives us an idea of what’s going right and what is going wrong. In order to understand what’s going on in Iraq, we can’t merely rely on the crude stereotypes in the mainstream media. Iraq is far more diverse, far more vibrant, and far more complex than the caricature presented by the media. This unique look inside the Iraqi government gives us a perspective we might otherwise never gets, and will give future researchers and political scientists an opportunity to see the process of democratic development in a way we’ve never been able to see before.

UPDATE: It’s Bill Ardolino, not Bill Roggio. Mea maxima culpa.

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