The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, February 17, 2005
We see the light! Turn away!
For a brief second, the scales fall from the eyes of the editors at The Washington Post, and they see Iraq as it really is:
THE 8.5 MILLION Iraqis who turned out to vote two weeks ago have elected a national assembly more suited for the task of nation-building than many would have expected.
For many in the blogosphere, the election was exactly what was expected.
We weren't distracted by the bombings and killings (Of course terrorists can do these things! It is all they can do. They can't win elections).
Bloggers listened to opinion poll after poll from the people of Iraq and Iraqi blogs. (For every Riverbend, there are ten freedom blogs).
There was a clear message coming from them: we are the people of Iraq. Don't worry about us.
The message from the news reporting elites was clear as well: Run! Hide! The insurgents have BOMBS and they are going to USE THEM!
An alliance backed by the Shiite clergy won a plurality of the vote, and it may command a bare majority in the 275-seat body. But fears that Iraq's new government will be monopolized by pro-Iranian factions bent on religious rule seem unfounded.
They always have been. The people who want a religious theocracy in Iraq have always been small (less than 10% of the population) and they have been divided between Shiite and Sunni.
Don't get me wrong: the clergy will be an important factor in Iraqi politics for quite some time. They are the only non-Baathist leadership in Iraq that Saddam was afraid to kill. Iraq's secular leaders populate the mass graves.
The Shiite block will be balanced by an almost equal number of secular legislators, and its leaders acknowledge the need to compromise with Kurds, Sunnis and other groups. It is likely that the new prime minister will be secular and Western-educated, and his cabinet may contain some of the same politicians handpicked by the United States for Iraq's first postwar government.
And from there the Post returns to its regular diet of gloom and doom. Sure there is room for this. But it needs balance. At least this article was a start.
In my opinion, the dire predictions that the Post puts forward are not as likely as something the Cranky Liberal worried about: after working together for a few years, the Iraqi government would be consumed by partisan bickering and the country would break up.
I think this underestimates Iraqi nationalism and human psychology: as long as they have a common enemy (the insurgents) and a common goal (their eradication and the end of the coalition occupation), I don't think that will happen.
Now it is time for the partisans to quick their bickering.
As a conciliatory gesture, people who favored the war need to acknowledge mistakes were made. We need be forthright about the faulty intelligence about WMD, the very high costs of the war, the corruption in Iraq, and the probability that the terrorists will use Iraq for attack training (which isn't that bad considering they could get a visit from the USMC at any moment).
War opponents need to acknowledge that the US is now firmly behind the idea of democratic reform in the Mideast (as opposed to propping up corrupt tyrannies). This is a good thing for the long term, because the region is inherently unstable.(But strategically, it still doesn't mean we can afford to take on all the tyrants at once.)
Some people are already making this assessment:
And finally, most liberals and New Yorkers suspect that we may be too smart for our own good. It is a form of self-flattery as self-criticism. During these past few years, I have heard it said again and again that liberals’ ineffectiveness derives from their inability to see the world in the simple blacks and whites of the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Bushes. (Why else, the argument goes, did John Kerry lose?)
Maybe. But now our heroic and tragic liberal-intellectual capaciousness is facing its sharpest test since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Back then, most of us were forced, against our wills, to give Ronald Reagan a large share of credit for winning the Cold War. Now the people of this Bush-hating city are being forced to grant the merest possibility that Bush, despite his annoying manner and his administration’s awful hubris and dissembling and incompetence concerning Iraq, just might—might, possibly—have been correct to invade, to occupy, and to try to enable a democratically elected government in Iraq.
At a media-oligarchy dinner party on Fifth Avenue 72 hours after the elections, the emotions were highly mixed. The wife of a Democratic Party figure was (like me) unabashedly hopeful about what had happened in Iraq. Across the table, though, the wife of a well-known liberal actor was having none of it; instead, she complained about Fahrenheit 9/11’s being denied an Oscar nomination. And a newspaper éminence grise seemed more inclined to discuss Condoleezza Rice’s unfortunate hairstyle than the vicissitudes of Wolfowitzism. It was the night of the State of the Union speech, but as far as I know, no one (including me) ducked out of the dining room to find a TV. Who really wanted to watch Bush take his victory lap?
We need to unite behind the idea that a peaceful and democratic Iraq is good for the region and the world, and it will make the world a better place.
Is that such a hard thing to grasp?