The rule of law and the rule of man

August 15, 2010

One of the most frequently-raised questions about Iraq is why the country is in such a state of chaos and has not made any real progress.
Seven years after the fall of Saddam, basic services required by every citizen are still far from satisfactory. This is especially true in the south and centre of Iraq.
The airport of Baghdad is a prime example of the failure of the new Iraqi public service sector.
In every other field of service, the excuses of terrorism and bad security can be used. But the airport is still in one of the most heavily-protected areas of the country, and works with regional airports that operate on timetables that are accurate down to the minute. Yet taking off from or arriving on time to Baghdad is almost unheard of.
In terms of all other public services, the track record is just as dismal as that of the airport.
Healthcare, drinking water and sewage systems are among the plethora of concerns that consume the average citizen today. But the reality is that no one is being held accountable for or taking responsibility for the shortcomings.
This is not just in the in the centre and south; it also exists in Kurdistan. The situation there is improving in terms of services, but is nowhere near what it should be.
Corruption is still one of the biggest problems eating away at the state, both in Kurdistan and in the rest of the country.
The fact of the matter is that large parts of the Iraqi public service sector are inefficient and corrupt.
And hence the chaos and lack of progress is evident in many aspects of public services.
Public service employees and officials do not seem to be held accountable, as most appointments are political and are based on ethnic, sectarian or partisan affiliations.
Usually, eradicating corruption and providing better public services are carried out by either the rule of law or the rule of man.
Political analysts define these two systems as follows: the rule of man is any system in which a man directs the course of the nation. That man is usually feared and sometimes loved.
A rule of law system is quite the opposite. In this system the nation possesses a set of guidelines, usually in a constitution, which sets the terms of governing.
Although the constitution provides strong guarantees for the rule of law, in reality it is still far from being implemented in most parts of the country.
As for the rule of man, Iraq seems to have moved from the rule of one strong man to the rule of a number of men scattered across the country. None seem especially interested in building solid foundations for the Iraqi state.
To sum up, in Baghdad there does not seem to be either rule of law or rule of man and hence the high corruption and the bad public service.
In Kurdistan, there seems to be a bit of both and hence the better public service but deeper corruption.
Political analysts argue that any rule of man system, whether by mob or the elites, is destined for failure.
Although rule of man may be necessary for the Iraqi or Kurdish context, liberty and property will not be protected under such systems, and the nation will ultimately suffer under tyranny.
Thus if anyone wishes to help the people of Iraq out of their crises and raise living standards, they need to establish the rule of law as a starting point.

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