Professor Donald Horowitz briefs President Bush on Iraq Policy

May 31, 2007Duke Law News

Professor Donald Horowitz, James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science, met with President Bush and Vice President Cheney in the Oval Office on May 30 to discuss Iraq policy. Horowitz was one of six scholars invited to the White House to share their varying areas of expertise on Iraq and divided societies.

An expert on ethnic conflict and its amelioration and the author of The Deadly Ethnic Riot (2001), Horowitz talked principally with the president and vice president about the alienation of Iraq’s Sunni Arab population and what might be done about it, he said.

“The 2005 constitution was a critical moment in the alienation of the Sunnis in its regionalization of Iraq. I addressed the problems with the constitution and offered my views on how it might be revised in sensible ways,” said Horowitz. The constitution amounted to an agreement between the Kurds and the Shia majority to create a highly regionalized country with a weak central government – a long-held desire of the Kurds, Horowitz explained. Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, who were largely excluded from key constitutional negotiations, “see themselves as part of one, undivided Iraq,” he said.

“That’s a big line of division. The current constitution makes regionalization possible, and makes it possible to merge multiple provinces into a single region. It also recognizes the pre-existing Kurdish region of three provinces, which is very hard for the Sunnis to accept.”

Horowitz also talked with the president and vice president about the fact that Sunni Arabs are largely excluded from the government, with the exception of a Sunni vice president. “That’s a very big difficulty in divided societies – when the majority group gets a majority in parliament and is able to form a government without the minority, it usually does so. It’s a very difficult problem to resolve. But I told President Bush and Vice President Cheney that if you crack that problem, revise the constitution to address Sunni grievances, and make some military progress, you have accomplished a great deal.”