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Commentary: President Barack Obama's best option in Iraq is nation-building
Published on June 21, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

President Barack Obama can start de novo in Iraq but this time it should be done with soft strike or nation building instead of, or in addition to hard strike. I predicted years ago that the American intervention in Iraq would end as a failure because there was no funding for nation building in the war budget. By nation building I mean not mortar and bricks but infusing the sense of a shared patrimony that must be strengthened and enriched by each Iraqi citizen. See: Which way to go - the Bagdhadisation of Haiti or nation building?

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti
Like a prophet who is heard but not followed, my pushing for Ernest Renan as the model for policy direction has found no followers in American foreign policy initiatives. Mr Paul Bremer, the first American proconsul in Iraq after the American intervention, with his cowboy boots and his cowboy hat, was given a free hand to disband the Iraqi army. It has been a debacle until the last American soldier left on December 15 2011, leaving a tag price of $4 trillion to the American taxpayer and the American locomotive that led the world economy.

The 300 new soldiers sent by President Barack Obama will not produce results that will reverse the situation unless they are there to protect the soft strike team that must be sent to transform the Iraqi ethos into a leaven for nation-state building where Shiite and Sunnis will no longer engage in a continuous dog and cat fight.

Iraq, the old Mesopotamia, is considered the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of the writing genre that we are benefiting from today; it is also there that the ark of Noah could be retraced. The Iraq nation in full decomposition today was refined and civilized before Greece, Rome and Egypt. The epic story of Gilgamesh (2500 BC) is still a staple of good literature for the young classicists of today. It is the birthplace of Abraham, the linear founding father of the three greatest world religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Garden of Eden, where Eve induced Adam to taste the forbidden fruit, was traced to Iraq. Making Iraq become whole is in the interest of the human collective patrimony.

The American policymakers might have to go back as far as the king Hammurabi who ruled Iraq from 1792 to 1750 BC to instill in Iraqi citizens the love of the majestic founder who inspired its people to act under principles that God would dictate to Abraham many years later. Making the Sunnis, the Kurds and the Shiites believe that the home built by Hammurabi is theirs to love, cherish, protect and consolidate is the first step in creating the nation-state of Iraq free of sectarian conflicts.

The Americans would do well in Iraq if they could inspire the Iraqis to look after another founding father Nebuchadnezzar II (602-564 BC) who brought Iraq, aka Mesopotamia, to its former glory after centuries of invasion and war. Nebuchadnezzar II was the environmentalist ruler who first developed the hanging gardens albeit to honor his wife


Iraq was controlled by the Ottoman Empire, and when the disintegration of the Muslim empire took place in 1921 the British Empire was there to pick up the pieces. By 1932, Iraq became an independent country. Saddam Hussein was one of the insurgents trying to topple the Abdul Karim Kassem government in 1959. His group led by the Ba’ath Party was successful later in 1963. The Sunni Muslims who came to power expelled some 40,000 Shiite Muslim. The seed of the sectarian conflict was planted, and Shiite and Sunni have been fighting each other, tearing apart the Iraqi soul until today.

The Americans would do well this time if they use the soft strike of advisers schooled in the mechanism of social work to force the present rulers to see each Iraqi citizen, whether Shiite, Kurd or Sunni, as a jewel to be polished for his or her own self-realization and for the glory of the state.

The Hammurabi Code, an Iraqi patrimony, is an excellent precursor of the Renan Doctrine. It called for legal protection of those of the lower class and for the minorities. Social justice should be the glue that links one sector of society to another.

In the 1970s, when the black citizens of the United States were moving from Alabama and Georgia to New York City, the mayor, John Lindsay was at a crossroads to treat them as aliens seeking the benefit of New York citizens. He was forced through the advocacy of George Bragger and Frances Piven of Columbia University School of Social Work to act otherwise and treat the newcomers with the sentiment of belongers. Lindsay was receptive to the concept; and New York City has prospered and remains the most hospitable city of the United States if not the world.

Renan, after the disintegration of the Prussian and the Ottoman Empires, proposed that the founding fathers of the new nations take steps that no citizen shall become a nomad in his own country. Excellent institutions and adequate infrastructure should be available to all wherever they were in the country and whatever their ethnic composition was made of.

He proposed also that a consensus shall be built around the entire population that those who are left behind should be shouldered by everybody to catch up with the rest. Those simple principles constitute akin to God’s demand to man: honor thy God and love your neighbors, the totality of what is needed to build a prosperous and peaceful country.

Iraq today, Afghanistan tomorrow will remain failed and fragile nations subject to sectaries struggles unless the American intervention changes course and looks into the history of those nations to find the structural fibers that will bring the blood of nation- building to feed the citizens of these countries the brotherhood and the collegiality to see themselves as brethren condemned to live together to enhance the house bequeathed by the founding fathers.
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