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Iraqi Elections

So far, seems to be going well thanks to the extraordinary security measures in place. One hopes this will hold up. I predicted that it very well could the other day. The important thing to keep in mind, I think, is that if the lack of problems does hold up, that will be a testament to the success of our extraordinary security measures, not to the success of our political project. If we could maintain this level of security every day, Iraq might soon turn into a shining success. But it's quite clear that we can't do that. The question then becomes: What will these elections achieve in terms of moving Iraq toward peace and moving American troops back to America? The answer, I think, will be very little.

January 30, 2005 | Permalink

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» Elections in Iraq from Pennywit.Com

Sometimes you hold an election with the voters you have, rather than the voters you wish you had. As I wrtie this, Iraqis are lining up to vote at polling places across their country. According to the most recent Washington Post [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 8:51:54 AM

» Thank goodness I was wrong from Doubly Sure
But the real measure of success will be how things play out in the coming weeks and months. An election does not a democracy make. It may be a necessary but it is not a sufficient condition for democracy. [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 10:07:15 AM

» Open Iraqi election thread from Daniel W. Drezner
Feel free to comment here on today's historic election in Iraq. Both wire service reports and blog accounts suggest that the turnout has been higher than expected. Certainly a 72% turnout represents a pretty humiliating political defeat for the insurge... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 10:57:30 AM

» Blogospheric Round-Up: Elections in Iraq from PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science
A trip around the Blogosphere (and yes, with a heavy dose of my blogroll, although not exclusively): From on the ground, Omar at IRAQ THE MODEL has post called "The People have won." The money quote:I walked forward to my station, cast my vote an... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 12:51:00 PM

» Why Do They Hate Democracy [*]? from Shot In The Dark
Leftyblogger, George Soros employee and giggly fratboy Oliver Willis:You know, I really wish Iraq were having an honest, safe, real election. But that isn't happening, and that's a shame. Even if you were and are opposed to this war, as... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 2:13:11 PM

» The Elections from Kalblog
Wretchard: Commentators have pointed out that elected candidates may subsequently express views which may be regarded as anti-American; but if the US, which is the occupying power, is to be bound by the result, as is consistent with the concept... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 3:28:05 PM

» The Elections from Kalblog
Wretchard: Commentators have pointed out that elected candidates may subsequently express views which may be regarded as anti-American; but if the US, which is the occupying power, is to be bound by the result, as is consistent with the concept... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 30, 2005 3:28:25 PM

Comments

"If we could maintain this level of security every day, Iraq might soon turn into a shining success."

I have to wonder whether Matt has even the remotest idea what these security measures have done to life for Iraqis. If that can be termed a shining success, it makes life under Saddam heaven on earth.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 1:54:33 AM

Two people have already been killed.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 2:05:40 AM

I don't think the real purpose of the elections is to get America to withdraw (I confess I'm alittle confused from reading your posts as to whether you want us to send MORE troops or yank the ones we have). The purpose is to have these people get started on the road toward democracy and self-determination. And even if the elections today aren't perfect, they have a LOT of symbolic value for the Iraqis (if they didn't, I doubt the insurgents would have opposed them so heatedly). They have to start somewhere. If we wait until the country is as stable as Switzerland to let the people vote, they will never get to. The real value of this election is that it sets the stage for a better one next time, and an even better one sometime after that, and so on.

I also don't think we need this level of security every day; a lot is at stake in the election, and everybody expected the nastiest of the insurgents to do their worst. It is possible that insurgents will feel demoralized that they couldn't prevent the elections and start to lose steam; and it's possible that regular Iraqis will feel genuinely empowered against the insurgents - given that the latter could not prevent the election like they boasted - and start to stand up to them or ignore them. That would be really great.

I have an open question I'd like to throw out- something I've been wondering about. It seems to me that much or all of what is being called "terrorism" today would have been called "guerilla warfare" in Latin America a few years ago. Central American guerilllas (Marxist and anti-Marxist) blew up cars, hurled grenades at government buildings, kidnapped people and dismembered them, raped civilian women, threatened everybody, and ran drug trafficking operations on top of it. Yet "terrorist" sounds so much more fearsome. Is it just a semantic shift? Are we using a term with different associations for Arabs than Hispanics? Is it just another way of distinguishing "Muslim" extremists from "Marxist" extremists? Or is it a different era, an administration with totally different agendas (Reagan v. Bush 2?) What do you think?

I know the guerillas weren't talking about weapons of mass destruction, but might they have done so if they thought the things were available? Or, in the end, maybe terrorist=guerilla+kamikaze? I'm interested in what other people think. As always, non-partisan answers would be the most intriguing.

Posted by: Dru Stevenson | Jan 30, 2005 2:07:37 AM

"What will these elections achieve in terms of moving Iraq toward peace and moving American troops back to America? The answer, I think, will be very little."

Sadly, that's probably true, and no matter how much I may loathe this president, the reality is that the straightest and shortest line between the place we are now and American forces leaving the country, is if the Sunnis decide to cut their losses, give up their fantasy of a restored Baathist regime, and focus on creating a decent, reasonably free country for themselves and their kids.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 30, 2005 2:15:35 AM

"The purpose is to have these people get started on the road toward democracy and self-determination. "

No it isn't. This election was forced on the Bush administration by Ayatullah Sistani back in June of last year, much to the annoyance of Bush et al., who had done everything in their power up until then to thwart any attempt by anyone to have any elections at any level. They fired Jay Garner because he focused on setting up and holding local elections immediately, and planning for national elections in 90 days. They replaced him with the silly self-proclaimed terrorism expert and fashion maven L. Paul (Jerry) Bremer III, who cancelled all scheduled elections and overturned the results of those that had already been held, putting his appointees in place of the elected officials. His reason for this was that if elections were held to early Iraqis would choose the wrong people.

In 2003 the Bush administration refused the demands of the Iraqi people for elections in Spring of 2004, citing the lack of a voter roll. When Ayatullah Sistani and others (including at least one UN official) pointed out that the food rationing system was complete, inclusive, up to date and ideal for creating a voter roll, the declared that only a complete census would do, and that would take a long, long time. a

When, in Spring, 2004 Sistani had them in a choke hold and demanded elections within six months of the sham "handover of sovereignty" they had no choice but to agree. Today is the last day they can hold elections and still comply with their agreement with Sistani. And what are they using for the voter roll? Why, the food rationing system, of course - you know, the one that a year ago was completely unacceptable.

This is a show election that has already resulted in the deaths of two people (not counting the hundreds who have been killed by "insurgents" and U.S. forces in the weeks before. Its primary purpose is to save political face for the Bush adminstration and give the impression that they really are doing something positive. It will change nothing of any significance.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 2:24:09 AM

"Sunnis decide to cut their losses, give up their fantasy of a restored Baathist regime"

What makes you and so many others think this is all about the Sunnis dreaming of a restored Ba`thist regime?

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 2:28:13 AM

I said the hundreds who have been killed in the weeks before the election. I should have said thousands since the U.S. massacre and demolition in Falluja, which killed at least 6,000 civilians, was all about allowing Fallujans to vote.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 2:31:54 AM

I think the real question is not one of the violence or lack thereof. The fact is that the insurgents don't have to prevent the elections. They will probably benefit from having a small group of people to attack. Namely, those that are elected. This would force them into a more or less civil war, whether or not they are in one right now. That is my real fear.

Posted by: Craig Press | Jan 30, 2005 2:36:57 AM

"What makes you and so many others think this is all about the Sunnis dreaming of a restored Ba`thist regime?"

You're right. Maybe what they want is a Sunni run Islamo-fascist state, not a neo-Baathist one.

But I'm being snarky.

The Sunni insurgents aren't stupid. They know that America would be far more likely to withdraw its forces from their country were they to participate in the political process, suggesting that they don't wish to participate in the political process, but rather to restore their control of the country.

All I want is for our troops to come home. It seems unlikely that the Bush administration will decide to begin withdrawing troops until security is restored, and it seems unlikely that the Iraqi government will ask Washington to begin withdrawing troops until security is restored. Hence, my wish for the Sunnis to get real and cut their losses...

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 30, 2005 2:38:56 AM

Also, Dru. I agree that this shift to calling everyone a terrorist is a problem. I mentioned this on my site last year. It is also a problem that everyone in Iraq is an insurgent regardless of their affiliation. Why can't we just call a spade a spade instead of turning everyone into the personification of evil.

Posted by: Craig Press | Jan 30, 2005 2:41:02 AM

Shirin,

OK, I give you credit for at least having an informed opinion (I wish more people did). So, did I understand you correctly that you are unhappy the election is occuring? Or are you simply saying it's a non-event, not something to rejoice over nor complain about?

I think I may have a stronger belief than you in the law of unintended consequences (for good and bad). I agree with you that the world is full os meaningless political moves and face-saving actions, but lots of seemingly insignficant things that happen in the Middle East seem to take on huge historical significance later.

Posted by: Dru Stevenson | Jan 30, 2005 2:42:58 AM

Dru,

In my opinion the term terrorist in the place of Guerilla is a P.R. thing more than anything else. If you call someone a terrorist, particularly these days, their actions become automatically unjustifiable whereas those of a guerilla do not. As much as I deplore the current singling out of Muslims as the scapegoat of choice, I don't think the shift from guerilla to terrorist is aimed specifically at Muslims.

It is inaccurate to use the term terrorist for those in Iraq who are targetting U.S. troops, occupation officials and contractors, Iraqi collaborators, and others who are directly supporting the occupation. The correct term is resistance. That is not to say there are no gray areas in what I have listed.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 2:44:43 AM

"I give you credit for at least having an informed opinion"

That sounds like damning with faint praise.

"So, did I understand you correctly that you are unhappy the election is occuring?"

Yes. I am unhappy that this show election is occuring at this time with this design given that all previous attempts to hold elections were thwarted by the Bush administration.

"Or are you simply saying it's a non-event, not something to rejoice over nor complain about? "

It is not a non-event for the simple reason that the Bush administration will use it to legitimize its deadly and destructive actions in Iraq, and promote further such actions in other countries.

It is also not a non-event because it has already been used as a justification for the destruction of one major city and the killing of thousands of Iraqi civilians, most of whom were killed by U.S. forces, and an as yet unknown number of other Iraqis.

"I think I may have a stronger belief than you in the law of unintended consequences (for good and bad)."

Unintended consequences - virtually all devastatingly negative - have accompanied everything the U.S., and particularly the Bush administration has done in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 2:57:53 AM

Green Dem, your generalizations about Sunnis reveal that you need to learn more about the subject.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 3:01:04 AM

"Green Dem, your generalizations about Sunnis reveal that you need to learn more about the subject."

So I guess the Sunni insurgents are just good old fashioned nationalists who will after successfully driving the Americans out of the country at the end of kalashnikovs gayly join the democratic process with their Shiite and Kurdish brethren. Count me as skeptical.

It is crass to be gaming this thing politically now, but Democrats will gain more by a quick and genuine peace in Iraq, and noxious victory parades with George W Bush at the lead, than they will from the country, and quite possibly the region, devolving into chaos. The second world war gave Britain Attlee. Vietnam gave America Reagan.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 30, 2005 3:08:50 AM

In my opinion the term terrorist in the place of Guerilla is a P.R. thing more than anything else.

In my opinion, this comment labels you an uninformed dipshit.

Posted by: Krusty Krab | Jan 30, 2005 3:09:24 AM

Krusty Krab, do you have anything to offer other than personal attacks on those who express views you (apparently, since you did not bother to post your own views) disagree with?

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 3:21:18 AM

Green Dem, I am afraid I was wrong to make such a terse remark to you, and I apologize.

The information available to Americans is bound to produce a narrow, prejudiced, inaccurate - and negative - view of Sunnis, not to mention of the resistance/insurrection/whatever.

If you are interested in more realistic information, I would be glad to share it with you.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 30, 2005 3:30:19 AM

"Green Dem, I am afraid I was wrong to make such a terse remark to you, and I apologize."

Thank you, although terse remarks are my stock and trade, so I probably deserve more than a few myself...

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 30, 2005 4:13:22 AM

http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=957 :

Sunnis tell Zogby by 76-9 that they won't vote; 53% of Sunnis say violent resistance to the US and the central government is justified; 82% of Sunnis and 69% of Shiites want all US troops out immediately after the election. So much for this election putting an end to national divisions -- the Iraqi civil war has almost certainly just started. As Zogby says, this isn't the election of 2004 -- it's the election of 1860.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Jan 30, 2005 7:24:34 AM

Reports coming in up to now show the whole thing going off as expected:

a) Heavy turnout in Kurdish and Shi'ite areas - numbers are hard to guess but heavy nonetheless
b) Light to non-existent turnout in Sunni areas
c) Multiple insurgent attacks at polling sites, but limited because of massive security

In the end this will probably yield an overall turnout of around 55%: Kurds at 75%, Shi'ites at 75%, and Sunnis at less than 10%.

This is either the first step in the creation of multiparty democracy or the final straw before total and open civil war. Remember, democratic elections succeed when the loser accepts the results as legitimate. By boycotting the election the Sunnis have determined that they don't want to confer legitimacy on the process that will remove their power for the first time in 400 years. The questions is: what will the Sunnis do now that they've let it be known they don't see the victors as legitimate? Will they return to the fold, realizing that this is the best process they will get, even if it enshrines lesser power? Or will they use their rejection of the process as a rallying point to ramp up the insurgency and openly rebel against their new Shi'ite and Kurdish rulers? That will determine whether or not democracy has set up.

Posted by: Elrod | Jan 30, 2005 8:21:35 AM

It's amazing that they can successfully put up such tight and successful security when so much of the Bush administration's success hinges on it.

Simply amazing

Posted by: The_Progressive | Jan 30, 2005 9:12:18 AM

"The important thing to keep in mind, I think, is that if the lack of problems does hold up, that will be a testament to the success of our extraordinary security measures, not to the success of our political project."

'our political project' -- like 'our home ec project?'

No matt, it will be a testament to the success of our invasion and our bombings and our security measures and all the rest of it, good and bad -- ALL of which makes up "our political project". Talk about a grievous (and dishonest) category error!

Posted by: Jimmy Ray Hick | Jan 30, 2005 9:46:15 AM

Even with the extraordinary security, only about 10% of the Sunnis are expected to participate. All we have done is set the stage for a complete fragmentation of the country.

Posted by: Bob H | Jan 30, 2005 9:51:35 AM

Even with the extraordinary security, only about 10% of the Sunnis are expected to participate. All we have done is set the stage for a complete fragmentation of the country.

The idea of you folks harrumphing over low afrikaner turnout in South Africa's '94 election somehow doesn't strike me as realistic.

Posted by: Jimmy Ray HIck | Jan 30, 2005 10:01:48 AM

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