Faster Iraq 9: The WaPo ed board emerges from its platitudinous fumfawing about Iraq to endorse ... elections. "Sooner rather than later," they hint, although they remain distressingly evasive about whether they actually want to accelerate the current timetable. They are, however, clear about some things the Bush administration has to give up:
[T]he supposed utopian solution -- elections -- offers the most pragmatic way of establishing a viable government. Elections, as opposed to war or outside appointment, are still the mechanism favored by the country's most powerful political forces for determining Iraq's future. They offer the best chance of defeating the extremists.
Elections, in short, are the best U.S. endgame in Iraq -- provided the administration adopts a realists' view of them. It is sensible for the United States to give the United Nations as large a role as it will accept in organizing and conducting those elections; it is foolish to cling to the idea that U.S. political favorites, such as some of the exiles on the appointed Governing Council, can survive a popular vote. It is unrealistic to believe that U.S. appointees and advisers can be positioned to control the future government or that unilateral U.S. control over security matters can be maintained past the first ballot; Iraqi forces must be prepared to control security. The Bush administration also must accept, sooner rather than later, that an elected Iraqi government is likely to embrace economic or social policies not favored by the United States and may not be particularly friendly to Washington or to Israel. [Emphasis added.]
More specificity, please! Elections when? If WaPo's editors think we can make it to January with an appointed government, they might read their (admittedly super-alarmist) Tuesday front page story. ... We don't have editorial pages so they can be as ambiguous as the State Department. ...
P.S.: Also, does an elected Iraqi government "not particularly friendly to Washington" mean no U.S. bases? Then why not admit that, too? Maybe because it's an argument in favor of a solution WaPo disses: partition or an extremely loose federation. With a loose enough federation, as Robert Wright notes, we might get bases from the pro-U.S. Kurds in the north. What's the argument against partition? Here's WaPo's condensed CW version:
This would please the Kurds but almost certainly lead to a Yugoslav-like series of wars that would prompt the intervention of Turkey, Iran and other neighbors. The Shiite and Sunni Arab populations in Iraq do not live in easily partitioned districts; Baghdad, for example, is home to millions of both.
I don't have a solution to the Baghdad problem (though Peter Galbraith sketchs a rough-and-ready arrangement). But as for intervention by surrounding states--well, intimidating states like Turkey and Iran and Syria is something we're good at! Stopping guerilla insurgents in order to preserve a unitary Iraq is not. ...
P.P.S: Here's an early argument for faster, piecemeal elections that explicitly ties them to an intriguing-but-complicated possibility of an evolving partition. ...
P.P.P.S.: Hawkish Instapundit's for faster elections too. ("The captured Zarqawi memo suggested that the terrorists fear an elected Iraqi government more than anything else we can accomplish, and their recent efforts seem to support that thesis.")
Kicker: There's a far-fetched but perhaps persuasive (for Bushies) analogy here from the Clinton administration, which held out hope for a total health care victory for too long in 1994 and failed to make the painful, expectation-shattering compromises that might have produced a small success instead of pure failure and electoral defeat. But Bill Clinton had an excuse for his fateful indecision: he was scared of Hillary. Who's Bush scared of? [Hillary?-ed.] 11:33 P.M.
Sunday, May 16, 2004