To hold elections, or not to hold elections… that is the question.
There’s no doubt about it– the Iraqi government is in a bind. If they postpone the January elections because of instability, they’re sending the message that the insurgents can push them around. If they hold the elections anyway, they alienate large sections of the country (who perceive themselves, rightly or no, to be unfairly represented) and risk civil war.
I guess George W met with Ghazi al-Yawar, and together they agreed that the elections will go as planned, regardless of how many people are killed in the next month. Although I offer no opinion on whether this is a good choice or a bad one, there are two comments from these leaders that give me pause.
First, let’s hear from Bush:
“You can never guarantee one hundred percent security. But the Iraqi people have the chance to say to the world, ‘We choose democracy over terrorism.'”
Part of the problem with the elections, from my perspective, is the simple fact that they’re “democratic” at all. Iraq– and the Middle East in general– is a place that hasn’t seen democracy in two millennia. They don’t really understand it, and they don’t necessarily want it. Of course they don’t want some despot running the show, but at the same time they’re accustomed to a theocracy and their very culture is so deeply ingrained with Moslem teachings that to expect them to shift gears to a representative democracy is naive at best.
So I think Bush’s comment is ill-founded. The Iraqi people probably want to say to the world, “Thanks for booting Saddam, and for helping with the terrorist thing, but let us decide how to run ourselves now.”
Then we’ve go al-Yawar:
“These are a mix of people who have one thing in common: Hatred to the Iraqi society and hatred to democracy, people who are trying to stop us from having our first elections.”
I doubt the insurgents got together a few months ago and said, “You know, we hate democracy– let’s blow up everything we can.” I don’t think they care much what the government looks like. It seems clear their true goal is to kill Americans (pronounced “The Great Satan”) and anyone who collaborates with them. A few innocent casualties are okay too, as long as they deliver the real message.
For al-Yawar to think the rebellion on his hands is about democracy shows that he doesn’t understand their purposes. They want America gone for good, and only after that would they be concerned with setting up a government (preferably run by them).
All in all, I’m fine with Bush and al-Yawar agreeing that the elections will happen on schedule. That’s their call (well, it’s not really Bush’s call, but let’s not split hairs). But when the messages they give have such obvious logical fallacies in them, it’s disturbing.