Even those who supported Bush's anti-terror policy — which included replacing a dangerous regime hostile to the United States with a democracy that would be a U.S. ally in the heart of the Middle East — were not always so comfortable about that last bit.
President Bush's Wilsonian tendencies are well-known, if not entirely understood. And so in Iraq, [Priscilla] Tacujan argues, we find ourselves tripping down Wilson's path, "encouraging the formation of a government of 'consensus,' ... a coalition government composed of political parties and groups created along ethnic and religious lines instead of encouraging a 'national unity government' where excellence and justice can be measured by some common standard..."
Self-determination, in other words, is a sucker's game. When Iraq's constitutional government fully implodes into treachery and violence, Tacujan will have offered a persuasive historical diagnosis why.
"Today, said Gerges, the main beneficiaries of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq are not moderates or secularists but Islamists calling for resistance and jihad against the U.S. occupiers and their supporters. Iraqi society is being Islamicized from within because of the America invasion and occupation of Iraq, said Gerges.
And Joel, it goes without saying, has been pretty skeptical of the democracy project in Iraq. The skeptics were pretty unified on one theme: No matter what our intentions, Iraq — at best — was going to devolve into an Islamist state; an Iranian puppet. Critics also enjoyed mocking the purple fingers of Iraqi voters, just for kicks.
Yet, as Charles Krauthammer wrote Friday, Iraq's latest provincial elections didn't just go well — they appear to have smashed to bits much of the conventional wisdom of the American skeptics of the Iraqi democracy project.
Preoccupied as it was poring over Tom Daschle's tax returns, Washington hardly noticed a near-miracle abroad. Iraq held provincial elections. There was no Election Day violence. Security was handled by Iraqi forces with little U.S. involvement. A fabulous bazaar of 14,400 candidates representing 400 parties participated, yielding results highly favorable to both Iraq and the United States.
Iraq moved away from religious sectarianism toward more secular nationalism. "All the parties that had the words 'Islamic' or 'Arab' in their names lost," noted Middle East expert Amir Taheri. "By contrast, all those that had the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi' gained."
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is no longer the leader of an "Islamic" party. Rather, he's the leader of the "State of Law Party," and campaigned on security and secular nationalism. As Krauthammer notes, "he won a smashing victory" while Maliki's "chief rival, a more sectarian and pro-Iranian Shiite religious party, was devastated." Indeed, the major Islamic parties were almost wiped out across the board.
This is encouraging news. Iraq has come a very long way in a short time, but the constant caveat remains: This victory is not irreversible.
Nonetheless, Bush — who did all the hard work — has handed Obama a nascent yet gelling victory in Iraq. Obama's a smart and wise man, or so we're constantly told. I hope he makes the right decision and stays the course in Iraq. It would be a tragedy to throw an important strategic victory away with a hasty, politically driven withdrawal from Iraq.