Freedom or Islam: Pick One

Jeff Goldstein argues that how the debate over the role of Islam in Iraqi governance comes out will decide whether the war is a success or a failure:

Over the weekend, Big Pharoah, Austin Bay, and others raised concerns that the State Department, in an effort to get a deal done, had given ground to Islamists insisting increased Sharia influence to be codified—a development that, if true, would seriously undermine support for the war from those of us on the right who are more interested in getting it right than in getting it done quickly in order to quiet war critics.


I guess we’ll know soon enough if American blood was indeed spilled spreading freedom; because nothing short of a document that provides protection for minorities and basic human rights for all—which would necessarily preclude Sharia law from being institutionalized by the State—is acceptable, both to those who’ve supported the war, and, more importantly, to the majority of Iraqis actually fighting that war.

That sounds about right.

A nod to Islam as the overarching foundation of Iraq’s law would bother me no more than having “In God we trust” on American coins. If, on the other hand, the mullahs have veto power over legislation, the result would be disastrous.

I’m less sure on how to take a middle ground. If, as seems likely, people have the option of using civil or clerical courts for private dispute resolution, I’m queasy can probably live with it. I still lean towards “it’s their country, after all.”

Related: Islamic Law Endangers Women̢۪s Rights

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    All very well, but if the Iraqi “constitutional convention” enshrines Sharia as law, what can we do about it? What would you suggest?

    There are two things I strongly suspect Americans do not want to send their boys to die for: (1) rescuing Iraqis from the grips of Islamic law, and (2) bringing about Another Islamic Republic in the 1st place.

    If I thought that Bush could be held accountable for *anything*, I would say he should be worried on this issue. But it won’t stick. (I think the current low approval ratings are more about gas prices than anything else.)

  2. James Joyner says:


    I’m not suggesting that we necessarily “do” anything but rather applying metrics for success.

    Bush has been held accountable: He stood for re-election. He currently has very low poll numbers, which impacts his “political capital” and possibly the election chances of Republicans in 2006 and 2008. Unless he has committed impeachable offenses, what else would you expect to happen in terms of “accountability”?

  3. Anderson says:

    Well, I certainly agree with you on your metrics.

    As for the other, I have a very low threshold of “accountability.” Even if, say, Bush were found to have lied through his teeth about the casus belli in Iraq, I don’t think that would be impeachable. (Actual criminal conduct in l’affaire Plame might be, but I would be very surprised to see Bush implicated.)

    No, I would just like to see a general recognition on both sides of the aisle that the guy is a serial screw-up. Even that is too much to hope for.

    I don’t even think Bush will weigh down the Repubs in 2006 or 2008. As I said, I think his low poll numbers right now are an artifact. And the Repubs haven’t lost their # 1 advantage: they’re running against Democrats.

  4. jennifer says:

    It is fascinating how the liberal state departnment is supposed to take the blame for an issue that attracts the attention of the highest in the administration. Sort of like the defeatist MSM losing the war.

    I’m not sure that the constitution is all that relevant. It seems we already have a shitte theocracy in the south, the kurds will do what they will do, both have the guns and the rest of the country is not so successsful and peaceful; but popping.

  5. Anderson says:

    Oh, and while we’re on polls, here’s TPM noting that Rasmussen puts Bush’s approval at 48%, which strikes me as rather more plausible.