The elections were a success, but they do not ensure that Iraqis can now agree on a constitutional formula that accommodates the demands of all groups and keeps the country together. Democracy as separation of powers, checks and balances, and protection of individual rights has not proven enough to avoid conflict in other deeply divided societies. Iraqis will have to confront their differences and negotiate a solution. If they fail, the United States will be faced with a choice of whether to keep the country together by force or get out—and it is better to find out sooner rather than later.

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About the Author
Marina Ottaway is a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project. She coedited with Thomas Carothers, Uncharted Journey: Promoting Democracy in the Middle East (Carnegie Endowment, 2005) and is the author of more than ten books, including Democracy Challenged: The Rise of Semiauthoritarianism (Carnegie Endowment, 2003) and Africa’s New Leaders: Democracy or State Reconstruction? (Carnegie Endowment, 1999).