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To follow up on yesterday’s post on Ken Pollack, it’s worth considering in more detail his recommendation that Iraq “move to something closer to a cantonal system along Swiss lines.” Now, Switzerland is a very successful multiethnic country. One that, unlike Belgium and Canada, isn’t even wracked by periodic political crises over its multiethnic nature.

At the same time, ethnosectarian conflict is a major problem in many parts of the world. Not just Iraq, but Lebanon, Russia (Chechyna), China (Sinkiang/”East Turkestan”), Turkey (Kurdistan), Congo, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, etc., etc., etc. If you could really solve these problems by simply pointing out that the Swiss political system is very successful, don’t you think we wouldn’t have all these problems? But, of course, the thing about Switzerland is that Swiss society is so very rare. And that’s just the rub — there’s an extraordinary sociological naiveté involved in these recommendations that Iraq just be less like a war-torn post-colonial state and become more like a stable western one. Of course Iraq should become more like a stable western country and less like a war-town post-colonial state. But how?

It’s hard these things don’t just happen because the American ambassador says they ought to. The situation is different, the age-structure of the population is different, the attitude of the neighbors is different, the oil makes a big difference, the presence of a giant foreign occupying army is different, everything about it is different.

(Beyond all that, how much familiarity do we really think Kenneth Pollack has with the Swiss constitution? Nothing in the article suggests that he really means that Iraq ought to have the distinctive features of the Swiss constitution — tons of direct democracy, a seven-person collective presidency, a bicameral parliament, etc., etc., etc.)