Sunday :: Jan 30, 2005

Iraqi Vote Goes Well, And What It May Mean

by Steve

Polls have closed in Iraq this Sunday, and although it will be awhile before we know how many voted and which party won control in the new assembly, indications are that turnout has exceeded the downplayed expectations that Bush and his officials put forward at the end of last week. Some observers are already predicting that turnout hit 72%, which makes me wonder how it is possible in a war-torn country like Iraq it is possible to predict a turnout of 72% upon the closing of the polls?

Voting was heavier than expected in Baghdad, Fallujah, and Mosul, and there were reports of long lines in many places. Despite threats from insurgents, there does not appear to be widespread attacks throughout the country. Condi Rice was understandably upbeat at the news on the morning chat fests.

So, under the most charitable of scoring, let’s run down the scorecard for Bush so far:

Regime Change: Check; Saddam is gone, and our guy is interim PM.

WMDs: Nope.

Saddam-Al Qaeda Ties: Nope.

Iraq a Base for Terrorism: Yes, by our own actions now.

Liberate the Iraqi People: Yes, today is a good step in that direction. Can Iraq avoid civil war and build an environment to reject the insurgents after today? Let’s hope so.

Iraq as a Catalyst for Democracy Elsewhere in the Region: Not yet, since there are no signs of it emerging in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Afghanistan is fragile and in need of more help to keep the re-emerging Taliban at bay. But if the Iraqis can steer themselves to a new constitution and elected government at the end of this year, pressure will build for similar measures elsewhere. But we cannot bring those about at the end of a gun barrel, no matter what war drums are beaten by Dick Cheney.

Access to Iraqi Oil: Probably, if you can get it. But I also think that our friend Allawi will have a few surprises for Bush up his sleeve once he is safely past the elections.

Military Bases in Iraq: Again, probably but I noted that even the Kurds want us to leave Iraq so again there may be some surprises in store for the PNAC crowd.

If the news remains good from Iraq for the remainder of the next several days, this will be a victory for George W. Bush, and he should rightly take credit for it. I can disagree about whether we should be there in the first place, or whether the region would be just as secure with an isolated and contained Saddam and a stronger Afghanistan instead, but I know that our treasury would be in better shape, as would our ability to project power where it is really needed. The fact is that while we are embarked on an empire building campaign that the voters never sanctioned, we are tied down and overextended militarily overseas and broke here at home, unable to meet our own critical needs, while our strategic competitors are able to run free, unencumbered by imperial aspirations.

I am intrigued by how easily the election went and how high the turnout was. Right now, interestingly enough the man with all the cards and power is Allawi and those in charge of the Sunnis (whose insurgents despite all the threats didn’t turn the country into a free-fire zone), and Sistani, who got his people and the Shiites out to the polls in very high numbers. It was a given that the Kurds were going to vote in high numbers and move ahead to form their own regional government, to the dismay of the Turks. But the lack of widespread and debilitating violence actually makes Allawi and the local leaders that much stronger, able to demonstrate even more independence from Washington than perhaps Bush and Cheney wanted. We may see a renewed call for our troops to begin leaving, but it won’t only be coming from the Democrats. With the country safely past a milestone that went better than perhaps even Washington thought possible, let’s see in the coming days how loudly the Iraqis themselves request that we leave their country. If you were going to design a scenario aimed at getting us out of the country sooner than the PNAC guys had wanted or planned, it would be exactly the scenario that Allawi and the rest of the locals find themselves in now.

Curious, despite all of the dire predictions, how this turned out, isn’t it?

Steve :: 9:21 AM :: Comments (41) :: Digg It!