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What Not To Worry About

I appreciate that the press is trying to look skeptically on this weekend's upcoming Iraqi elections instead of swallowing the kool-aid like they did for the sovereignty transfer. But the particular form the skepticism is taking strikes me as wrongheaded. Today's Times is typical:

An election will be held Sunday in this violence-racked city of 1.6 million, but it remains an open question here - as in so many other Sunni Arab cities where the insurgent presence is strong - whether enough people will brave the dangers to vote in significant numbers.
Now certainly turnout may be very low across the country, or just in Sunni areas. Alternatively, turnout could be high but the voting could be a bloodbath. But there are good reasons to think that most Iraqis are excited about voting, and at least some reason to think that a crash program to secure polling places can keep things relatively safe for one day. The real question to be asking is: Even if the election goes well as a procedural matter tomorrow, what good will it do?

January 28, 2005 | Permalink


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"The real question to be asking is: Even if the election goes well as a procedural matter tomorrow, what good will it do?"

Lots. Just like in Columbia.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 28, 2005 1:06:11 AM

And who knows maybe five or ten or twenty years now our friends in Sunniland will hook up with their comrades in Afghanistan and become major narco traffickers to fund their insurgency...just like in Columbia.

Posted by: Green Dem | Jan 28, 2005 1:12:08 AM

>crash program to secure polling places can keep
>things relatively safe for one day.

The Iraqi forces are worthless. The teeth of the
US forces are at most 40000. You have thousands
of polling places to guard; worse than that,
everyone has to walk to and from the polling place
(because car travel is banned to prevent car bombs),
so snipers several blocks from each polling place
can shoot people on the way there or back. Anyone
who votes in the Sunni provinces, or in Baghdad,
is greatly at risk.

The only way out of this mess is for a Shiite
government to take over, but then, probably
under the influence of Sistani, to offer a generous
power-sharing constitutional deal to the Sunnis.
But there may be no deal good enough to make that

Posted by: Richard Cownie | Jan 28, 2005 1:15:34 AM

But there are good reasons to think that most Iraqis are excited about voting

Let's hear 'em

Posted by: Jill Chavez | Jan 28, 2005 1:36:25 AM

What will happen? Who knows...

I'm betting that there is a record level of bloodshed in the Sunni areas (read: Baghdad), but the Shiite and Kurdish areas experience a good turnout. The United Iraqi Alliance -- Sistani's party -- wins in a landslide with greater than 70% of the vote. The only question is how long after that will Sistani instruct his politicos to call for the US to exit.

Meanwhile, the insurgency will go on just as it has and thousands more Americans will pay as a result.

Posted by: manyoso | Jan 28, 2005 1:51:04 AM

matthew is there any way you can make the text on your blockquotes bigger? It's kind of hard to read.

Posted by: James | Jan 28, 2005 1:54:54 AM

what good will it do

This blog is authored out of D.C. correct?

Posted by: snowballs | Jan 28, 2005 2:45:49 AM

"Even if the election goes well as a procedural matter tomorrow, what good will it do?"

There is a still a decent chance that the Iraqi misadventure will have a not completely unhappy ending from the US foreign policy perspective, which at this point would mean becoming a friendly soft dictatorship like Egypt.

Having the election go well procedurally would be helpful in achieving that, which is why the insurgency would like to disrupt the election.

This isn't brain surgery...

Posted by: Petey | Jan 28, 2005 4:16:57 AM

I have some hope that, whatever government emerges from the election, it will be perceived by some of the security forces as having greater legitimcy than the current US-Allawi government, and that they will then be willing to fight for it.

Right now, the biggest problem with the forces is not so much a lack of training. It's that when the rubber hits the road they find themselves unwilling to shoot at fellow Iraqis on behalf of the US occupiers. Also many had no intention of fighting for the occupation government anyway; they were only it it for the temporary work.

But perhaps many Shiite troops will be willing to fight for Sistani, Hakim et al, and a vision of a
Shiite Iraq. The US would be smart to make a tactical withdrawal and lower their profile following the election, and allow Iraqis to handle the recruitment, organization and training of new security forces, even if that means the process is less efficient than it would be in US hands. To the extent they interfere with this process, they compromise the legitimcy of the Iraqi forces, and damage their morale.

Posted by: Dan Kervick | Jan 28, 2005 7:34:42 AM

"The US would be smart to make a tactical withdrawal and lower their profile following the election..."

No one has ever accused this administration of being smart.

Posted by: Petey | Jan 28, 2005 8:08:56 AM

It will go down in history as the only free election Iraq will ever have. Iraqis should risk voting it at all possible, it’s the closes they’ll come to an exercise we take for granted. You vote in the best election you can get not the one you want.

Posted by: scout29c | Jan 28, 2005 8:47:12 AM

>even if that means the process is less efficient
>than it would be in US hands

The US has been running the show for 20 months, and
almost everything is worse than it was under Saddam -
massive crime, less electricity, higher death rate,
troops on the streets shooting anyone who comes too
close, less oil exports. No-one in Iraq thinks the
US is "efficient" any more.

Posted by: Richard Cownie | Jan 28, 2005 9:05:58 AM

"The real question to be asking is: Even if the election goes well as a procedural matter tomorrow, what good will it do?"
It will allow Americans to disinvest from Bush. Every day thereafter with our troops in Iraq may see his numbers falling. But seriously.

Posted by: John Isbell | Jan 28, 2005 9:07:27 AM

"What good will it do"

Well in all likelyhood it will produce a Shi'ite dominated, Iranian friendly government that will promptly tell us to get the hell out. Because there are tens of thousands of trained Iraqis ready to take over security duties. The only problem from the Bush perspective is that they belong to SCIRI and al-Sadr, and they were trained by Iranians.

al-Sistani and even al-Sadr have been remarkably restrained in the face of huge provocation by Sunni insurgents, and I think the reason is clear - they don't want to blow their one chance at gaining power. The Americans in Iraq made it abundantly clear that they would not tolerate Shi'ite militia mobilization, that will be a little different once the commanders of those militias are put in charge of the government. "No those aren't militia, they are official government body-guards, and security personnel". And how exactly does Negroponte stop that?

BushCo is on the spot. Because if they are ordered out of country, they are truly faced with the task of explaining why $280 billion and 1400 dead were a good investment to replace a tinpot dictator with a Iranian friendly government disinclined to cut sweetheart deals with Halliburton. This totally turns around "No blood for oil". We got all the blood and we didn't get the oil.

That's the good the election will do. It will put the final nail in Bush's coffin.

Posted by: Bruce Webb | Jan 28, 2005 9:09:07 AM

De Gaulle granted women the vote in 1944 because of the near-lock the Communists, who formed the bulk of the Resistance, had on the elections until that moment. Footnotes to history...

Posted by: John Isbell | Jan 28, 2005 9:19:34 AM

Ask Firas at http://iraq-iraqis.blogspot.com/ what the elections mean...

"Election is a fact and is going to take place on the 30th of January no matter what, and may be some of us are not going to see the day after that day and loose their lives electing the right people or at least who we think right people, but it will be the price for our freedom, may be we didn’t pay enough to remove Saddam, so it is the price we are going to pay that day, the 30th of January 2005 to overcome our fears and be free people who did pay for their freedom."

"Its not a dreamy words and not banner words for election campaign, I am not a candidate and I am not going to be one but after few years from now inside Iraq or any where else in the world it will be very prodding to sit beside a chimney fire and tell the story of that day to a grand sun or two, or at least to remember that day a lone and remember that we weren’t afraid of a bunch of masked head choppers who wanted to take us to dark ages where we would be slaves of evil."

Posted by: Mr. Econotarian | Jan 28, 2005 9:20:21 AM

What good will it do? I hope it will be the beginning of the end (and not the end of the beginning, Winston) of our occupation. Bush & Co. could dust off the "Mission Accomplished" banner to hoist over a heads-high pullout, although it would probably be too incremental to get excited about. Or a Shi'ite-dominated government could tell the U.S. to get out, and we could happily wave our tattered anti-imperialist credentials as we did so. Or Iraq could take shape de facto as a loose Shi'ite-Kurdish confederation, with the ungovernable Sunni Triangle left alone in autonomy, and if we were still occupying the country, they could tell us to stay out of there. We can hope the new regime in Baghdad will not be the old one in Saigon.

Posted by: Dabodius | Jan 28, 2005 9:23:19 AM

If there was ever a thread - from the initial post on down through the comments - that exemplifies why so many of us on the right think that the left is simply not interested in freedom and democracy, well, this is it.

"what good will it do?" Are you sh*tting me?

Posted by: Al | Jan 28, 2005 10:03:21 AM

I have thought that the ayatollahs would politely ask us to leave right after the election, but perhaps they'll ask us to stay around for 6-12 months to wipe out their enemies, then they'll ask us to leave. So not only did we fight a war to install a theocracy, we'll even clean up the mess before we leave.

Posted by: Brian | Jan 28, 2005 10:05:28 AM

Let's hear 'em

According to liberal hero (and yes, he's my preferred anchor) Peter Jennings, 2/3 of Iraqis believe there is. Their reasons, I am unsure, but thats what they say. Is that not good enough for you?

Posted by: Adrock | Jan 28, 2005 10:33:22 AM

oh Al, you're such a troll. an election means nothing if those elected don't or can't govern effectively. the real test is not the election, but how well the elected government is accepted and is able to function.

Posted by: cleek | Jan 28, 2005 11:11:17 AM

There is a world of difference between the right's new found "interest" in freedom and democracy and the left's long standing commitment and understanding of the same. Cheers. Have a nice weekend.

Posted by: fnook | Jan 28, 2005 11:50:08 AM

As a pragmatist, I say EXACTLY.

Even if by some miracle the voting procedures go smoothly, how long will this election results stand? Will the victor be viewed merely as a US puppet? What countries will recognize this election as legitimate? Will Iraqis recognize the election as authoritative?

Unlike Pavlov's dogs and much of the American public, I've learned not to get my hopes up over George Bush's hyped-up, fantasy expectations.

Posted by: Deborah White | Jan 28, 2005 11:51:02 AM

Al, the point is that these duly elected democratic leaders will then proceed to lock themselves inside a heavily fortified compound, from which they'll launch carrier pigeons carrying duly elected democratic laws. If they're lucky, somebody outside the heavily fortified compound might intercept these carrier pigeons and read the laws, before being shot by roving packs of teenage punks with machine guns.

Posted by: Josh Yelon | Jan 28, 2005 12:44:13 PM

"becoming a friendly soft dictatorship like Egypt."

Soft toward whom? Ask Egyptians how "soft" their dictatorship is.

Posted by: Shirin | Jan 28, 2005 1:42:24 PM

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