Last Friday, the College Republicans hosted a Brown Bag lunch with Professor of Political Science Stanley Brubaker titled “The Iraqi Constitution: Reflection and Choice.” About 30 students and professors attended the event, which was held in the Chapel.
Brubaker traveled to Iraq last July to meet with Iraqi politicians who were drafting the Iraqi Constitution. He and a group of five other Americans with terminal academic degrees in political science ran workshops on constitutional issues to assist them with the process.
“We basically came to offer our experience as an open book,” Brubaker said.
Brubaker led two seminars titled “Private Property” and “Separation of Power” at the conference, which was co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute and the University of Sallahadin at the Central Northern Province of Ardin.
The conference was held in a well-fortified and guarded Sheraton Hotel. Brubaker noted that the Iraqis had been able to erect this first-rate hotel in the midst of the turmoil of the last three years.
“It’s a true testament to the Kurdish entrepreneurial spirit,” he said, “though I’m not sure they understand the nature of American copyright laws.”
Brubaker thinks that the Federalist Papers significantly influence how American democracy works today, and can shed light on the current Iraqi situation. He said that they can be adapted to different circumstances because of their basic reflections on human nature, particularly James Madison’s view that one cannot dissolve factions without also dissolving free thinking.
Brubaker also imparted his extensive knowledge of the differences and similarities between the Iraqi Constitution and the American one. One important dissimilarity he brought up was the gray line between religion and the state that seems inherent in the Iraqi Constitution, which mentions protection for “no law that contradicts Islam” in its articles.
Brubaker shared his observation that the Iraqis seemed interested and attentive during the conference, and he feels they planted several seeds of knowledge.
“I’m an optimist with low expectations,” Brubaker said when asked whether he thinks the Iraqi constitution will indeed fulfill its expectations. He added that in the end, perhaps the whole premise of the conference was misplaced.
Saying that the Articles of Confederation were a disaster, he noted that the U.S. Constitution required a great deal of rewriting before it would be effective.
At the conclusion of the talk, Brubaker opened up the floor to questions, and members of the audience voiced their concerns about establishing an Iraqi Constitution. One professor questioned how Iraq can serve as a model for democracy in the Middle East when its democracy was externally imposed and not born indigenously. To this, Brubaker replied that it is a fundamentally Iraqi Constitution, made in Iraq and created by Iraqi citizens, and he feels strong about the power of liberal democracy.
Sophomore Soumya Venkatesh, a political science major, said that the Brown Bag lunch was a worthwhile experience.
“I think the lecture was really informative. It’s important that we hear from someone who actually went to Iraq, outside of our media bubble,” she said.
“It’s really great to have a pro-American, pro-Iraqi perspective here at Colgate,” College Republican Vice President junior Anne Ameno said. “That’s not common in most colleges, and that is part of why it’s so great to have Professor Brubaker in the department.”