The Vote Must Go On!

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Along with boosting troops over there, President Bush is sticking firm to the January 30 polling plan in Iraq:

"It's time for Iraqi citizens to go to the polls," Mr Bush told reporters in the Oval Office today.

Whole story here.

The election timetable gained the support of the Sunni Iraqi President Ghazer al-Yawer, too. That story here.

NEXT: What Should the "Journalist's Privilege" Be?

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  1. Bush doesn’t want to flip-flop about flip-flopping.

  2. I thought the US transferred sovereignty to the Iraqis five months ago?

  3. He’s going forward with the formalities of an election…

    despite knowing that it will not be representative and will not have legitimacy among the populace…

    because of his idealistic commitment to the expansion of democratic governance.

    You ever see one of those old newspaper photos from Urban Renewal days, when six white guys in ties are sitting in a sea of folding chairs, all holding their hands up, and it’s reported as “the public voicing their support” for the levelling of a neighborhood? That’s what’s going on here – a sham with the appearance of just enough legitimacy to allow the people who’ve already decided what they’re going to do to pretend they’ve followed a democratic process.

  4. a,

    Thank you. I made the same exact point before the “transfer” yet forgot all about it until you just reminded me!

  5. Yes Joe, it’s exactly like that, except for the fact that it’s nothing like that at all.

  6. Declaring victory and getting out is about all we can do at this point. If Kerry was elected he’d be doing it too. Elections are part of that. So if gets us out quicker so another 1000 amuricans don’t have to croak, good enough.

    Ayatollahs are going to wind up running the place anyway so might as well get it over with.

  7. “Yes Joe, it’s exactly like that, except for the fact that it’s nothing like that at all.”

    Oh, well, now I see the error of my ways. Oh, no wait, I don’t. Do you think you could attribute a Bush/chimp comparison to me? That would really help straighten out my logic.

  8. Brian,

    I think, at this point, we have some responsibility to try to establish a modicum of liberalism, security, and respect for rights. Holding a national presidential election in Iraq that only cements majoritarianism, absent vertical and horizontal checks and balances, won’t do that. The security situation only makes it worse.

    We should be implementing procedures to secure democratic local governance at the village/town/neighborhood/city level – the levels at which Iraqi citizens actually have their polities organized. Each municipality would then be responsible for its internal security, and for working with its neighbors to create larger, federal governments. Eventually, these federations can merge into one, two, or three national governments that can take over the border security and other national-level activities currently under US control.

    If you make a mess, you have to clean it up.

  9. Sounds nice but I’m skeptical about our ability to pull of something like that at this late hour. I think there will be stability in Iraq again but it won’t be our doing: we don’t have the manpower and Bush apparently doesn’t want to spend much more political capital on this. But the ayatollahs or Saddam part deux or some sort of de facto breakup of Iraq into three parts might solve that problem but there’s going to be a lot of violence until that happens and might as well get out of the way. Perhaps I’m being a tad pessimistic.

  10. if I was unclear “solve that problem” means “solve the stability problem”

  11. You guys won’t be happy until America is defeated.

    What’s up with that? Do you really hate freedom that much? Why are you reading Reason in the first
    place? Trolling for a fight? I don’t get it, this should be good news. Why isn’t it? Flame away now, I’ll just get back to work.

  12. America is defeated?

    What does that even mean? It’s hard for me to even imagine al-Qaeda “defeating” the US. The idea seems absurd. OTOH, leaving Iraq in a such a way that there is considerably less possibility of support for al-Qaeda from within its borders than there was under Saddam for the foreseeable future is a break-even proposition at best. And my opinion about that prospect will likely have zilch effect on it.

  13. Uh huh, WE’RE the trolls. Got it.

    “Sounds nice but I’m skeptical about our ability to pull of something like that at this late hour. I think there will be stability in Iraq again but it won’t be our doing: we don’t have the manpower and Bush apparently doesn’t want to spend much more political capital on this.”

    The scenario I outlined above has a couple of virtues. It recognizes and works with the existing “natural” political order in Iraq (to the extent that such a thing exists, it exists at the local level). Also, it harnesses the primary motivating factor of the insurgents – a desire to keep the bastard outsiders (however defined) from coming into “our” city and messing things up. Hence, it wouldn’t require as much American manpower, as Iraqis themselves will be taking over jobs being done by Americans, and it would

    “But the ayatollahs or Saddam part deux or some sort of de facto breakup of Iraq into three parts might solve that problem but there’s going to be a lot of violence until that happens and might as well get out of the way.” The Kurds and Shiites would be thrilled to be away from Sunni/Baghdad domination. It’s really just the Sunni minority that could be expected to fight the breakup, and I’d rather we fight a fifth of Iraq than the whole thing.

    “Perhaps I’m being a tad pessimistic.” Perhaps I’m a tad optimistic. I want to believe that we can do better than “Oops, see ya.”

  14. From what I’ve read, joe, urban renewal had popular support when it was, well, popular. Some of the poor even bought into the idea that their crappy tenement would be replaced by something better. Those “white guys in ties” were your predecessors, the people who came up with renewal in the first place.

    On topic: Why isn’t a partially accepted somewhat democratic election a reasonable first step? We’ll at least know who the Kurds want to represent them at the bargaining table. As long as the first somewhat-elected governement doesn’t assume too much power, we can look forward to better elections in the future.

  15. I think it will be a long, long time before Iraq is as politically stable as, say, Italy. But I think it is better to stick to the Jan. 30 date for elections than to announce, “No, the Iraqis are not ready for free elections yet; we need more security; the elections must be postponed.” That would only fuel suspicions — in the U.S., in Iraq and around the globe — that the AmeriCaliphs actually plan on never loosening their grip and never leaving the Iraqis to determine their own fate.

  16. Dynamist, urban renewal had a lot of support on the conceptual level. Often, there was broad support on the project level, as well. But there was almost always widespread opposition to clearance activities as well – hence, the “democratic” decision making process made sure to exclude genuine public participation.

    “Those “white guys in ties” were your predecessors, the people who came up with renewal in the first place.” Actually, my predecessors were the ones calling for the phony vote, out of the view of the camera. The white guys in ties were rationalist capitalist businessmen, pushing for the elimination of inefficiency, with some help from the government, out of a mix of philosophical commitment and self interest.

    The difference being, urban planners, unlike capitalists, have dramatically altered their views since those days.

  17. On topic: Why isn’t a partially accepted somewhat democratic election a reasonable first step?

    Because joe defines “reasonable” as “produced by the Democratic Party”. 🙂

  18. Joe’s (and other liberals’) sudden, baffling rejection of progressive Wilsonian FP principles aside:

    One wonders why the lead Sunni al-Yawer has signed on to this, since:
    a) The Sunni have been in de facto control for 30 years.
    b) The Shia will control any federal assembly.
    c) The holding of grudges is an art form in that culture.

  19. “Why isn’t a partially accepted somewhat democratic election a reasonable first step?”

    Why didn’t the first English settlers in America just stay in England and try to elect a better king?

    “We’ll at least know who the Kurds want to represent them at the bargaining table.” We already know who the Kurds want to elect; they’re running Kurdistan, being fairly good on civil liberties, and holding democratic elections. Why would we want to take that away from them?

    “As long as the first somewhat-elected governement doesn’t assume too much power, we can look forward to better elections in the future.” Oh, is THAT all? If I was confident that the first somewhat-elected government wasn’t going to seize too much power, I’d be a lot less opposed to this sham.

    A certainty that the tyrant who will be installed every four years won’t be YOUR tyrant is not a first step to democratization. It’s the first step to the delegitimization of democracy.

  20. ‘I think it is better to stick to the Jan. 30 date for elections than to announce, “No, the Iraqis are not ready for free elections yet; we need more security; the elections must be postponed.”‘

    So hold elections, but elections that mean something – local elections, to create local governments that will have real power, and willl give people a real voice in the government. Why is this inferior to holding sham election to elect distant government that 1) much of the country will hate and 2) won’t actually have any real power?

    snake, I’m big on progressive, Wilsonian principles – thanks for demonstrating what I meant about the phoney use of that language by war supporters in my comment on the “realist” thread about Mr. Young’s column. I just don’t like seeing them cynically exploited for self-serving ends. Maybe resenting the tainting of your ideals by people who despise them is a liberal thing.

    “One wonders why the lead Sunni al-Yawer has signed on to this”

    One only wonders about that question if one doesn’t see toadying to the Americans as the surest way to power in Iraq.

  21. despite knowing that it will not be representative

    Why not? Who is not being allowed to vote who should vote?

    and will not have legitimacy among the populace…

    And you know this how? This is pretty sweeping – the whole populace will reject its legitimacy – wow.

  22. “Why didn’t the first English settlers in America just stay in England and try to elect a better king?”

    I can answer that one! Because kingship is heriditary and therefor the colonists could not elect a better king.

    I’m convinced, Joe, the republican and parliamentary forms of government really blow. I say we are submit to the rule of disinterested, intellectually and morally pure, technocrats who will tell us what is best because we really are just a bunch of boobs.

  23. My point is not incongruent with Young’s article, your blather aside. Bush’s FP since 9/11 has definite links to 20th c. liberal internationalism. Your boy Beinart is all over this topic today.

    Your emotionally charged reference to “toadying” belies your unwillingness to even entertain that there is a significant possibility that Iraq will succeed. You’ll be reduced to inflating relatively minor problems with your usual alarmist elan, i.e., Moqtada Al-Sadr tells Al-Jazeera he’s pissed off and you say: “It’s a sham election!!!”

  24. “We should be implementing procedures to secure democratic local governance at the village/town/neighborhood/city level – the levels at which Iraqi citizens actually have their polities organized.”

    That sounds too sensible.

    I suspect my only difference with you on this is that I have less faith in democracy than you. However I think a better intelligence effort would have identified the kinds of non-Baathist functionaries* who would need to be promoted as “popular” leaders. The trick would then be to promote them without the appearance of having done so. Thus once a town was “secured” the kind of incremental plan I think you’re suggesting might work. However in too many cases we’ve put our money on the wrong horses.

    *By that I mean actual popular dissidents or respected officials who had joined the party solely for survival or advancemment (a display of self-interest should never be automatic grounds for rejection).

    However that time has past now and I think the best we can hope for is an election that has the greatest appearance of legitimacy to the greatest number of people. And the sooner the better.

    Oh, do I think shrub’ll flip-flop? uh, probably.

    Anyway since I’ve been screaming “don’t fucking invade Iraq, you’ll be sorry!” since about 1990 all I can say now is oh fuck it nobody listens to me anyway.

  25. Allow me to admit my ignorance (and once doing so, I may surf and learn): What are the Iraqis supposedly electing?

    I was under the impression that there would be a large body of representatives elected. The negatoids talk as if there is only one seat, All Powerful Dictator, at stake. The low-level elections, too, I took for granted. Maybe the equivalent offices of mayor have already been handed out by the CPA?

    joe, the people in your office must be much more enlightened than the wanks I deal with. My distaste for planners is more than theoretical.

  26. So joe, how are those Tories doing back in Massachusetts these days? Are they still calling for delayed elections?

  27. Can we spare everyone the coming civil war and chop the artificial entity of Iraq into 3 or more states? Give the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shi’a their own states, let each decide itself how it wants to govern itself, and if they so choose, to reconstitute as a single entity.

    Iraq is an arbitrary entity formed 90 years ago, and has no particular legitimacy other than the imperial victors of WWI decreed it to be. Now WE are the imperial victors, so our decree is as valid as the previous one, no? Let the various factions learn how to play nice with themselves without the fear of being overwhelmed by “others”.

  28. Break: Makes sense to me. There’s enough wealth in the ground to make everyone rich, even if the smallest group got less than 1/3. But it is supposed to be about something “greater” than money.

    I looked up the Iraqi election ballot. The way it is structured, the Kurds, being more civil, stand to come out far ahead. 275 Assembly seats are distributed by percentage of overall votes cast nationwide. The more votes successfully cast for your faction, the greater voice you have in drafting the Constitution.

    Then there’s the trouble of the losers not accepting the outcome…

  29. I’m generally supportive of Brian’s sentiments. Perhaps the greatest lark the Bush Administration has laid on the American people is the idea that there will be a Democracy in Iraq. It’s not as if the first time the Grand Ayatollah’s candidate loses, he’s going to go quietly sit in the legislature and become part of the loyal opposition.

    For all we know, Al-Sistani wants an election because he knows his candidates will win. If Al-Sistani thought his candidates would lose, for all we know, he might be our bitter foe. I don’t see any reason to think that his idea of democracy is that much different from Osama bin Laden’s: let’s have one election, the one where I win, and then we’ll never have another election again.

    I’ve seen contradictory signs about Al-Sistani’s attitude toward government; sometimes he seems more hands off than hands on, but that’s the problem. The government in the part of Iraq in which he has influence will only be as pluralistic as he wants it to be for as long as he wants it to be. That is to say, I don’t see any reason to expect the Shia portion of Iraq to be any more democratic than Iran.

    …and that’s just speaking of internal matters, I haven’t even started talking about relations between the three main groups. Countries of the world in which different cultures cohabitate among oil fields don’t have a very good record.

    P.S. What if the general population genuinely hates America? What if they vote for candidates who are supportive of the insurgents? In that case, is the soultion to continue the occupation until they just don’t hate us anymore?

    Also, as I commented the other day, how much longer can we expect Americans to tolerate the casualty rate? It was one thing when Americans thought its children were dying to protect us from WMD and Al Qaeda; it’s quite another for Americans to tolerate more than a hundred Americans a month dying for the freedom of people who, for all we know, hate us.

    “Give the Kurds, the Sunnis, and the Shi’a their own states, let each decide itself how it wants to govern itself, and if they so choose, to reconstitute as a single entity.”

    The Turks might not be as enthusiastic about us creating a Kurdish State on their border as you are, but, hey, when did we start caring about what other people think?

  30. Saddam ruled Iraq because — what other style gov’t could rule that kind of play ground?

    Breaking up Iraq makes too much sense. But Uncle Sam won’t because he can’t give up the pipe dream that New Iraq will like America. And besides the Turks and Iranians, and then the UN and Europeans, they wouldn’t like us for it. And I believe that does keep Bush up at night, all other things aside.

    I say we got two (semi)rational options (none are rational, because doing Iraq wasn’t rational to begin with).

    1) do the Roman thing — don’t ask “what will the war cost?”, but ask “how much are we going to make off all that oil?” After all, we didn’t invade Iraq just to benefit the people of Iraq.

    2) break up Iraq, however the inhabitants want themselves broken up — and hope that the three new Iraqs at least don’t turn around and fund Osama

    Or we could do 1) for a while, while edging towards 2).

    I expect we will do none of the above, and the New Iraq won’t like us either way.

    Pragmatically speaking, we either do this purely to benefit the Iraqis, or purely to benefit ourselves, or we seek some ad-mixture.

    But the century-old guiding philosophy of the decision makers prohibits any such pragmatic outcome.

  31. Breaking up Iraq makes too much sense. But Uncle Sam won’t because he can’t give up the pipe dream that New Iraq will like America

    Don’t you think the fact that most Iraqis are strongly opposed to the idea of breaking up the country might be a pretty good argument for not doing it? Iraqis tend to even be suspicious of federalism because it sounds too much like an attempt to split the country; they’re certainly not going to accept *actually* splitting the country.

  32. Dan — Iraqis are opposed to break up? That’s news to me, especially Re: Kurds. I thought they *wanted* their own country, which Iran and Turkey consider a threat?

  33. Iraq is the viper’s nest of problems that it was predicted to be. Anyone expect a rosy time in the short-term future is out of their mind.

    Call me snake,

    Actually, the (non-Kurdish*) Sunnis were in “control” when that area of the world was part of the Ottoman empire. Furthermore, the Hashemite king that the British put into power was a Sunni. empireSo its been a little more than thirty years.

    Wilsonian “progressivism” (along with other things) merely inflamed the irredentism of the Balkans. What exactly is “progressive” about that? When it comes to re-modelling societies I put more faith in the thoughts of Burke than those of Wilson.

    *Most of the Kurds are Sunni Muslims after all.

    Fabius Maximus,

    I can answer that one! Because kingship is heriditary and therefor the colonists could not elect a better king.

    Depends on the kingdom; not all kingdoms have hereditary monarchs in other words (see pre-partition Poland). Furthermore, England’s kings were never wholly easy on their thrones, which why so many have been replaced by violence (either from within the family, or outside it).

    Dan,

    Don’t you think the fact that most Iraqis are strongly opposed to the idea of breaking up the country might be a pretty good argument for not doing it?

    Actually, the Kurds would be more than happy to break it up (indeed, their current efforts to de-Arabize the southern portions of their region is illustrative of this desire); its the Sunnis and Shias that are opposed to such. The Sunnis (non-Kurdish Sunni) and Shias have their own rationale for not breaking up the country, but it has nothing to do with anything resembling goodfeelings for the other religio-ethnic groups in the country. Your ignorance of information concerning the basic ethnic politics of Iraq is surprising.

  34. Gary-

    The Shia motive for keeping the country united is obvious (they’re the majority, and they want to rule) but the Sunni Arab motive is less obvious to me. Is it that they would rather be outnumbered 60-20 by the Shia with another 20% at least having the same religion, as opposed to being outnumbered 75-25?

    Or do they believe that they can still find a way to rule despite being outnumbered? If so, then they must be counting on something other than democracy.

  35. thoreau,

    I think they want to re-establish themselves in their traditional role and assume that they can easily do so against the “barbaric,” “primitive” and “heretical” Shi’ites.

  36. Dan — Iraqis are opposed to break up? That’s news to me, especially Re: Kurds. I thought they *wanted* their own country, which Iran and Turkey consider a threat?

    The majority of Kurds want their own country, sure. But Kurds are a minority in Iraq. The Shia have no desire to split up Iraq, because they’ll be the majority of a unified Iraq anyway. And the Sunnis aren’t going to sign off on any reasonable plan to divide the country, because the oil is pretty much all in Kurdish and Shi’ite lands.

    Creating a Kurdistan would, in any event, be stupid. We’d have to spend decades preventing it from being invaded and conquered by Iran, Iraq, and/or Turkey. We’re already babysitting ONE ill-considered attempt at ethnic nation-building in the Middle East, and one is more than enough.

  37. Creating a Kurdistan would, in any event, be stupid. We’d have to spend decades preventing it from being invaded and conquered by Iran, Iraq, and/or Turkey. We’re already babysitting ONE ill-considered attempt at ethnic nation-building in the Middle East, and one is more than enough.

    Dan, we frequently disagree on foreign policy matters, but on this I have to agree with you 100%.

  38. snake, “Bush’s FP since 9/11 has definite links to 20th c. liberal internationalism.” Yes, it does. The administration has cynically adopted the language of Wilsonian, internationalist democracy. And used to dress up the public face of its imperialist great power pursuits. Think back to the National Security Strategy that they released – their stated philosophy is to dominate the world, and keep potential rivals from becoming strong enough to balance us. Does that sound like Wilsonian liberalism to you? How do a group of thinkers dedicated to global democratization end up deciding that France is a potential enemy?

    Beinert at the whole New Republic crew swallowed the hook, and its too late for them to save face now, so they’re dead ending the idea that Bush has pursued a liberal foreign policy. Suckers.

    Anyway, there is too much “we should do this, we should do that” in this thread. It isn’t our country to break up, defend, or modernize. It’s theirs. The only thing we should be holding out for a genuinely democratic process for deciding how the Iraqis will go forward. A division could work, maybe, if it’s THEIR division, not ours. So could a negotiated system of minority representation, it it’s THEIR system.

    Too much like Sykes/Picot, too little like the Continental Congress.

  39. Anyway, there is too much “we should do this, we should do that” in this thread. It isn’t our country to break up, defend, or modernize. It’s theirs. The only thing we should be holding out for a genuinely democratic process for deciding how the Iraqis will go forward. A division could work, maybe, if it’s THEIR division, not ours. So could a negotiated system of minority representation, it it’s THEIR system.

    I never thought I’d come across an Iraq-related thread where both joe and Dan would post something that I’d agree with 100%.

  40. I never thought I’d come across an Iraq-related thread where both joe and Dan would post something that I’d agree with 100%.

    H&R rules.

    Too much like Sykes/Picot, too little like the Continental Congress.

    I wonder if the players “THEY” see it more like S/P. It could be a veiled version of “arabs aren’t ready for democracy”, but the reports I see do put everything in terms of ethnic and religious factions. The Cont. Cong. didn’t argue so much about whether the Scots or the Quakers had too much influence. More about which gentry qualifies for office, who pays the debt and who gets to exploit the natural treasures of the west. Maybe if Iraqis were more materialistic the negotiations would be more effective.

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