Friday, February 22, 2008
Who Could Be Iraq's George Washington
First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen
Today is George Washington's birthday.
You know, after the Americans won their liberation from the British, political liberty was not a foregone conclusion. The consensus was that Monarchy (a "strong man") was the natural form of stable government. The appeals of intellectuals for democratic forms of government was seen as "radicalism". It just was not seen as workable. So when George Washington, shortly after his defeat of Gen. Cornwallis, returned to the Congress of the Confederation and surrendered his command to them, it was an historical earthquake. That event created a geological divide between the expectations of what was possible in government before and after it. Hearing that after his resignation, Washington would return to his farm, King George III said "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." He did it.
And that is why when the states began to work on the Constitution, Washington's blessing was considered indispensable. He was asked to preside as president of the Convention and was seen as the only universally trustworthy candidate to be the first President when it was ratified (especially since he had no children that might inherit his position).
Iraq's position right now is much like that of America in 1783. All its neighbors are watching it expecting...many hoping...for it to fail (not just its neigbors either). Worse, it lacks a huge ocean between it and its ill-wishers as the US had. So, is there a "George Washington" among the Iraqis? Did Saddam and his predecessors really kill them all?