Now comes the hard part, which is a hell of a thing to say about Iraq, considering how hard everything has been for Iraqis for so long. Good luck to the Iraqis. They’re going to need it, and I don’t mean that in the dismissive sarcastic sense in which it’s usually meant. They’re actually going to need some good luck; there are a lot of people who want the idea of democracy in Iraq to fail, and not just the terrorists.
It’s an understatement to say that I’ve not been a fan of how the Iraqi occupation has been handled by the Bush administration, nor does it appear very likely that I’m going to suddenly change my opinion on that score. But these elections count as a success, and one that the Bush folks can rightly feel proud about. I’m not at all sanguine about the potential of the Bushies to snatch failure out of the slavering jaws of success, but that’s not the same as hoping for it. Far from it — I’m hoping this ends up a nice fat foreign policy coup for Bush, because the end result would be new functioning democracy in the Middle East, which is not exactly riddled with them, and democracy, as we all know, is the worst kind of government there is except every other kind.
What would be really interesting (and, to be clear, which I absolutely don’t expect to happen) would be if the newly-elected national government of Iraq thanked the US for its service and politely asked it to take all its people and go. That would indeed be a test of US intentions; I’m sure the families of US servicepeople wouldn’t mind. But it is, of course, a mere hypothetical. We’ll be there for a while yet, and I don’t imagine things are going to get better quickly.
But again — it’s the first step. And it was a test of faith that Iraqis passed with flying colors. People were out and about trying to kill Iraqis to keep them from voting (and killed four dozen), but the turnout appears to be in the 55% of registered voters range, which is in the same neighborhood as the 2004 US election. It takes more than a small amount of courage to vote when the suicide bombers are out and about. Another test of faith will be to see how all the Iraqis fare under the new government — the Sunnis, who held power with Saddam, largely boycotted the election, and I’m interested to see what that means for the new government.
As I said: Now comes the hard part. But it’s good to have gotten to the hard part at all. Iraq and the US could have (and in the case of the US, should have) arrived at it with more grace. But it would be foolish not to be thankful Iraq is there. I’m not that foolish.