Iraq’s New Government Is As Old As Time

The United States’ puppet regime in Iraq has a “new government” today following a parliamentary vote that allocates ministerial power among the various political factions in the country. Applauding Iraqis for “resolv[ing] their differences” and “advancing national unity,” President Obama reacted to the Iraqi state’s ostensible reordering as a solution to the political tussles that have troubled Iraq recently.

The Iraqi people ought to be euphoric with anticipation of the new governing coalition, a change a lot like the one Barack Obama represents in this country. Now that the politicians have decided how to parcel out bureaucratic realms of authority, they can get to work on discharging the terminal duty within politics, apportionment of the country’s wealth and natural resources among the influential.

They will — as the political class is inclined to — have their little contretemps from time to time, squabbling over whose chums get which perks, but those divisions are ultimately meaningless. Using a mile to represent the metaphorical “political spectrum,” a useful if not nuanced device, we might say that the entirety of the differences in Iraq’s parliament exist within twelve inches. The fluctuations that befall within that foot, even if they’re of genuine importance to politicians and bureaucrats, are empty of real import for those of us outside of the political class; at least for us, the pageant of practical politics, with all of its petty rivalries as to the size of this or that special interest’s piece of the pie, is a hollow exhibition.

Are we really to believe that a new Oil Minister bodes change for the average Iraqi worker? In Iraq, as in the United States and every other state, the slight adjustments that are the outcome of statists’ beloved “democratic process” materialize in the narrow margins, in barely perceptible variations. The interests that the state is designed to advance and insulate wouldn’t stand by and watch an election or a cabinet shake-up jeopardize their complex of inroads into our pockets.

Party politics is a diversion, one of many like national security or some amorphous notion of the “common good” that are all subsumed within what Kevin Carson has phrased “ideological hegemony”; the dominant linguistic and cultural paradigm has succeeded in, for instance, making Americans think that someone like Nancy Pelosi, just another garden variety shill for corporatism, is situated on the far reaches of the ideological left. Notwithstanding the unsavory sport of politics, though, there are alternatives that survive, including a principled left that stands at variance with the barren, political left.

“People who resist authority,” said Murray Bookchin, “who defend the rights of the individual, … this is the true left in the United States. Whether they are anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, or libertarians who believe in free enterprise, I regard theirs as the real legacy of the left … .” Democracy’s popularity is a function of the fact that most of us are fond of the general idea of “choosing our own leaders.” And assuming that democracy expressed that general idea, that it represented the apogee of social choice, the true left that Bookchin identifies would have little reason to decry it.

In Iraq and in all democracies, however, democracy renders “choices” in a pre-fixed pattern that assures the survival of the state’s defilement of productive society. Anti-democratic thought has long been identified with anti-egalitarianism’s scorn for what Francis Fukuyama called “creeping mediocrity or the tyranny of the majority,” but looking around we might be more worried about the unnatural elitism the state manufactures. It’s not often that you see your Senator or Congressman shooting the breeze with a mass of paupers, but America’s corporate wealth sponges seem to be doing well in their fellowship with the state.

By all accounts, these aren’t boom times for Iraq’s majority. Though American imperialism hasn’t resulted in the peaceful, thriving democracy it promised for “the people,” it’s been a godsend for a new class of political elites led by al-Maliki. In a society we could accurately call egalitarian, people could choose their own leaders, in the sense of people charged with responsibilities in voluntary organizations.

Those leaders, contrary to the political variety, wouldn’t be entitled to do anything that the rest of us couldn’t, to lead through coercion or threats. Instead of a “new government,” it’s time Iraq and the rest of the world tested “no government,” decoupling otherwise prolific societal relationships from the pernicious state.

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