Not a time for constitution-writing. A time for finessing.

Charles Krauthammer writes today in that it will be impossible for Iraq to complete drafting its constitution in six weeks, so it should be shelved temporarily.

His thesis is:

Iraq is too fractured along sectarian lines, too socially ruined by 30 years of totalitarianism, too new to the habits of democracy to be able to record in stone the kind of great cosmic compromises that are the essence of constitutions.

Even America, which had a century of self-government before independence, needed 13 years before it could draft a workable and durable constitution. And even that one ultimately floundered (albeit, threescore and eleven years later) over the then-insoluble problem of slavery.

Krauthammer says that the attention of the Government of Iraq should be on building a government, training an army and putting down the insurgency. He goes on:

Better to have the constitutional committee simply draft, for now, one part of the constitution — a new electoral law to govern the coming Dec. 15 elections for a permanent government.

That can be done by Aug. 15 and would actually be useful. Trying to get a newly elected constitutional committee to decide once and for all, say, the role of Islam or the legitimacy of militias, will be deeply destructive, at the least; an enormous distraction, at the best.

Iraqi political energies should be directed toward building a government and an army, assisting reconstruction and fighting the insurgency. Written constitutions are swell. But lots of successful places (Britain, for example) get along without one. So should Iraq, at least for now.

We should not let Iraq be rushed into an unrealistic timetable just to satisfy Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi.