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October 31, 2004

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The more I see of reality, whether it's real or man-made, the less I like it.

Personally, I believe the elections, held hell or highwater, will calm things down somewhat in Iraq.

Absent a security infrastructure, I don't see elections having any impact. In fact, they could have a detrimental effect if elections are held and things stay as bad as they are or get worse; representative democracy might be seen as something that doesn't work.

Think Maslow.

quite revealing to me the point about Sadr. Remember when people were suggesting that Sadr was some sort of evil mastermind to all this, and just cutting off the head would kill the body? Welcome to the age of open source terrorism.

I'm also unsure about the effect of the elections. First, what might really be calming would be elections whose fairness and legitimacy were beyond question. But it seems clear that Iraq will not have those elections in January. In particular, the Sunni triangle seems likely to have lots of problems. (Even if everything goes swimmingly on election day itself, does it seem likely that the voter registration lists are being worked out in the current climate? or that a lot of campaigning is going on in Fallujah?) That means problems.

Second, there are some rather large issues that have temporarily receded but will, I think, come back once there's a government that looks as though it might create a permanent constitution. Specifically, the dispute between the Kurds and the Shi'a over their power in whatever final agreement people come to, and the protections for minorities. This was of course a big sticking point when the interim constitution was being worked out; it faded when the interim constitution was allowed to quietly lapse. It will return when people start trying to work out the final form of Iraq's government, which will be after the election. And I don't think it will be that easy to resolve.

Ugh.

I'm a lot cheerier about the elections in Iraq after the Afghan ones seemed to go with only a few minor hitches. Still incredibly bleak, of course, but relatively I'm cheerier.

The acid test will be how long the Afghan elections hold and, in particular, what will happen when Karzai is no longer in power.

Anarch and I are pretty much in agreement, especially on Karzai in Afghanistan.

I think for the most part the elections in Iraq will go smoothly, but I think a small minority is going to go very badly. There will be some coordinated attacks.

To me the real issue in both places is are we going to stay the course? Are we going to forget after a few years and go home?

"but once the targets of the insurgents can no longer be called occupiers or puppets of the occupation, the insurgency will have lost its major recruiting tool."
Erm, easier said than done, and I'm not sure that the USG has the will to stop this mindset.

"I'm a lot cheerier about the elections in Iraq after the Afghan ones seemed to go with only a few minor hitches."
Afganistan was somewhat more peaceful at the time of the elections than Iraq is now, one would think that this would be a critical difference.

To me the real issue in both places is are we going to stay the course? Are we going to forget after a few years and go home?

Of course we're going to stay the course, Blue. We are going to keep huge numbers of troops in these new sovereign, democratic countries, whether their leaders like it or not.

Karzai had support from a large part of the Afghanis. Allawi is a Quisling to all but a tiny minority of Iraqis.

"Allawi is a Quisling to all but a tiny minority of Iraqis."

And how exactly do you know this? Do you have access to special polling facilities in Iraq that the rest of us do not?

Abiola Lapite - And are you claiming that you have a special polling facility in Iraq that lets you know Iraqis don't think of the American puppet as a Quisling?

The afghan elections were an irrelevancy.

Karzai was supported by most of the warlords (the northern alliance if you prefer). The subjects of these various warlords were instructed to select Karzai. In return Karzai lets the warlords continue business as usual (i.e. heroin trade).

Karzai gets to be president as long as he doesn't try to govern but settles for photo ops. Unless the remainder of the Taleban manages to kill him.

It is difficult to see how allawi can manage such a feat in Iraq. It is impossible as long as he behaves like an american puppet.

The Iraqi election will be a disaster.

I was thinking of an iraqi poll this summer that rated him 16th of 17 iraqi leaders. He seems to have improved his ratings since then. A recent IRI poll gives him 47%, somehow I managed to miss that when I read about it a few days ago, and believed his ratings were still in the doldrums. I'm sorry.
However, Juan Cole asserts this poll is deeply flawed.

"quisling" may be too harsh a word to describe Allawi (though not harsh enough for more than a tiny minority of Iraqis). He has tried to distance himself from the occupation, even if they haven't let him have his way when push comes to shove. Nevertheless, it must have given hope to iraqis for an alternative for their country beside either a new giant Lebanon or a vassal blue-and-white-flagged Model Iraq(tm).
I propose Pétain as a more fitting historical analogy.

Speaking of Allawi, how is he polling nowadays? Do we have any information as to his popular support?

Sorry, my post was unclear (especially in light of the post immediately preceding it): do we have any reliable polling data on Allawi? Any reliable information as to his popular support?

"Abiola Lapite - And are you claiming that you have a special polling facility in Iraq that lets you know Iraqis don't think of the American puppet as a Quisling?"

You are evidently unfamiliar with the normal standards of evidence if you think I'm required to provide information to disprove an assertion you made. If you think that's how it works, I ask you to show me evidence that there aren't colorless green ideas sleeping furiously in Neptune's oceans.

The bottom line is that you don't have a stitch of evidence to back your bald assertion: you simply assume that everyone in Iraq must naturally subscribe to the same views you do, despite the very different conditions that obtain there. Going by footage of what one sees on TV can be terribly misleading: camera crews know that dramatic footage of angry crowds make for more interesting news, and it's hard to be honest with one's opinions if it means exposing oneself to threats by the local thugs looking on.

As a factual matter, neither this report nor this one seem to support your contention that Allawi is a "puppet" with no real backing amongst Iraqis; his support has certainly slipped from its earlier dizzy heights as the violence continues unchecked, but that is just what would be expected for a disappointing government under any normal political regime. Germany's Schroeder and France's Raffarin would be overjoyed to enjoy the percentage backing that Allawi has even now.

A quick comment I have to go soon. Even in the best of conditions (like in sweden, small and well-registered population, impartial pollsters, high transparency, no corruption, a wholly free press) you should beware of drawing certain conclusions from polls.
Ponder that in iraq people are murdered as collaborators for washing the clothes of government employees...
I'd say that any individual poll in Iraq is next to worthless.
Taken all together, maybe you can discern some general, unquantifiable trends. I'll pick two of the more important:

1) Allawi is more popular than the IGC, which was clearly on a quisling-level of approval.

2) re. US trops, very few Iraqis want them to leave immediately, but an overwhelming majority want them to leave as soon as possible.

My conclusion: Iraqis hope that allawi will negotiate an american withdrawal that will not result in chaos.

Abiola Lapite (04:48 AM, responding to a statement by victor falk): And how exactly do you know this? Do you have access to special polling facilities in Iraq that the rest of us do not?
Abiola Lapite (10:53 AM, responding to a statement by me): You are evidently unfamiliar with the normal standards of evidence if you think I'm required to provide information to disprove an assertion you made.

You are obviously unfamiliar with the blogging style of argument. Victor made a statement: from your style of rhetoric at 04:48, I took that to be a contradictory statement. (If it was a genuine plea for information, couched in rather aggressive tones, I apologize.) I asked you on what data you were basing your contradictory statement - given that all information I've had out of Iraq suggests that Allawi is very, very unpopular and widely perceived (accurately) as Bush's puppet.

I note that victor falk has responded to your question at 09:38 AM.

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