It's My Turn
This op-ed piece was submitted by former Rockaway resident, Susan Rexroad, who now lives in Virginia.
A flurry of strategies for helping Iraq pull itself out of chaos and civil war are being considered these days. I too have a proposal, a low cost one; a strategy that helped unite a fledging, stratified and faltering nation. I'm referring to the Federalist Papers and the important role this series of newspaper essays played in transporting a young United States, from a weak, divisive and loosely held nation to one strongly bound together by a public supported Constitution. A Federalist Paper style media campaign produced by moderate Iraqi leaders and scholars with a similar aim of garnering public support through educational information could be one of several important strategies for helping Iraqis turn away from violence. In 18th century America our country hung in the balance. Citizens who fled an oppressive central government in England, did not want to create the same situation here. Initially, a loose form of government was established under the Articles of Confederation. Power was disbursed into state hands leaving the central government weak. The result was turmoil especially in the areas of defense and the economy. The states in pursuing their own rights and interests, were not working to support the union as a whole. Without a strong core, our founders believed the nation would disintegrate. The Constitution was set-up to solve this problem by creating a strong central government. To gain support for the Constitution, several founding fathers wrote and had published over a six-month period 85 essays explaining to the public the need for and benefits to all of establishing a centralized government. Basically, they were selling a new product, the Constitution, to an inexperienced audience, our fore fathers and mothers.
There are many strategies that need to be employed in Iraq. One of them should be an on-going educational media campaign produced by moderate Iraqi leaders explaining their Constitution, the need to support the new government, how this government will work and the benefits for all. In order for Iraqis to reject leaders that are splintering their nation with brutal and fear producing sectarian violence and embrace a unified and representative government, they need to believe their new government merits their support that it will keep them safe. Like all people, Iraq's citizens need to know where they are going in order to feel fully committed to the journey. The Iraqis need to hear so clearly from their own scholars and leaders that they can envision how their government and its constitution will keep them safe, and how they will be beacons of hope and strength for the rest of the Middle East. They not only need to understand how this type of government works and of each citizen's responsibility for the stability and advancement of their nation, they need to feel and believe that they can pull this thing off. Encouraging trusted news outlets, such as Al Jarzeera, to regularly publicize moderate Iraqi leaders clearly explaining these concepts could yield a more supportive and cohesive populace. Moderate leaders and scholars from all factions who can articulate and embolden their citizenry to let go of their fear and support a unified Iraq, need to be heard from.
The answer to bringing Iraq out of chaos is in Iraq. We must help the Iraqis to know their own power to protect themselves and move forward together. Knowledge is a potent tool for eradicating fear. Providing and promoting opportunities for Iraqi moderates to articulate to their citizenry the necessity, benefits and the mechanics of an Iraq unified by a representative central government is an important piece for lasting stability for this fracturing nation.