Thursday, August 02, 2007

How Do You Build a Nation of Law: One Fortified Court at a Time

A fascinating story by Michael Gordon in the July 26th edition of the New York Times details the efforts of the American occupation authorities to create a series of "legal green zones" in this country wracked with terror and violence.

Touring the Rhine Valley on a family vacation this summer, I feel like I've seen it all before. Standing on hillsides throughout this region are ruins of castles that once served very much the same function. Inside each little fortified position, administrative functions including courts took hold. While the great expanse of land remained ungovernable by central authorities, each castle represented a little space of law in which those who chose to bring their cases, or were seized and brought there, could experience the law in its (limited) majesty.

One thousand years later Europe truly is a land of law where you can drive from Germany to France with no border guards and a sense that one's business and pleasure is well respected throughout without the constant presence of police or soldiers. Its an attractive model and one that has apparently been endorsed by General Petraeus:

The notion of helping the Iraqis establish protected legal enclaves is an important element of the American campaign plan prepared by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq. The hope is that a network of legal complexes will be established in other parts of Iraq, starting with the capital of Anbar Province, Ramadi, where work is expected to begin in the next several months.

Based on this analogy, however, we can expect American forces to begin withdrawing in 3007.