Abstract: Through a case study of Iraq, this dissertation examines one manifestation of the increasingly prevalent phenomenon in struggling de jure states of the establishment of alternative forms of political sovereignty embodied by defacto states. Tracing Iraq's failed state-building
endeavor to the adoption of an ill-suited Weberian model of state-building that idealized order and centralization to the exclusion of Iraq's Kurdish minority, it argues that much of the contestation and instability witnessed by the Iraqi state since its birth into modern statehood has
stemmed from an effort to create a state inimical to the very real dispersal of social and political capital endemic to its society. The result has been continual coups, instability, and civil conflict
that ultimately defined Iraq’s modern history. Using this framework, the contention is defended that democracy cannot survive in Iraq without the preservation of its federal character, which alone guarantees the social, economic,
political, and coercive dispersal of power necessary to maintain a free expression of Iraq’s diverse interests. By restricting the responsibilities and obligations of the central state to more manageable tasks while dually creating a mechanism for a minority buy-in, federal institutions have pulled previously contentious social sources of power into legitimate state institutions and
laid the foundation for a genuine, inclusive state-building process that will eventually benefit all Iraqis. While recognizing that this model is still contested by some leaders in Baghdad, the dissertation traces the path of the two key outstanding issues left unresolved – the exploitation of
Iraq’s vast natural resources and the territorial delineation of its disputed internal boundaries – to
argue for a resolution that will bolster Iraqi federalism without sacrificing the hope of greater unity.