Okay, so readers might have noticed that I’ve been Iraq focused lately. The reason: I’ve just started major-in-depth-mondo reporting on a story about the war that will, enshallah, keep me plenty busy for the next few months or so.
Today, just wanted to direct your attention to a new paper from the Washington Insititue (hat tip, Tom Ricks.) Released in advance of Prime Minister Maliki’s visit to DC tomorrow, it lays out the problems ahead for Iraq’s reconciliation, noting that “nearly half of all countries emerging from civil war suffer a relapse within five years.”
It also lists a few countries where reconciliation has been sucessful, and explains what they did to get there.
Successful reconciliation efforts, such as those in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Mozambique, South Africa, and Uruguay, require courageous and visionary leadership, and often involve the following elements:
- Truth telling, which permits victims to share traumas and perpetrators to acknowledge guilt
- Redefining social identities by portraying both victims and perpetrators as fellow citizens
- Partial justice, where victims are compensated and at least some of the perpetrators are punished
- Public events that promote forgiveness and new beginnings
Most of these aspects, however, are missing from Iraq’s flawed reconciliation process, which encompasses a diverse array of activities involving a broad array of actors — the Iraqi and U.S. governments, nongovernmental and international organizations (NGOs and IOs), and neighboring states. These activities are often based on divergent assumptions about the nature of reconciliation and the means to achieving it.
Reading this paper reminded me of a conversation I had with a very well respected American diplomat, way back in 2005. This diplomat had talked to an Iraqi leader who offered up plea, or a warning: “Don’t Lebanon-ize us.” Meaning: don’t leave behind a country that is split, politically( and often violently) along ethnosectarian lines.