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January 28, 2005

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(any chance you could make that quoted text bigger?)

Von: But he has also done some things right. This is one of them. And it deserves to be praised.

Given that (a) the elections could have been held this time last year, when Iraq was significantly quieter, and Bush chose to delay them for no good reason: and (b) the elections haven't happened yet, I think calling for Bush to be praised is jumping the gun.

If the elections had been held in January 2004, I'd agree that this was fundamentally a good thing however it turned out. Delaying them for a year was not a fundamentally good thing - it was fundamentally stupid and unprincipled, since it was apparently done because Bush & Co wanted to be able to install a temporary government stuffed with their loyalists.

It remains to be seen how the elections go. I hope they go peacefully: that everyone who wants to gets to vote: and that, whoever wins, the result is a more stable Iraq. (I have my doubts about all three: but I hope.)

Cleek --

Hmmm. I presume you're using Netscape, which does do funky things to the text. Let me see what I can do. (Another dastardly plot from evil genius Gates, I fear.)

no, the text is funky on IE as well...

As for the post, and Lileks, I think that anyone, of any stripe, including myself, would be absolutely ecstatic to see a news story on Jan. 31 which began "The election went as planned in 95 percent of the country, but...." The qualifier I am afraid of in that sentence is not "but." It is "until."

I see the same problem in IE -- it probably has something to do with this bit of HTML:

<span style="font-size: 0.8em;">

which is repeated for each paragraph until the last two sentences.

This illustrates one of the frustrating aspects of the Administration's communications strategy for me. The widespread misperception that the elections will result in a much improved situation vis-a-vis the violence. It's not the public's fault they think that. It happens with each milestone. The Administration sets too high an expectation. And yes, it's the Administration...no one else is in the know enought to set it. If it were the MSM the administration should be correcting it.

Throughout this whole conflict though, the Administration's relentless overly positive propaganda, has repeatedly (intentionally or not) created unrealistic expectations. Oh, they cover their butts with caveats they can point back to if things don't end as well as hoped for, but in general, they focus most of their energy on how each stage of the overall mission was a major accomplishment when reached and that makes many people think the overall picture will be better...it's juvenile, IMO, in that they should celebrate a little less. It's like:

"Look at me, I made it to first base, wahoo! Watch me dance!

Uh, er, Sparky, the fly ball's still in the air....

Yes, but in case they don't catch it, I'm already at first...wahoo...pass the Juice box!"

They need to ween themselves off celebrations, like the one on the aircraft carrier, or the Medals of Freedom to Franks, Bremer, and (inconcieveably) Tenet, when the ball's still in the air. They look foolish, they set unrealistic expectations, and they lower the precious little trust many of us already have for them.

i'm expecting a silly debate on the turnout numbers. some will say that bcause turnout was less than X%, that it reflects massive apathy and fear. others will point out US turnout figures.

If I tip a lady after raping her, would you think I'm charming and of good character?

What if she has a history of abusing her children, would my action (as bad as that might have been) seem justified...especially since I paid the child abuser for her time.

The lady is a metaphore for Iraq, by the way.

The thing with the elections is that we won't be able to see if they were successful until after some time, but we may be able to see if they were a disaster immediately, right?

That is, how I would measure success: a majority of Iraqis were able to vote, and the majority of Iraqis accept the results as legitimate. The Iraqis themselves will probably have one more measure -- that the officials elected will actually be able to effect improvements in Iraq -- restore basic services like water and electricity, for one thing.

A disaster would be widespread killing and disenfranchisement.

So let's wait and see and hope for the best.

The thing is, though, is that the Something Right of the elections is more than overbalanced by:

--Crappy, slipshod training of ING troops and police, which was modified only when Iraq's security apparatus disintegrated in April 2004

--The horrible way in which April of 2004's Fallujah nonsense was handled

--Letting the Insurgents have free run of large swaths of Al Anbar province for the summer of 2004 and thus a space to build a full on infrastructure

etc.

The problem is that all of the things done wrong are conspiring to overwhelm the thing done right.

I hope you're right, von, but let's wait until after the elections to count our metaphorical chickens.

To put it a little more concretely: the fact that the Iraqis are now voting is good and a necessary step on the road to their eventual liberty. It is not, however, even close to a sufficient one; it will depend on how the vote is counted, whether people accept the outcome as legitimate, and what the newly-constituted government does (or has done unto it) during its first term. I think Edward's baseball analogy is brilliantly on the mark: if the ball isn't caught, we've done something wonderful. If it is...

Just given the logistics of the insurgency, Iraq is going to emerge from these elections with the 60% Shiite majority holding more than 60% of the seats in the national assembly tasked with creating a constitution. Unless that majority is sensitive to the demands of the Sunnis and the Kurds the current insurgency may well turn into regional conflicts and secessionist movements. I am not sure that Iraq has a strong enough national identity to outweigh these ethnic and religious identities. I think the future of Iraq would be brighter if there had been some sort of nod to a consociational assembly rather than straight proportional representation.

Whether good or bad, the elections will be a turning point. And I have no idea how this will affect US involvement on the other side of this event if Iraq begins to come apart on these seams.


What's problematic about the elections is that they're meaningless. Whomever gets elected will get his face on TV, then go to into a heavily-fortified compound with three-foot thick walls, never to be heard from again. Meanwhile, outside the compound, the country will still be ruled by roving packs of teenage punks with machine guns.

No NeoDude, except I see you as Saddaam and the Baathists. Now whether I'm seen as the Knight in Shining Armor depends on whether I negotiate with you to convince you you had done something wrong, have you arrested, shoot you, beat you to death and or disfigure your vitals and cut off your head. Now then we have a debate.

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No, the elections won't be perfect.
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While I agree with your overall sentiment. This line made me choke. One could use this line for the elections in the United States, but refering to Iraq this way is disengenous. One should say something like, "True, there is the danger of terrorist attacks during the elections, many Iraqis fear to go to the polls, most candidates must keep their identities secret lest they be assassinated, and large sections of the country will be unwilling or unable to vote, but..."

--Rick Taylor

The Administration would earn a little praise if it acknowledged any of the mistakes.

Since they don't, they deserve nothing with regard to the elections. After all, what was the alternative? Praise for finally holding elections is lowering the bar.

And remember that the elections are finally occurring now because of pressure (largely from Sistani), not because of a plan -- the Bush "plan" would have delayed elections for a much longer period of time. They stumbled into doing something right rather than doing so by design.

At best, holding the elections is mitigation for the overall incompetence -- not grounds for praise.

blogbudsman,

Most rapist believe they are knights in shining armor...your just in denial to the fact that the lady doesn't see you that way, neither do her abused children.

I think votermom got at the underlying reason for the "Damning But" -

The thing with the elections is that we won't be able to see if they were successful until after some time, but we may be able to see if they were a disaster immediately, right?
I mean, the election could turn out to be a major positive step towards a stable, secure and, one hopes, democratic Iraq. In fact, it is a necessary first step to make that transition. Assuming that the election itself goes off well - with good turnout, relatively little violence, and little evidence of corruption in the process - it will still take some time to know if the resulting assembly will be able to form a functioning government. Let's remember what the next steps after the election results are certified. From the BBC Q&A:
Q: How long before a government is formed?

The assembly first has to choose the presidency council. The council has two weeks in which to select a prime minister who has four weeks to nominate a government. There then has to be a vote in the assembly.

The whole process could go on until the end of March or the beginning of April, though if deals are done quickly, this timeframe could be shortened.

In the meantime the current interim government continues in office.

So, it will be a couple of months before the interim government is replaced. The replacement is still not a fully constitutional government. The assembly has to draft a constitution and get it ratified in another election before a proper parliament is established. The best case timetable has a constitutional government seated by the end of 2005. Other scenarios, such as delays in drafting or rejection by the voters, result in some sort of interim government for an additional 6-18 months. I don't think that it's pessimistic to say that we won't be able really call it a success for many, many months. Unfortunately, there are many outcomes that are possible between now and then that could lead us to conclude that the effort was a failure.

I'll join the holding-our-breath crowd.

yes, i'm glad that the Bush admin didn't lose its nerve and put off the elections. but i'm not sure i understand why congratulations are in order, except to the extent that this is the first evidence of a major policy decision on iraq which wasn't completely fckd [self-disemvowelling] up.

yes, the election is a necessary first step. yes, the iraqis must decide for themselves if they want peace or civil war.

but now comes the hard part -- drafting a constitution. we'll just have to wait and see if the constitutional convention can produce an acceptable document and whether the new iraqi army / police holds together and swears loyalty to the new govt.

if not, the bush admin will blame the iraqis. some of us, however, might blame the bush admin for failing to manage the occupation in a way which would have avoided civil war.

Francis

I love how Lileks and the "eff the MSM!!11!!" crowd always leap to the conclusion that a slew of negative stories about something implies not that something is, in fact, worthy of negative stories but rather that the MSM is plotting against whatever it is that is supposed to worshipped without thought.

"My view is that the very fact that Iraq is having elections, as violence marred as they may be, is a significant and important step forward"

But elections are nothing new in Iraq. The last one went off with very little violence and Saddam Hussein won handily. Will the Iraqi people see the current election as different from the last one, except for being more dangerous?

i'm expecting a silly debate on the turnout numbers. some will say that bcause turnout was less than X%, that it reflects massive apathy and fear. others will point out US turnout figures.

In the Netherlands 50% of the Iraqi's *registered* to vote. I read in a newspaper that worldwide only 28% of the Iraqi's registered to vote. You have elections where the candidates hide themselves and their names out of fear, where the program they want is hardly known, where substantial groups cannot vote and where the groups that can vote savely is not overwhelmingly intending to do so. I must admit that I am not wildly enthousiastic about the implementation of democracy in Iraq so far.

And I agree with Jesurgislac: it would have been a LOT better if the US had not stopped elections a year ago.

Bush chose to delay them for no good reason

Did the Iraqis have a constitution, I think not but they were working on it. The good reason for the delay.

Most rapist believe

There's all kinds of fun to be had with this sort of claim. At the very least, it merits a large-scale Karnak award.

(Forgive me please for rising to the bait.) Do the Iraqis have a consitiution now?

Hint: see my post at 2:02 PM.

Gaaaaah. I missed that the first time around; thanks, Slarti. [No really. I insist. I want my $12.50 back.] Neodude? Enough with the rape metaphors already. Even if they were accurate, there'd have to be a less flagrantly offensive way to say what you mean.

Did the Iraqis have a constitution, I think not but they were working on it. The good reason for the delay.

They are now electing the people that will make the constitution, so delaying elections means delaying the writing of the constitution.
And many people suggested they could fall back (as a basis, as a start) on the constitution they still had (from 1958?).

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