Across the Bay

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Young Lays it Down

Michael Young reacts to the Iraqi elections and their significance:

    The Iraqi elections, despite their shortcomings, vindicated all those, present company included, who refused to pre-emptively brand them as illegitimate because they took place under foreign occupation.

    Several things can be said of the elections, even as the results are still being tallied. The first is that the U.S.-led occupation made them possible. Had the United States not militarily taken a boot to the Baathist regime, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and the enthusiasts of "gradual reform" would still be building castles in the sky, bolstered by a petrified United Nations barricaded behind a mound of manuscripts defending state sovereignty. 

    However, if military intervention made Iraqi democracy possible on Sunday, so too did the Iraqis' willingness to play the foreign presence to their advantage.

Analyzing the communitarian landscape in Iraq, Young writes:

    Shiites must still navigate the tricky process of writing a constitution with Kurds, Sunni Arabs and others, and turning on the Americans today makes little sense. Instead, Shiite representatives will prefer to focus on setting up a political system that gives all other minorities a stake in the new Iraq, to ensure stability. Of what value is acquiring political power in a state on the verge of civil war and disintegration?
    All this suggests communal compromise is possible while a new constitution is being prepared.

    But as Sunnis reconsider their national role, we may see their attitudes toward the Americans changing. One shouldn't expect portraits of Laura Bush in Ramadi's beheading rooms, nor are Sunnis likely to lower their nationalist rhetoric directed against the U.S. However, as the community contemplates the institutionalization of Shiite ascendancy, it may come to appreciate, if only momentarily, that it would be better to have the Americans inside Iraq helping counterbalance the Shiites (particularly if theocrats threaten to take over), rather than outside.
Already this challenges the silly JuanColelogical predictions, but this one says it most clearly:

    The clock has started ticking on the U.S. military presence, at least as it is conceived today. However, it would be a mistake to see the Iraqi election as a vote against occupation; it was a vote in favor of an Iraq able to emerge from occupation. The nuance is important, since for as long as Iraqis regard their security forces as ill prepared to take over from coalition forces, the presence of the latter will remain palatable.

Finally, Michael ends with a gratifying snicker:

    That's why it's a sincere pleasure to bait the sulking agnostics who said that democratic elections could not take place in Iraq under foreign occupation. They did take place and the Americans made it possible, whether you can stomach it or not. And it's the Iraqis themselves who proved you all wrong.