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January 30, 2005

The Vote in Iraq

Stephen Darwall: January 30, 2005

Michael Ignatieff's piece in today's New York Times strikes the right tone concerning today's vote in Iraq.  Whatever one's view about the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, we should unite in admiration of Iraqis who have stood up to attacks on democracy of unparalleled violence to participate in today's elections.  According to the Times's early reports, voting in Baghdad is higher than expected.  If these reports hold up, this is very good news from a country that has had significantly more than its share of bad (for which we bear great responsibility).  Whatever happens, Iraqis who are participating deserve enormous admiration and respect.

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Posted by: vistor

Who is your audience for that post? Which Americans need to be reminded that the voting in Iraq is a good thing? Why do they need to be urged to think that way?

Posted by: vistor | Jan 30, 2005 11:04:43 AM


Posted by: Jim Hu

Well, I'm glad to see this post. To not say anything on this historic day would seem petulant.

Posted by: Jim Hu | Jan 30, 2005 11:12:48 AM


Posted by: Don Herzog

I am drily amused by Al-Jazeera's accentuate-the-negative report. More important, I'm delighted that things have gone as well as they have.

Posted by: Don Herzog | Jan 30, 2005 11:19:34 AM


Posted by: bakho

While high turnout is never bad, a high turnout of all voters coupled with a very low turnout of Sunnis will lead to a government that the Sunnis will not consider legitimate. Legitimacy is the key to ending the insurgency and stabilizing Iraq.

I don't know anyone that is not applauding Iraqis who show the courage to vote. However, we must accept that the American designed elections are critically flawed, another bungle by the Bush administration that will create as many problems as it solves. It was a mistake to have a national election that is subject to disproportional voter turnout among regions rather than a regional based election that would guarantee a more representative government.

The US faced just this dilemma as small states looked to be outvoted by those with large populations. The US addressed this by creating the Senate and the House of Representatives. Iraq is even more flawed. There is no Senate-like body to guarantee regional representation and the popular vote is likely to be higher in more secure areas and lower in insecure areas. If the new government does not have legitimacy because the process was flawed, then the voting is wasted.

Posted by: bakho | Jan 30, 2005 11:21:02 AM


Posted by: Paul Deignan

The problem is that the extent of the thinking of the political opposition of the president was, "If he is for it, we are against it".

Bush did not become unpopular among his opponents as a result of any decision he made on Iraq, the opposition was already irrationally Mad at America/Bush well before that. Thus the need for the reminder.

Posted by: Paul Deignan | Jan 30, 2005 11:24:53 AM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Ah, so then the non-voting Sunnis will be in basic agreement with John Kerry, who said today "It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote." And he should know.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | Jan 30, 2005 11:29:38 AM


Posted by: Jim Hu

As others have pointed out, a low turnout among Afrikaaners would not have been viewed as delegitimizing the ANC.

Posted by: Jim Hu | Jan 30, 2005 11:42:11 AM


Posted by: Paul Deignan

This link is also useful as a general reference: Why People Disagree About Politics

Posted by: Paul Deignan | Jan 30, 2005 12:35:24 PM


Posted by: frankly0

Ah, so then the non-voting Sunnis will be in basic agreement with John Kerry, who said today "It is hard to say that something is legitimate when whole portions of the country can't vote and doesn't vote."

And what, exactly, might be false about what Kerry is saying here?

Let's see what the numbers for turnout actually tell us, but if it's the case that the great enthusiasm for voting is shared only among the groups that know it's going to be a win for them, it's not exactly a rousing success for democracy, is it? Indeed, if the high turnout by, say, Shiites has only the more decisive effect of further reducing the participation and clout of the Sunnis, that's going to be exactly counterproductive, isn't it?

But how could I possibly impress Bush supporters with the concept that even the minority parties need a voice in government?

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 30, 2005 1:51:37 PM


Posted by: Jim Hu

Well, not that I really believe you care a whit about impressing me, you could start by being a touch less dismissive of people who disagree with you...including the several million who had the courage to physically mark their index fingers with indelible dye as standing up to those who told them voting=death. Hint: that wasn't the US.

And this includes Sunnis whose neighbors don't want the elections to suceed. From the NYT:

The predicted low turnout in Anbar, a hotspot of Sunni resistance to the American occupation, was exceeded to such an extent that extra voting materials had to be rushed to outlying villages, where long lines were formed at polling stations, Mr. Ayar said.
Was what happened today perfect? Of course not. But it was historic nevertheless.

Posted by: Jim Hu | Jan 30, 2005 4:14:50 PM


Posted by: Maggie

Bakho, it is the Electoral College which insures that the large number of smaller states are not "overwhelmed" by three or four states with the largest populations.

Sunnis have been placed on "party" tickets to insure that they will have representation in the temporary government which has been elected ONLY to formulate the new constitution. Allawi's party ticket has members of the Shia' and Sunni populace. Other "party" tickets have done the same to insure Sunnis have a say.

Once a constitution has been approved by the populace new elections for representatives will be held.

Posted by: Maggie | Jan 30, 2005 4:43:13 PM


Posted by: Shag from Brookline

This is the first step towards democracy in Iraq and we do not know its results as yet. Many, many steps are to follow once we know. Events may occur that will affect the course that follows. Are there assurances that after the dust settles the results will make America or the Middle East more secure? The Iraqis are in the front lines making their decisions, taking risks. Will the U.S. interfere if it doesn't like the outcome? Will other countries in the Middle East? Who out there has the answers to these and other question that will surface? I don't assume that the Iraqis will fail. And if they do fail, who will blame them for our own incompetence? Perhaps the neocons. Actually, most Iraqis have been victims, both before, during and after Bush Jr.'s war.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Jan 30, 2005 5:07:30 PM


Posted by: Leuf

Because none of the candidates are running on a clear anti-occupation platform it is hard to conclude that ALL those who are voting in fact are voting for the continued occupation of Iraq. While it is admirable that they are voting under these adverse atmosphere, I would caution to conclude that their vote means an affront to the resistance groups.

Posted by: Leuf | Jan 30, 2005 5:30:58 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

While it is admirable that they are voting under these adverse atmosphere, I would caution to conclude that their vote means an affront to the resistance groups.

When someone says, "I will murder you if you do X," it's safe to assume doing X is an affront to them. The only sort of resistance that is unacceptable is the violent kind, and I'm willing to assert that resistance was pretty cheesed off today. If you mean that some of the Iraqis who voted today aren't fans of America and would like to see us bugger off home as soon as possible, I'm sure that's true. A stable, functioning, reasonably democratic Iraq that doesn't like the US would meet my criteria for success nicely.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Jan 30, 2005 6:13:34 PM


Posted by: frankly0

What strikes me most about the claims that the election turnout was higher than expected is the presumption that that assertion has any significance.

What's the baseline here against which we are measuring the current vote? If, for the first time in their lives, people have something resembling an open choice of electoral options, a very large chunk of the population chooses to stay home, is that good? If not so in isolation, does it become good because in certain areas there was a threat of violence, in spite of which people voted? Is it less good if a sizable number of people voted because there was a fatwah in effect by Shiite clerics demanding that they vote? Is it still less good because, relatively, so few Sunnis chose to vote? Or, if more Sunnis voted than was expected, was it still good? Or were those expectations of their vote set deliberately low to begin with, so that anything above that low level would count as major success?

In short, the trumpeting of this vote as a major success seems to be nothing but the purest of spin. Given all the complex forces at play here, there could NO good reason to take any kind of baseline expectations as having any real significance, one way or the other.

Many people, including liberals, seem to feel that it's important to declare this event as a major strike for democracy, and demand loud kumbayahs from all gathered. At first, the number 72% was touted; then it was revised down to 60%. Now I read it might be only 55%. Are we still obliged to be as overwhelmed by 55% as we were by 72% -- especially if the 55% includes significant minorities such as the Sunnis, who must surely have had well less than 50% participation?

But the reality in any case is that true democracy happens mainly after elections, not during them. If violence from large numbers of frustrated Sunnis continues apace, and I certainly can see nothing here that would alter its course, democracy remains at best on the critical list in Iraq.

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 30, 2005 7:17:04 PM


Posted by: john t

Ahh,why don't we wait until the Iraqui's have a constitution before we complain about minority representation. Under Saddam and sunni rule ther wasn't even majority representation and now we're Millsian democrats,not that anybody is saying that things were better under Saddam. Maybe more Sunni's would[and possibly did] vote if there were fewer death threats. Voting is not wasted in a country emerging from the shadow of Saddam and holding it's first election in 50 yrs. There is a war going on and I can't help but wonder what the turnout would be in this country under similar circumstances,then again they did do better in Washington state where 350 dead people voted. Hell,the best Jesus could do was get lazarus out of his bed.

Posted by: john t | Jan 30, 2005 8:10:16 PM


Posted by: DBCooper

In spite of Frankly0’s acute pessimism, I believe that even a 55% turnout is a huge success, considering that the U.S. routinely produces lower turnouts without the threat of imminent death and violence against those voting.

Many sectors of our society are underrepresented in the final vote. Turnout among Hispanics in the 2000 election was a paltry 27.5%. Does that invalidate our election process?

The constant negativity of many on the left wears me out. Every success is a pyrrhic victory. Every potential problem is blown into Y2K hyperbolic proportions. Every global warming produced cloud carries sulfuric acid lining.

What would those on the Left have done that would have so assuredly produced an outcome that was devoid of any potential difficulties? The answer involves Saddam still being in power.

Posted by: DBCooper | Jan 30, 2005 8:41:06 PM


Posted by: Tom

Frankly0 says, "In short, the trumpeting of this vote as a major success seems to be nothing but the purest of spin. Given all the complex forces at play here, there could NO good reason to take any kind of baseline expectations as having any real significance, one way or the other.

Many people, including liberals, seem to feel that it's important to declare this event as a major strike for democracy, and demand loud kumbayahs from all gathered. At first, the number 72% was touted; then it was revised down to 60%. Now I read it might be only 55%. Are we still obliged to be as overwhelmed by 55% as we were by 72% -- especially if the 55% includes significant minorities such as the Sunnis, who must surely have had well less than 50% participation?

But the reality in any case is that true democracy happens mainly after elections, not during them. If violence from large numbers of frustrated Sunnis continues apace, and I certainly can see nothing here that would alter its course, democracy remains at best on the critical list in Iraq. "

Well Frank - the only thing I can say is that there are those who do, and the rest do nothing but bitch. If this step were not at least taken, we wouldn't know if democracy and freedom have a chance in Iraq now, would we?

My God, in the last three and a half years we've liberated 50 million people from tyranny in two countries and they have each had their first free elections in generations. Was it difficult? Yes. Will it remain so? Yes. Was is worth the money and 1,400 American lives? We can debate that.

If a Democrat had been President and driven these changes on his watch, would I be applauding him and praising his policy of freedom? Absolutely. I might even vote for him next time around.

I just don't understand the pessimism and negativity from the left on such an historic occasion. It's like watching the Berlin Wall falling and instantly saying there will be problems with West Germany integrating the East.

Posted by: Tom | Jan 30, 2005 9:04:56 PM


Posted by: frankly0

DBCooper, you think that I'm being only pessimistic. How about realistic?

It's very easy to hype "higher than expected" turnout in a context in which the expectations could be set just about anywhere you want without most people being the wiser. How hard is it for the authorities, who have an interest in touting a triumphant success, to set them very low, so that it's easy to achieve that success?

The deeper dynamic here in any case is NOT how well the presumptive winners turn out, but how well the presumptive losers do. Earth to Bush supporters: the strength of a democracy is to be found in the respect, voice, and protection given to minorities, NOT what goodies the majority segments of the population can wrest from others, and how much they can deny minorities a role.

It's clear that most Bush supporters no more understand how that principle applies in Iraq than they do in the US.

If the big turnout is at the expense of Sunni minorities, then that is a very bad thing for democracy in Iraq. Is this really hard to grasp?

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 30, 2005 9:12:20 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

Earth to Bush supporters: the strength of a democracy is to be found in the respect, voice, and protection given to minorities, NOT what goodies the majority segments of the population can wrest from others, and how much they can deny minorities a role.

So says the minority, anyhow.

Posted by: S. Weasel | Jan 30, 2005 9:17:33 PM


Posted by: bakho

DB- Bush has been trying to game Iraq since the war, trying to install his own in power. First it was to be Chalabi, but he turned out to be untrustworthy. Then Bremer was going to run things. But Iraq started falling apart, so Bush set up a group of Iraqis to carry his water. But the Shia and Sistani would have no part of it. They demanded elections. Bush refused. The Shia came out into the streets and Bush relented. But Bush would not give them elections in May. Instead he postponed Iraq elections until after his own reelection campaign and then would not allow one person one vote, but this crazy system where people vote for "parties" but the candidates remain anonymous. It would be like voting Republican but not knowing whether it was John McCain or David Duke on the ticket, or voting Democrat not knowing whether it was Sam Nunn or Ted Kennedy. WTF.

The best that can happen is the US will declare victory and bring our boys home, or the Iraqis will claim democracy and inform Mr Bush that the Americans are no longer needed and must bring our boys home. At this point, anything that can get our boys out of the Iraq quagmire is worthwhile, even if it is flawed elections.

It's not that every success is a "pyrrhic victory". It is that an over-optimistic administration keeps proclaiming victory with every step deeper into the quagmire. This administration is at odds with reality. Willingness to confront a problem and talk about it is realism, not negativity. Pollyanna proclamations are ultimately negative because they prevent the problem from being addressed.

Posted by: bakho | Jan 30, 2005 9:19:32 PM


Posted by: Will

Here here Stephen!

Frankly0:

"the strength of a democracy is to be found in the respect, voice, and protection given to minorities...
It's clear that most Bush supporters no more understand how that principle applies in Iraq than they do in the US."

You're not exactly into intellectual arguments here, are you?

Frankly(the)0?:

"If the big turnout is at the expense of Sunni minorities, then that is a very bad thing for democracy in Iraq. Is this really hard to grasp?"

If all of the Irish decided not to vote in the next presidential election, I don't see how that would illigitimize our democracy ... the relevant point is that the Sunnis had the same oportunity to vote (minus the death threats from the terrorists) as any other Iraqis. If they wilfully chose not to vote out of protest or whatever, then too bad for them.

Posted by: Will | Jan 30, 2005 9:33:21 PM


Posted by: WhoEverClaimed

...that this so-called "election" would be anything other than 100% illegitimate?

"Hooray, hooray, something finally went right over there." BS--the only democracy happening over there is either scripted spook theatre or genuine freedom-fighting patriotism. Those few living within the "Green Zones" (i.e. the areas patrolled by the Red Coats) who played a part in the vote-farce are likely the ones who surmised which "victor" was chosen ahead of time & cast their conspicuous ballots-as-resumes because they want cushy positions in the totalitarian government that is about to take over.

On the other hand, maybe Jefferson, et al would have been honoured if the British had "stayed the course" in the colonies to "maintain the peace" while Americans surrendered their arms to hold their first national elections. I'd wager that Benedict Arnold would have been "elected" as the first president.

Seriously, are Americans that desperate to believe in this ridiculous Iraq dog-and-pony show? Are Americans that desperate to sublimate memories of their own recent illegitimate elections? "Step in the right direction" my ass.

"Turnout among Hispanics in the 2000 election was a paltry 27.5%." Please overcome such ignorance before you spread damage to others. Were Hispanics kept from the polling stations, or did they just choose to not vote? How about this hypothetical newsflash from future America: "Rejoice, for today 55% of white voters turned out to vote in an election for which most non-whites could not access a polling station." Will you be cheering then? Oh, wait, I should be asking: were you cheering after Nov. 2? How about those provisional, absentee and otherwise uncounted ballots--forgotten already? How convenient. I said it after Nov. 2 and I'll say it again now: For shame, America. The only saving grace is that Kerry is not president--but a buddy of his still is and he's just as dangerous.

The two parties are one, and all the "This2That" rhetoric in the world will no longer suffice to resuscitate your Republic.

Posted by: WhoEverClaimed | Jan 30, 2005 9:38:31 PM


Posted by: frankly0

I just don't understand the pessimism and negativity from the left on such an historic occasion.

This is what we were told on the day Bush announced we were going to invade Iraq. And on the day Saddam's statue was toppled. And on the day Saddam's sons were killed. And on the day Saddam was captured.

And now on the day of the election we knew was going to happen for months, with a turnout that we have no sensible reason to think is remarkable.

Why is it that Bush supporters can't stop themselves from getting all overklempt on these occasions, and insisting that everybody else must too, when, for rational people, the possibility that things will turn out well ultimately, obviously the thing we truly should be caring about, is no better than it ever was?

Do Bush supporters have no control over their emotional sphincters?

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 30, 2005 10:31:39 PM


Posted by: john t

tom you hit a grand slam. It needs to be pointed out re. minorities that majorities have rights too and as I posted earlier they were the people kept underfoot. By the way are the Kurds are a minority? It is also a fact that minorities have been excluded before, Such as white afrikaners,naturally they deserved it but even so.

Posted by: john t | Jan 30, 2005 10:41:10 PM


Posted by: DBCooper

Ahhh, I think I see the light now. The first wobbly and imperfect steps towards a some semblance of a democratic government that would replace years of minority Sunni militant domination over the Shiite’s and 30 years of tyrannical dictatorship of a megalomaniac, is a bad thing.

Everyone here, I am sure, can recall the trouble-free, uncomplicated and bloodless methodologies by which all the existing democracies came into existence, right?

I stand by my earlier assertion. Y2K hyperbole seems to be an ingrained feature of many on the Left nowadays. But if you disagree, I suggest you read WhoEverClaimed’s post above, which makes the Al-Jazeera’s article referenced by Don Herzog seem like GW Bush himself wrote it.

I applaud those who can see and appreciate a good (i.e. not perfect) thing even through the not-so-diaphanous curtain of their prevailing ideologies.

Posted by: DBCooper | Jan 30, 2005 10:52:13 PM


Posted by: David Andersen

"If these reports hold up, this is very good news from a country that has had significantly more than its share of bad (for which we bear great responsibility)."

Of course, let's not forget to point THAT out. Does anyone else share any notable blame in your taxonomy, or is the US the only one worth mentioning? It's like a cancer on the left. You can't POSSIBLY make a positive statement without a wartish 'BUT' tacked on at the end. To the bitter end.

"...when, for rational people, the possibility that things will turn out well ultimately, obviously the thing we truly should be caring about, is no better than it ever was?"

Yes, to the bitter end.

Posted by: David Andersen | Jan 30, 2005 10:59:20 PM


Posted by: David Andersen

"Earth to Bush supporters: the strength of a democracy is to be found in the respect, voice, and protection given to minorities, NOT what goodies the majority segments of the population can wrest from others, and how much they can deny minorities a role."

So for which party exactly do you vote because I'm not aware of the Democrats taking these words to heart anymore than the Republicans.

Posted by: David Andersen | Jan 30, 2005 11:06:00 PM


Posted by: Paul Shields

frankly0:

If you cannot detect that there is a strain of self-loathing in the left's refusal to admit that anything ever goes well in Iraq, then I suspect that you will be losing elections for a long time to come.

Posted by: Paul Shields | Jan 30, 2005 11:14:19 PM


Posted by: Tom

FrankO and Bakho:

A little perspective, please. Let's see, the President has led a coalition of partners which has

1. deposed a dictator
2. continued to fight off terrorist insurgents bent on destroying any democratic advances of Iraqi society
3. turned over power from the Coalition to an Iraqi P.M.
4. held the first democratic elections in 50 years on schedule

In the lefts' mind we have 'bungled' our way to this point for these 'sham' elections with a turnout that is not 'remarkable' and we're left with a situation that is 'no better than it ever was.'

Forgive me for not buying into your pessimism. If we 'bungle' our way through a 2005 which results in an Iraqi Constitution, two more rounds of elections, and standing up an army in Iraq which is capable of destroying the remnants of the terrorists and not Iraqi society - will you finally believe that today (and the last two years) had meaning?

What I describe to you will be the ultimate result because it must be. The United States (and Tony Blair's Britain) will not allow this march to freedom by the Iraqis to be short circuited. The will is there, although maybe not yours, and we've learned from the past mistakes of abandoning those who seek freedom.

Posted by: Tom | Jan 31, 2005 12:00:46 AM


Posted by: CDC

"If these reports hold up,..."

Take heart. With Teddy Kennedy's and the NYT's support the Baathists and al Qaeda may still be able to pull off a come from behind victory.

"... this is very good news from a country that has had significantly more than its share of bad (for which we bear great responsibility)."

How is that? We liberated those people from a horrible dictator. That is bad?

"Whatever happens, Iraqis who are participating deserve enormous admiration and respect."

So do the Americans who have shown great courage and determination in the face of petty carping by domestic critics and very real violence committed by determined enemies.

Thanks GWB and US Military!

Posted by: CDC | Jan 31, 2005 12:06:37 AM


Posted by: CDC

Tom: Mr. Bush is bungling his way to a remarkable string of victories. As Lincoln said about Grant, "Find out what he is drinking and send him a case."

Posted by: CDC | Jan 31, 2005 12:09:51 AM


Posted by: frankly0

If you cannot detect that there is a strain of self-loathing in the left's refusal to admit that anything ever goes well in Iraq, then I suspect that you will be losing elections for a long time to come.

Was there self loathing when critics pointed out that starting a war against Iraq, which surely we would win, was not the same as winning the peace? Or when critics noted that toppling Saddam's statue, or killing Saddam's sons, or capturing Saddam himself, should all be taken with a huge grain of salt, because the true goal of lasting peace and democracy in Iraq was still very far away? Why should a rational person celebrate events that have no apparent significance? Just because Bush supporters can't control their mindless enthusiasms, why are we, who have been nothing but right about the difficulties of introducing democracy into Iraq, "self loathing", simply because we don't lose our self control every time something new hyped as the Big One (For Real!) takes place?

Here's my question for the overklempt out there: do you truly expect that the Sunni insurgents, having lost the election big time, are now going to walk away and sulk, or do you think they're going to keep up the bad work? If they're going to keep doing their evil thing, how is it exactly that peace and democracy are going to come to Iraq?

Or would thinking about actual reality here just put a big whopping damper on your mood?

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 31, 2005 12:51:28 AM


Posted by: LPFabulous

Was there self loathing when critics pointed out that starting a war against Iraq, which surely we would win, was not the same as winning the peace? Or when critics noted that toppling Saddam's statue, or killing Saddam's sons, or capturing Saddam himself, should all be taken with a huge grain of salt, because the true goal of lasting peace and democracy in Iraq was still very far away?

If your real concern is lasting peace and democracy in Iraq, then you should be the one cheering wildly every time another step toward that goal is taken. That your only recourse at this point is petulant grousing and self-righteous condescension reveals that your concern is not now - nor has it ever been - peace and democracy in Iraq. You and those like you have, for several years and counting, bemoaned any advance in the lives of brown-skinned folk everywhere. Maybe it's just simple-minded hatred of George Bush, or maybe it's racism or paternalism. However you look at it, though, it's cold and nasty hatred.

And, all the while, the enemies of freedom are steadily being beaten back.

Posted by: LPFabulous | Jan 31, 2005 1:23:57 AM


Posted by: DBCooper

I promise to glumly ponder the infinite permutations of pessimistic potentialities and non-optimal outcomes in Iraq. I will convince my delusional self that absolutely nothing of consequence happened there yesterday. There is no reason to laud the Iraqi’s futile show of courage. The hapless dolts have no idea that they have just elected GW Bush as their newly appointed leader. They cannot conceive of what is best for them, or make a rational decision unless, of course, it happens to correspond with my staked out political position.

I will also refuse to show support and applaud my local sports team when it wins a game, knowing full well the possibility of them winning the championship is so fraught with potential mishaps, challenges, and uncertainties, that any individual success must be rendered meaningless.

Is there anything else I must do to complete my conversion to Liberalism?
Am I a realist now?

Posted by: DBCooper | Jan 31, 2005 1:47:51 AM


Posted by: frankly0

If your real concern is lasting peace and democracy in Iraq, then you should be the one cheering wildly every time another step toward that goal is taken.

You know, I'm really beginning to believe that the deep problem with Bush and the neocons and their many supporters in the US is precisely that, when it comes to thinking about foreign policy, they never put down their pompoms and don their thinking caps instead. Every little sign that something might possibly go right is plenty good enough for them, and a reason to go full steam ahead.

The State Department and the CIA say that going into Iraq may be opening up a Pandora's box? No matter! We're not going to listen to those self loathing pessimists! It feels SO damn good to see our soldiers marching into Baghdad, hoisting up the American flag for all to see, that we're just SURE that it's going to all work out in the end! Screw history and analysis -- Are we going to beat them? Yeah, man! Are we going to beat them? Yeah, man! So alright, so alright, so alright!!

Posted by: frankly0 | Jan 31, 2005 2:44:26 AM


Posted by: Yehudit

"Which Americans need to be reminded that the voting in Iraq is a good thing? Why do they need to be urged to think that way?"

If you checked back and read the rest of the posts, you would have an answer. I've been reading desparate negative spin from the left all day. When people are laughing and cryiong for joy and waving their ink-stained fingers and dancing in the street, it becomes harder to be a killjoy, but by God they manage it.

But the antiwar movement was never about the Iraqis, it was always a narcissistic adolescent drama about Bush. The Iraqis are just pawns to them.

Posted by: Yehudit | Jan 31, 2005 3:41:10 AM


Posted by: Yehudit

"do you truly expect that the Sunni insurgents, having lost the election big time, are now going to walk away and sulk, or do you think they're going to keep up the bad work?"

They are going to keep up the bad work, with a little less prestige and success every day. Today was a huge boost of confidence for the Iraqi psyche, not the least of which is the national solidarity reinforced. No Sunni, not Shia, not Kurd, but Iraqi - I heard a lot of that. I also heard lots of gratitude for the Iraqi police and armed forces which patrolled and manned the polling places.

"If they're going to keep doing their evil thing, how is it exactly that peace and democracy are going to come to Iraq?"

Their evil thing has significantly less power today than it did yesterday. They have fewer adherants, less prestige, less power. In a few years they will be as pathetic as those white supremist militia types in their hideaways in Idaho.

Democracy is a mindset that takes time to develop. No one ever said it would be a cakewalk - that's one of the lies of the antiwar movement.

Posted by: Yehudit | Jan 31, 2005 3:47:36 AM


Posted by: noah

I read the NYT article referenced in the initial post...true it did laud the Iraqis for voting...but only a left liberal would regard it as balanced. It does not appear to be labelled as an opinion piece but manages to trot out pretty much all the left wing arguements (implying that no thinking person who was paying attention could possibly disagree!) against Bush and the war along with a limp acknowledgement of Iraqi bravery.

Posted by: noah | Jan 31, 2005 8:10:24 AM


Posted by: CDC

"... you truly expect that the Sunni insurgents, having lost the election big time, are now going to walk away and sulk, or do you think they're going to keep up the bad work? "

To paraphrase Goldfinger: "No Mr Bond. I expect you to die."

Posted by: CDC | Jan 31, 2005 9:04:28 AM


Posted by: Tom Perkins

Yehudit wrote: "I've been reading desparate negative spin from the left all day."

If Iraq turns out okay, then when the Left was doing it's level best to be both strategically and ideologically correct, on the second most important front of the War On Terrorism (as good a shorthand as any at this point), then they were wrong on at least one score or both--and at best by accident (or horrifically for them, by purposeful design) the "monkey" President Bush was right.

Since Afghanistan is doing okay, that's already dropped off there mental radars...

Yours, TDP

Posted by: Tom Perkins | Jan 31, 2005 9:30:28 AM


Posted by: Tom Perkins

Yehudit wrote: "If they're going to keep doing their evil thing, how is it exactly that peace and democracy are going to come to Iraq?"

They used a Down's Syndrome child to carry one of their bombs in Baghdad yesterday. I do not think the majority Sunnis, let alone the general Iraqi population, are congratulating them on their creative bomb delivery concepts.

When you fight with these means, you are destroying yourself. Whether they must all die without learning that, it is still true.

And he also wrote: "In a few years they will be as pathetic as those white supremist militia types in their hideaways in Idaho."

FYI, only about 5% or fewer of the militia members I know meet that stereotype in any respect. I'm not saying it isn't a useful stereotype, just that you shouldn't count on it being true...if it ever counts.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp

Posted by: Tom Perkins | Jan 31, 2005 9:36:31 AM


Posted by: Ken

The problem with the right and with most of the mainstream media in regards to this election is that they never take any time to reflect on alternative possible futures nor to assign any probabilities to the alternatives. They never even discuss the questions that would strike any cautious, fair-minded, slightly sceptical, disinterested observer.

Certainly, just about everybody on the right always stick to a simple narrative -- largely the Bush spin. And they think that anybody who raises questions about that narrative is somehow unpatriotic, weak-kneed, undermining our troops, etc. etc.

It was true from the beginning of this misadventure, when reaosnable and thoughtful people raised questions about whether Saddam was really a "threat" to the US, and about whether he wasn't contained and boxed in by sanctions and the renewed inspections, and about whether we'd really be greeted as liberators, and about whether we could really foster "democracy" by handing power over to a bunch of expat thugs (Chalabi and his gang) who hadn't been in the country for 50 years.

As one after another of the right's pieces of "wisdom" were refuted by the facts on the ground, another unquestionable dogma would simply rise up to take its place and once again anybody who questioned it was unpatriotic, weak-kneed, or blinded by hatred for Bush.

I fear, but don't yet believe and certainly don't know, that the same pattern may be repeated with this election. I would think that at this moment it is very much an open question whether the election is a step toward the "dissolution" -- probably violent and very very bloody -- of a "unitary" Iraq because the Shia's will write a constitution that neither the Kurds nor the Sunni's will accept or a step toward the unification of Iraq and a reconciliation of its greatly divided and demoralized people.

I think anybody who claims to know the answer to that question is as in touch with reality as Bush and Condi and Cheny and Rumsfield were in the run-up to the war. Of course, our policies can have a role in shaping the outcoming. But if we don't debate the policy choices in a reasoned way, examining all possible scenarios, then we're just shooiting in the dark and only dumb luck will enable us to settle on policies that will lead to better rather than worse outcomes.

Posted by: Ken | Jan 31, 2005 10:13:50 AM


Posted by: Terrier

OK, they had the vote. Yay! When are we leaving?

Posted by: Terrier | Jan 31, 2005 10:23:04 AM


Posted by: noah

Forget it guys, the liberals will never acknowledge Bush got it right no matter what happens.

Posted by: noah | Jan 31, 2005 10:41:50 AM


Posted by: Henry Woodbury

Here's an alternate scenario for you: "Citing the success of leaders such as Fidel Castro, Josip Tito, Ferdinand Marcos and Reza Palevi in providing security for their subjects, Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi today cancelled elections and renamed himself Ataturk Allawi."

Hard analysis doesn't preclude celebrating successes. Especially when a lot of what passes for hard analysis is a litany of could haves and should haves.

Maybe this election day should have, could have been so much even lovelier and maybe it won't mean a thing down the road, but no one knows either way. How about just paying attention to the events of the day, for a day? The inked fingers. The lines at polling stations. The turnout in Mosul and the refugee camps outside Falluja.

"Asked how the day had gone, [election official]Mr. [Abdul Sahib al-]Battat said in Arabic: 'Bekhair. Gebeer. Bekhair. Shamel.' Roughly translated: 'Excellent. Big. Excellent. All of it.'"

Posted by: Henry Woodbury | Jan 31, 2005 10:53:08 AM


Posted by: bakho

What I note from many of the posters is a condescending attitude toward Iraqis. Iraqis know how to govern themselves. They have been doing it ten times longer than the US. What Iraqis want most is basic services like water and electricity and basic security as in being able to walk out the door without being shot, blown up or kidnapped. The US has failed to deliver on this after 2 years and $200 billion dollars. This is gross mismanagement. We could have bought the Iraqi army for far less than $200 billion and have them working for us instead of fighting us. Elections establishing a top down government are not a bad thing, but it overlooks that all politics is local. No country can be governed from the top down without support and legitimacy at the local level.

The Iraq missteps are right in line with the blindness of most MBAs who only understand a top down CEO corporate power structure and have little appreciation for a bottom up approach. The Iraq strategy was decapitation and a failed attempt to replace Saddam with a head of the US own choosing, followed by Allawi, a head who meets US approval. This is exactly what MBAs do. They fire the division head and replace them with their own. This works OK for companies because most people want a paycheck. In Iraq, not ony did Bush fire Saddam, he stopped cutting paychecks for the employees. Bush crippled the top down structure to the point of dysfunction. Lacking the necessary manpower to replace the missing power structure, Bush let the country devolve into chaos, instead of trying to reorganize from the ground up. Like besieged management during a strike, Bush tried to run Iraq with a clueless skeleton crew. Instead of relying on the people and their abiltiy to self organize in smaller groups, Bush tried to deprive them of all power, even having the US military attacking people trying to defend their own neighborhoods from criminals.

Fortunately, the US has not attacked the Kurd ground up power base, however, the US mistakenly attacked players such as Muqtada al Sadr who has his own base of supporters. A neighborhood approach with neighborhoods coming together to supply their own security, networking with nearby neighborhoods could have done better at securing Iraq than the heavy handed top down approach of using American soldiers as policemen. It would still work better than the top down approach the US is using.

There is no reason the election yesterday could not have taken place 15 months ago, before the insurgency swelled, other than Bush wanted to game the outcome of Iraq rather than leaving it to the Iraqis to decide. Bush will try to game the Iraqi government to his liking going forward. This will delay settling the political situation in Iraq. The recent election was only to form a committee to write a constitution. Real elections are still a year off. Bush may eventually succeed, but at the cost of thousands of US soldiers and half a trillion dollars. The costs are entirely the responsibility of Mr Bush. The price is much to steep for me. Maybe others think the cost is worth it?

Posted by: bakho | Jan 31, 2005 10:57:01 AM


Posted by: Paul Deignan

When I wrote the Kerry campaign at the point when they were down in the polls (before the debates) and just before they formulated their four points on Iraq, I made the point that "Democrats should be for democracy". Fortunately or unfortunately, this point was never picked up.

It should cause some pause.

Posted by: Paul Deignan | Jan 31, 2005 10:57:17 AM


Posted by: Tom

Ken says, "But if we don't debate the policy choices in a reasoned way, examining all possible scenarios, then we're just shooiting in the dark and only dumb luck will enable us to settle on policies that will lead to better rather than worse outcomes."

But Ken, the left is not debating policy choices. Rather they are constantly throwing cold water on the actual successes that occur.

Lay out the choices then so they can be debated. So far all I've seen is Sen. Kennedy arguing for immediate withdrawl of American troops. Is that the other alternative to the current strategy? If so, let's get on with the debate. It's one I'm happy to engage in. If there's soomething else out there that you're suggesting the left is advancing as a policy prescription for Iraq - let's hear it.

Posted by: Tom | Jan 31, 2005 11:01:32 AM


Posted by: Tom

Bakho, while I find most of your post above pretty ridiculous - there is one thing I agree with you on.

We probably could have had elections in Iraq much sooner and would have been better off had we advanced them as much as possible. In fact I'd go so far as to say that we should have had someone like P.M. Allawi ready to step in as soon as Saddam was toppled to give an Iraqi face to the interim government as soon as possible. Bremer should have been in the background, not the foreground.

But you live and learn. It's not like America is an imperialistic power with lots of experience in taking over other countries and running them as a colonial power would. Typically we liberate, rebuild, then get the hell out.

Posted by: Tom | Jan 31, 2005 11:09:19 AM


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