Monday, January 31, 2005

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The first step -- but far from the last -- in Iraq

Kieran Healy has an excellent post at Crooked Timber on what needs to happen in Iraq after this first election. It boils down to, "those in power who lose elections have to be willing to step aside," but Kieran says it better than that -- and provides an encouraging example from Irish history.

posted by Dan on 01.31.05 at 10:15 AM


Its a good argument, and essentially correct. However there is a tendency to look at our choices in Iraq as binary, either withdraw our troops or remain in charge of security. That is unrealistic. In fact the most probable outcome will be a gradual withdrawal of coalition forces from active campaigning as Iraqi troops take over patrolling the streets and whatnot. American forces will eventually end up in their bases, nearby in case of emergency, and perhaps can at last concentrate on breaking the flood of men and materials coming in from Syria. Even if/when the US forces do leave Iraq, there will doubtless remain a sizeable force in Kuwait available in case of disaster.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.31.05 at 10:15 AM [permalink]

As long as we're into comparisons with other countries, I wonder how Turkey and Pakistan's experiences might apply.

Both those countries have had strong democratic efforts (Turkey with more success) but have also had strong, secular armies to take over when the generals decide the elected government is too religious or too corrupt, threatening the secular status of the state.

We in the West might not like the role the army has played in these countries from a democratic perspective, but we have often liked it from the perspective of stability.

So the question is, will a strong, secular military in Iraq be necessary to ensure the stability of the state? And, are we doing what's necessary to create one?

posted by: Andrew Steele on 01.31.05 at 10:15 AM [permalink]

I can't help but wonder if Healy's warning isn't a moving of the goalposts, to some degree, almost as if Healy's hoping that Mr Bush and his team will trip over somethng/anything so that the left can miraculously get back hte credibility they lost when despite their best efforts, this election actually happened.

posted by: Bithead on 01.31.05 at 10:15 AM [permalink]

From Juan Cole....

I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.

I listened to Larry Diamond speak on the elections yesterday, and although he was euphoric, he also acknowledged them as very "shallow".

I guess, what I don't understand is why *this* election will be any more transformative for the region than the ones Cole mentions or the recent Palestianin election.

posted by: Jor on 01.31.05 at 10:15 AM [permalink]

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