The Right Coast

May 08, 2004
The Fall Elections -- in Iraq
By Mike Rappaport

As readers of this blog know, I have been strongly supportive of the Iraq war. From the beginning, I thought that the main reason for the war was to establish some kind of democracy and freedom in Iraq as a long term project for transforming the region. Although recent months have seen various problems that threaten this mission, I still believe that the mission can be accomplished. Within Iraq, the US has to make clear that the persons who committed the abuses within Abu Ghraib prison are punished, in a way that is public and clear to the Iraqi people. Although the prison abuses are a public relations disaster, a strong response could produce a significant benefit by showing the Iraqi people how a democracy polices itself. More problematic, though, is public opinion within the United States. As I stated a few weeks ago, the real problem is that people within the United States, especially some Republicans who previously supported the war, are beginning to go wobbily. Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan recognize this, and have a proposal for Iraq designed to rescue the situation: they suggest moving up the elections in Iraq to the Fall. Their argument makes a lot of sense. Here is an excerpt:
    The Bush administration seems not to recognize how widespread, and how bipartisan, is the view that Iraq is already lost or on the verge of being lost. We don't claim to have a silver bullet. But we believe one answer to the current crisis would be to move up elections by several months, perhaps to September. The administration could announce very soon that nationwide Iraqi elections will be held on September 30.

    Accelerating the elections would have several virtues: First, it would change the subject. Instead of focusing on their anger at Americans, Iraqis would be compelled to begin focusing on the coming elections, where each and every Iraqi adult will have a chance to participate in shaping the future. Second, with elections coming quickly, those who continued to commit violence in Iraq would be understood to be attacking not only the United States, but also the elections process, and therefore democracy. The insurgents would be antidemocratic rather than anti-American. Third, with elections pending, American military actions could be seen not just as an effort to suppress rebellious Iraqi movements but as a vital support for the elections process, and for democracy. Americans would be fighting to give Iraqis a chance to vote, soon. Fourth, and not least important, the holding of elections in Iraq within a few months might give Americans here at home greater confidence that things can be turned around in Iraq.