Iraq#039;s fate depends on learning to #8216;swim#039;

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2005

Months of violence and turmoil may come to a pivotal head this week in Iraq as voters head to the polls to consider a referendum on a new constitution.

Through its military might, the United States has leveled the playing field in Iraq. By toppling its long-time dictator, Saddam Hussein, the U.S. has helped provide the groundwork for democracy in Iraq.

Our country has taken out the biggest obstacle. Critics are quick to point out that our military's presence in Iraq has attracted outside insurgents to stream into the country for a chance to face the U.S.

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While that's true, only looking at the insurgency is failing to see the bigger picture. Iraq is poised to be a country led by the will of those people. While the concept seems common to many Americans, it is a radical idea for a group of people who had lived under a tyrannical dictatorship for decades.

Yet, despite all of the groundwork completed thus far, America is nearing the effective end of what it can do. We've walked the people of Iraq to the edge of the strange democratic sea. We've shown them the swimming strokes necessary to keep them afloat.

But it's time for them to sink or swim. They must be willing to jump in with both feet and they must be willing to swim quickly.

The proposed constitution before Iraqi voters is not perfect. While it provides a starting point, it doesn't provide them with all the answers.

The draft constitution does not fully explain how a country filled with several different ethnic and religious backgrounds should work together.

While the proposal provides some additional protect for the country's women, it stops short of fully making them truly equals to their male counterparts.

No, the constitution Iraqis will decide upon Saturday isn't perfect, but it is a great start.

Hopefully, as the votes are counted, the United States can begin scaling back its military presence in Iraq. If outside help is still needed to bolster the burgeoning Iraqi police forces, American and its allies should urge the United Nations to get involved. Continuing to have America's soldiers acting as police is not a wise, long-term solution. The nation's military is trained to fight, not necessarily to protect.

We've given the Iraqis the tools to succeed, not let's begin getting out of their way and out of their country.