The Excercise of Hegemony

The Sunnis seem to have finally realized what was always painfully obvious - so obvious, it doesn't remotely deserve an I Called It - that the Iraqi constitution is not going to be amended in any meaningful way. Guess what? They aren't happy.

Iraq's top Sunni official has set a deadline of next week for pulling his entire bloc out of the government....Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi made his comments in an interview with CNN. He said if key amendments to the Iraq Constitution are not made by May 15, he will step down and pull his 44 Sunni politicians out of the 275-member Iraqi parliament.

"If the constitution is not subject to major changes, definitely, I will tell my constituency frankly that I have made the mistake of my life when I put my endorsement to that national accord," he said.

Specifically, he wants guarantees in the constitution that the country won't be split into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish federal states that he says will disadvantage Sunnis.

Remember that this is following on the heels of the Sadr Block withdrawing their cabinet ministers. The Iraqi government, always full of holes, is now disintegrating as we watch.

This is the point where your Secretary of State goes to the Vice President, smacks him in the face as hard as possible without touching him and says something like, "Listen, Tariq. What happens if you pull out of the government? What governmental framework would be left, to allow you to achieve your goal of preventing the loose federalism that the Iraqi Constitution enables? If you pull out, the government falls, and guess what? The de facto segregation and sectarian tribalism that remains will be a loose federal system. Your goals are lost forever. You would be a failure.

"And let's not forget what happens to you and your parliament friends, Mr. Vice President. You are the ultimate government collaborators - working directly with the American occupation. You've shaken George W. Bush's hand, for God's sake! Amongst the Sunni population especially, I expect that will be a dangerous life.

"Of course, there's only one way to achieve your goals. Only the path of order and dialogue can keep the nation together enough to ensure you and yours make bank. If you pull out and the government falls to the point where it can't even maintain a facade of operation, then we're gone soon after, and your life gets real scary, real fast. So stop this bullshit."

Hopefully a verbal beating of that flavor would be enough to scare them back in line. Exercising those kinds of leverage are the wages of hegemony, and if we don't use them in this case, where we're told the nation's future security is substantially at stake, what's the point of having that power?

But the sad thing is that this move does make some sense for the Sunni. What guarantee do they have that after American forces are gone the payments from oil redistribution will continue? Hell, some Iraqis will no doubt say that the Shiite's have no incentive to continue them. As we knew would be the case, generosity and equanimity are not miraculously springing to bloom in a bed sown with chaos, death, and hundreds of years of religious and tribal hatred. Go figure, huh?

Maybe if we just stay for another six months, the core dynamics will magically change. I'll do my part by clapping as loudly as I can. I support the troops, after all.

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