In today’s <a href="http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?
id=110004230″>OpinionJournal.com, Bernard Lewis AND R. James Woolsely
offer an interesting suggestion of how to speed the Iraqi transition towards
. . . The key is that Iraq already has a constitution. It
was legally adopted in 1925 and Iraq was governed under it until the series of
military, then Baathist, coups began in 1958 and brought over four decades of
steadily worsening dictatorship. Iraqis never chose to abandon their 1925
constitution–it was taken from them. The document is not ideal, and
it is doubtless not the constitution under which a modern democratic Iraq will
ultimately be governed. But a quick review indicates that it has some very
useful features that would permit it to be used on an interim basis while a
new constitution is drafted. Indeed, the latter could be approved as an
omnibus amendment to the 1925 document. . . .
While I find their
idea promising, I do have a quarrel with the last sentence in this summary of
their proposal. As historian Edmund Morgan emphasizes in his wonderful book,
Inventing the People (which I highly
recommend), and as our founders well understood, constitutions are meant to
govern legislatures and the other branches of government and should not be
modifiable by them without approval from some outside body. In our
case it was state constitutional conventions; other alternatives are possible
including multiple referenda. But it is of utmost importance that no
precedent be established that the constitution can be altered or amended by
even a super majority of the body it is most needed to constrain.