“The Choice Is Ours”
“The choice is ours,” is the loose translation in The Washington Post of a comment [“Mkhayareen mu msayareen“] made in Baghdad before Saturday’s vote. More than 15 million Iraqis will choose from 14,400 candidates on 400 lists for 440 seats on provincial councils.
“The choice is ours,” is the loose translation in The Washington Post of a comment [“Mkhayareen mu msayareen“] made in Baghdad before Saturday’s vote. More than 15 million Iraqis will choose from 14,400 candidates on 400 lists for 440 seats on provincial councils. The Post story interviews several people ready to take possession of their fractious country (at least in 14 of 18 provinces) and notes that “elections have now won an enthusiastic if grudging fealty, emerging as a true arena for contest in which nearly every sect, ethnicity and tribe in the country has staked its future.” Says one Baghdadi, “My sense and the sense of people I talk to is that if they don’t vote, then they’re responsible for a situation that stays bad.”
What more could small-d democrats ask?
The Post, one of the most important newspapers in the United States, has finally acknowledged that in the secure space the U.S.-led surge has produced, the Iraqi people have agreed that voting beats killing. The story even acknowledges what promoters of democracy have always known, that in an open political system, alliances will change and coalitions will emerge. A Sunni politician said, “Everyone knows the political map will change, definitely. Everyone is waiting to see the results to rearrange their papers and to set up their alliances for the next elections.”
It’s a good thing didn’t listen when Harry Reid said the war was lost. Or when then-candidate, now-President Obama said the surge had failed. Even now, The Post hedges – “In some ways, (elections) have revealed a landscape perhaps more precarious than the one the United States inherited in 2003.”
Certainly there remains in Iraq sectarian problems and elections are not a panacea – in fact, three Sunni candidates were assassinated this week, which probably shows the fear of those unwilling to present themselves to the public for a vote. But even at that, it is hard to imagine how freely contested elections make a country more precarious than Saddam’s torture rooms, mass graves and the poison gas he used against the Kurds and the Shiite Marsh Arabs.
Dictators definitely present the advantage of a single address for all issues, but that is an advantage that accrues only to outsiders, not to the people who have to live under them. It is hard to imagine that Iraqis would trade their messy, fractious but free and competitive elections for a return to the terror of Saddam.
Slipping a look across Iraq’s border to Iran, where a clique rather than a single person runs the dictatorship, one wonders how the Iranian people understand the burgeoning freedom of their neighbor next door. Or whether people ruled by Bashar Assad, Hosni Mubarak, Moammar Qaddafi or the corrupt cadres of Hamas, Hezbollah or Fatah wonder what it would take to produce clean, open, multiparty elections in their prisons.
We are reminded of the question put to Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?” To which Dr. Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” The Iraqis will have to work hard to keep their new system, and they still need American support, but they have proven they can build a system to keep.