October 18, 2005


With Freedom Comes Politics (Michael Rubin, October 18, 2005, Wall Street Journal)

On Oct. 15, Iraqis demonstrated that their desire to determine the future through the ballot box was the rule rather than the exception. Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen; Sunnis, Shiites and Christians--all braved threats of violence to vote. The vast majority voted in favor of the constitution. But whatever their positions, Iraqis considered their decision carefully.

The referendum campaign was active. Dueling commercials and newscasts sought to sway the Iraqi vote. Such is the nature of politics in a country no longer subject to state-controlled media.

Some read the constitution. They voted for or against federalism. Some marked their ballot on the basis of how closely they wished religion to be mixed with government. Others did not read the document but learned about it on television, in newspapers and even by text messaging, the latest medium employed by Iraqi politicians to reach constituents. Security, rather than content, was a determinant for some. They voted "yes" to avoid the chaos of failure and the prolongation of occupation.

The referendum capped a constitutional drafting process over which Western commentators and diplomats had been quick to panic. They misunderstand that with freedom comes politics. The same U.S. senators who debated the "nuclear option" for judicial nominees failed to recognize political brinkmanship among their Iraqi counterparts.

You'd be hard pressed to find a better illustration of why the insurgency is doomed than their shutting off the power in Baghdad just before the vote. Think anyone goes to the polls to vote for more chaos?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2005 5:00 PM

The obvious inability of the insurgency to hold power and form a government certainly prevents it as an alternative option to restore order. Combined with the lack of true state-sponsored support for them it makes the Iraq dynamic far different from Vietnam.

It is possible that should the insurgency convert to a Sunni Arab separatist group, they could succeed. But to do so would be repudiating the Arab Sunni goals, and any success would be utterly indifferent to Kurdish, Shi'ite, and American interests. It might even further them.

I still think Bush is a rather mediocore war leader. He has made about the same mistakes on the homefront as LBJ did, and had Iraq truly been analagous to Vietnam, I think we'd be in trouble. But as it is, the actual context of the war has played more to Bush's strengths than his weaknesses. He won't make the point spread, but a win will still be a win.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at October 18, 2005 5:40 PM