Across the Bay

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Missing the Point in Iraq

Michael Young discusses some of the issues I've touched on here in my post "Iraqi Sunnis and the Lebanon Model":

    This focus on the U.S. seems to me basically irrelevant to gauging a successful election or not. The real issue is how the Iraqis, who don't give a damn about how the whole thing plays out in Kalamazoo, will interpret their election--I repeat, their election. How many Iraqis vote is far less important than the fact that a truly Iraqi parliament will emerge from the process to write a constitution (which will indeed spur the "insurgents" to escalate their bloodletting, since nothing worries them more than the threat of a potentially legitimate Iraqi--not U.S.-appointed--authority).

    Yes, Sunni participation is an important issue, but not in the way people presume. If a post-election regime can shape a compromise system that gives all Iraqi communities a stake in the new political order, then two things may well happen: the aftereffects of a low participation level may soon be erased by the more urgent matter of communal compromise; and the fearful Sunnis may begin disagreeing with themselves over how to deal with the new authority. Already there are several reports of Sunni election boycotters who have made it clear they intend to negotiate with a new post-election parliament and regime. America, for them, is completely secondary at this stage.

Couldn't agree more.

Update: Martin Kramer shares his cautious and sober thoughts on the Iraqi elections. The way I read his post, it really dovetails nicely with Michael's comment above with regard to this being the Iraqis' time to take charge, and that the real deal (as I said in my "Iraqi Sunnis and the Lebanon Model" post) is the constitution drafting process, where the communities will have to sit down and decide what kind of country and coexistence they want for themselves. (By the way, this is by no means a call for a "timetable" for a withdrawal or any of that stuff.)

This has been the position put forward by Michael (followed by me). While we knew that the Iraqis themselves wouldn't have been able to gain their freedom by themselves, the ensuing post-Saddam narrative was theirs and theirs alone to write. That also means not drowning once again in the sewer of the Arab nationalist narrative, but forging an Iraqi one. But this means, as Michael recently pointed out, that the "Iraqization" policy floated early on by the INC (and voiced by Makiya and Chalabi -- the "Pentagon man") wasn't just a load of hot air. Just to be clear.