Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Progressives denigrate elections in Iraq

In this morning's SF Chronicle, Jon Carroll writes: "There is some thinking afoot that the success of the election in Iraq must make opponents of the war feel bad. It's an odd idea."

No it isn't. Maybe "feel bad" isn't the best way to describe how opponents of the war are reacting to the elections. What they are surely doing is denigrating the elections. Carroll in todays' column:

Remember that the election was held in suboptimal conditions, with the tightest security imaginable. Now that the security has eased off, the attacks have started again. I fear that this sudden morning of democracy won't last the day, because the tough job of securing the peace still lies ahead. The Bush Administration has not shown aptitude for peace-securing (SF Chronicle, Feb. 15, 2005).

This is the sort of thing that happens when you hold an election during a civil war, which is what essentially is going on in Iraq. But I don't think it's an over-interpretation to say that those who turned out to vote in Iraq---yes, mostly Shiites and Kurds---want the terrorists defeated. Once upon a time, the United States held an election in "suboptimal conditions"---in 1864---and half the country---the Confederate states in the South---wouldn't/couldn't take part. Fortunately for the United States, the elections were held, President Lincoln was re-elected, and the North defeated the South.

Patrick Cockburn from Baghdad: "In the immediate future, the election changes little in Iraq. The world is full of parliaments duly elected by a free ballot but power stays elsewhere, with the army, the security services or, in the case of Iraq today, an occupying foreign power" (Anderson Valley Advertiser, Feb. 2, 2005).

But clearly Iraq needs that "occupying foreign power" to defend its fledgling democracy from the terrorists. I voted for Kerry, and I think the country and the world would have been a better place had he been elected. But I don't think the Bush Administration is as dumb as opponents of the war in Iraq seem to think. The Bush Administration clearly has an exit strategy, and it's a plausible one: keep US troops in Iraq until the back of the insurgency is broken and/or until Iraqis can handle the security job themselves. It may take months or even years, but it now seems like a more doable task after the election in Iraq. Opponents of this war keep comparing Iraq to Vietnam, but South Vietnam never had a government that could survive without US military support. Iraq seems to have a much better chance of defeating what is, after all, a small and violent minority of diehard Baathists and religious crackpots.

Bob Herbert in the NY Times:

And we should keep in mind that despite the feelings of pride and accomplishment experienced by so many of the voters, yesterday's election was hardly a textbook example of democracy in action. A real democracy requires an informed electorate. What we saw yesterday was an uncommonly brave electorate. But it was woefully uninformed.

"Woefully uninformed" compared to, say, the US electorate that just re-elected President Bush? If we learned anything in the last four years, it should be that even the US doesn't routinely hold "textbook" elections.

I think President Bush and his administration are wrong on every single issue, except for Iraq, which may end up being the biggest issue of all. If, say, five years from now, Iraq has a more or less functional democracy, it will have huge implications for the whole Middle East, especially now that the Palestinians are out from under the Arafat regime and are moving toward a more democratic system themselves.

Conservative SF Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders, much despised in Progressive Land, had it right a few days after the election in Iraq:

That's what Bush-hating has come to in America in 2005. The Iraqi people risk their lives to vote for a new government and self-rule. In response, John Kerry says the election has "a kind of legitimacy," while anti-war opponents can't bring themselves to acknowledge that the elections in Iraq brought light and hope to a once-repressed people (SF Chronicle, Feb. 1, 2005).

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