Monday, January 31, 2005

One Small, But Encouraging Step

As any reader of this site knows, I have been actively rooting for success in these elections and beyond - even offering my humble suggestions when I see an opening. The Iraqi people deserve this and much more. So it was with some trepidation that I watched the coverage of the elections, waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak. Thus, it was immensely relieving to see that things went off relatively peaceful (yes, there was violence, death, and bloodshed, but compared to the fears, and compared to the recent levels of each, it was peaceful by contrast).

Unfortunately, there is not much time to bask in the electoral afterglow. As a friend, whose opinion on foreign policy matters I respect, commented to me via e-mail late Sunday: "now comes the hard part." Indeed. I am hoping that these elections have created a certain nationalistic momentum, and an invigorated sense of cooperation that can buttress efforts to tack the Iraqi body politic towards the embrace of inclusiveness and enlightened governance. An entire olive tree needs to be felled and carved up for the number of branches that need to pass hands over the next couple of months in order to see Iraq through its ordeal of fragmentation. According to
Publius, there should be some domestic transactions in wood-based currency as well (I really do recommend his take on the elections and the political ramifications both here and in Iraq).

While the results are being counted (it looks like an impressive 55-60% turnout overall), and the candidates selected, the Iraqi political machine must seek to address the many problems that lay before it. First, security must be restored and the insurgency quelled (easier said than done). Second, the new government must find a way to insure Sunni inclusion in the Constitution drafting assembly (this step could aid the first). The document that emerges from that process must take pains to grant enough autonomy to the Kurds in order to keep them in the fold, and must not become a vehicle for a "soft tyranny" of the Shiite majority (by granting too much power to majoritarian factions and including any sort of distinctly "Shiite" dogma into the laws). And as TIA reader Avedis is quick to point out, the nation's oil wealth must be distributed in a way that builds a strong middle class and a sense of fairness for the ordinary Iraqi. The eventual posture of the ruling regime vis-a-vis the continued presence of U.S. troops in the country will also be of the utmost importance - perhaps bearing on all the other choices, and the prospect for civil war and failed state-hood (both options that must be avoided at almost all cost).

With so many questions left unanswered, so many thorny issues to be smoothed out, and so many compromises needed to be struck, let's hope that these elections mark the beginning of an upward trend toward something positive and lasting. One small, but encouraging step.

[Update: Praktike summarizes some of the election results at Liberals Against Terrorism (one of my new homes away from home) but Praktike's summary is pedestrian compared to Nadezhda's opinion piece (not to denigrate Praktike's efforts, but I am confident he would agree that she has outshone us all with her rendition of events).]

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