Democracy in Iraq: Maybe!


Iyad Allawi.jpgWow. When the unexpected happens in an election, it’s a good market test of whether balloting really does serve as a credible system of expressing the public’s will.
Incumbents hardly ever lose — particularly in the Middle East.
Despite Hamas winning the elections in Palestine a few years ago, President George W. Bush nonetheless maintained the mantra that those elections were the fairest and freest yet held in the Middle East. And they were — though we ended up punishing the victors.
And today, it has just been announced that Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiya coalition has won the most seats in Iraq’s parliament.
There may be trouble ahead. I don’t think al Maliki will step back easily or will be enthused about playing the minority role in a coalition government.
But these election results are surprising as it’s rare to see incumbent governments in the Middle East lose, or if they do lose — to let that loss be actualized.
Watch out Ahmed Chalabi. We hear that Ayad Allawi is not his greatest fan.
More soon. Off to Philadelphia.
— Steve Clemons


18 comments on “Democracy in Iraq: Maybe!

  1. anna missed says:

    Oh come on, Allawi not a fan of Chalabi? Without Chalabi’s de-baathification committee taking out the lion share of Sunni candidates, Allawi wouldn’t have had a chance in the Sunni Community.


  2. Paul Norheim says:

    Posted by Kathleen, Mar 29 2010, 10:40AM – Link
    The difference today is much easier access to info thanks to
    internet sites. And if you don’t know what is going on in a given
    conflict, there are mainly two reasons:
    1) You are too lazy or indifferent to do a search.
    2) You are blinded by a particular ideology and their filtering
    and distortion of facts – be it MSM or some more extreme or
    marginal version – and regard everything contradicting the
    ideological version as biased and malevolent.
    There is no waterproof method against no. 2, but if you realize
    that your preferred ideology has ready-made explanations and
    justifications of absolutely everything “your” side does in a given
    conflict, the alarm bells should ring.


  3. Kathleen says:

    As most people have wondered about… why so many German, Polish and other folks in the neighborhood of the horrific slaughter of millions of Jews, Poles, gypsies etc during Hitler’s mad ass genocide sat on their asses and DID NOTHING.
    I have always wondered.
    But watching how most Americans and our MSM have sat on their asses in response to the slaughter of close to a million Iraqi people’s deaths (according to the Lancet Reports) injuries (no reports) and the displaced in Iraq.
    Little to no coverage about what has and is really going on in Iraq (the situation is far worse than before we illegally invaded).
    The majority of Americans are no different than those who sat on their hands during the slaughter of millions by Hitler. Most Americans do not give a rats ass about what their government has done and how many Iraqi people have been killed. Tough to accept but it is a fact. A brutal fact


  4. Pahlavan says:

    If Saddam was killing 30,000 people a year, his own citizens would have taken him out. Liquidating old military hardware piled up in our warehouses matters more to us than innocent lives on the other side of globe. Have you check Dow Chemical’s stock lately?


  5. nadine says:

    Paul Norheim, your protests about “risky gambles” and “mass murder and mayhem” would make a lot more sense if your implicitly-desired safe and sensible course didn’t involve leaving Iraq in the hands of Saddam Hussein and his psychotic sons. Saddam’s normal kill rate ran about 30,000 a year, which is even higher than the “mass murder and mayhem” of the Iraq War. Not to mention Saddam’s track record of invading or threatening just about every neighbor he had.


  6. Paul Norheim says:

    I don’t have much time to post right now, but I’ll just note that
    due to their wisdom, determination, and indomitable human
    action, the neocons strengthened Iran in the region, reshaping
    Iran into an “existential threat” for Israel – at least that’s what
    the neocons themselves and the Israelis want us to believe.
    So, how much will this democracy project cost in human lives
    when it’s over? So far, hundreds of thousands. Will it be
    millions? And which unpredictable, destabalizing side effects in
    the region – if they invade Iran?
    To me this is not wisdom, but mass murder and mayhem on an
    enormous scale. The invasion of Iraq was a crime, a tragedy,
    and a huge mistake. History is too complex to be treated as
    some kind of machine where, if the smart guys have the right
    sort and amount of input, they get a predictable output. In the
    last decade, we saw the the best and the brightest in action,
    from Wall Street to the White House, and we also saw the
    results. No one can pretend that what we saw unfolding as a
    result of their clever plans and actions fulfilled their


  7. ... says:

    it’s hard to not be cynical when bozos are pronouncing it as basically peachy keen and working to redeem bush at the same time… american naivete at it’s finest with the exploiting type preying on this same naivete… they’re in the propaganda biz and they thinnk some won’t recognize it as such…


  8. Dan Kervick says:

    Extra! Extra! Baghdad beauties protest election results; demand democracy! –
    Get me Andrew Sullivan! Get me a Twitter account! We need a revolution! Do we have any colors left? (I’m partial to sanguine Watteau or Tiepolo pink.) Oh, the humanity!


  9. kotzabasis says:

    One would expect from someone like Norheim, who detests and loathes to admit that the inchoate signs of a budding democracy in Iraq might have Bush-neocons as its sire, would bring Deus ex machina “Goddess Fortuna” as the immanent metaphysical force that shifted and transformed the dictatorial sands of Saddam Hussein into the rock upon which the foundation of democracy in Iraq is built. Ostensibly, for Norheim SERENDIPITY perforce is the invisible cause of great human events and the latter can hardly be ascribed to wise, determined, and indomitable human action.


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    What a joke.
    From calling it a “democracy”, to Wig-wag’s asinine attempted acquital of George the Monkey Boy.
    Its a clusterfuck, and if they don’t put a puppet in place, it will become an unimaginable clusterfuck of epic proportions. Even with the puppet duly installed, it may well explode into civil war.
    Implying any sort of “success” in Iraq is political posturing, accompanied by wishful thinking, and with no small dose of denial.
    Its kinda some sort of twisted “instant gratification” syndrome these think tank wonks seem to suffer from. Only history can judge the “successes” of this ill fated “war” these criminal pieces of shit lied us into, and only history can judge whether or not over a million dead non-combatants was a fair price to pay.


  11. Dan Kervick says:

    “But these election results are surprising as it’s rare to see incumbent governments in the Middle East lose.”
    It’s not surprising at all when the man who is elected is a long-time CIA asset and Washington’s man in Baghdad, and when US military and intelligence forces still maintain a dominating presence in the country.
    The US let Iraq have its little democracy for a few years, but might now be back in the business of engineering puppets.


  12. ... says:

    true… or the later group are attached emotionally to a particular group/race over all others.. that is a deep bias to operate from that needs to be examined as it always interferes with their ability to be objective in any analysis…


  13. Don Bacon says:

    There are people who mostly look at the sweep of history and its geopolitical ramifications, and there are other people who are principally concerned with hundreds of thousands of casualties, millions of displaced persons, deformed children, and misplaced financial resources and priorities.
    Usually the analytical people of the first part are far removed physically and emotionally from the action, and the others not.


  14. ... says:

    neo con apologists for bush, frum and etc don’t ever think to stop and desist from finding some sort of redemption for the gross negligence’s of there past actions.. they continue to want to perceive them as having been ””right”’ all along…


  15. Paul Norheim says:

    “If Iraq becomes the first Muslim nation that’s truly free it will
    be a vindication of sorts for George W. Bush. Yes the costs of
    this achievement to the Americans and arguably to the Iraqis
    will have been too high; but it will prove that Bush was right and
    his critics were wrong. Iraq could become a democratic nation.”
    I wish the Iraqis good luck, and sincerely hope that Iraq slowly
    becomes a true democratic nation. However, I disagree that this
    possible outcome will represent “a vindication of sorts” for Bush
    – proving that he was right. The fact is that this was nothing
    more and nothing less than a high risk gamble. History is full of
    ironies, and unpredictable twists and turns. If the outcome in a
    historic perspective turns out to be better than before, this only
    proves that Goddess Fortuna was kind to the Iraqi’s, and not
    that the recipe as such (military invasion, followed by nation
    building and ballots) was good or is applicable to other
    This apart from the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and
    the millions affected by the invasion and the aftermath.


  16. Don Bacon says:

    Ah, democracy.
    BAGHDAD, WaPo — The Kurds, the strongest U.S. ally in Iraq and a leading political kingmaker, appear likely to lose some of their influence to a stridently anti-American group that did surprisingly well in this month’s parliamentary elections.
    Fiery cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s movement — whose militiamen have battled the Americans and were blamed for some of the worst sectarian violence of recent years — is positioned to take a pivotal role in the next parliament.//


  17. Steve Clemons says:

    Wig: Thanks. I agree with you that it really is unclear that Allawi, who will be constrained by coalition building dynamics, will be a democratic leader or another form of strong man. But whether Iraq has the true institutions of a democratic ecosystem or not, this outcome is a remarkable one – particularly given the ways that Maliki, and Chalabi, were trying to disenfranchise a significant chunk of Sunnis.
    But one needs to remember that Allawi was prepared to be installed as Iraq’s leader in a decapitation/coup against Hussein with backup support from US and UK – -and to become a sort of soft strong man who was going to walk the Baathist regime away from its extremes. Word is that Chalabi of all people warned Saddam Hussein and botched the enterprise because he had been blocked from it.
    Still, this is something that deserves attention.
    all best, steve


  18. WigWag says:

    This is very interesting. But does the Arab world really have its first democracy?
    Maybe yes, maybe no.
    The mistake that Bush made was equating fair elections and majoritarianism with democracy; but f course they’re not the same things. Pluralism, respect for minority rights, free expression of religion and the rule of law are as important ingredients of democracy as free elections are; in fact they may be more important.
    Do these necessary ingredients of a democratic nation exist in Iraq? Only time will tell.
    Given how extraordinarily backward the Muslim world is, it’s hard not to root for a democratic Iraq. There are plenty of Islamic nations that permit free or at least relatively free elections; Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Malaysia, Albania, Kosovo and Lebanon all come to mind.
    But how many of these nations permit religious groups other than Muslims to worship in the manner of their choice? How many even let minority Islamic sects worship freely? How many of these nations allow a degree of political freedom to their minority groups? How many suppress the language rights of ethnic or national minorities; how many ban You Tube? How many are overrun by ethnically based militias?
    If Iraq becomes the first Muslim nation that’s truly free it will be a vindication of sorts for George W. Bush. Yes the costs of this achievement to the Americans and arguably to the Iraqis will have been too high; but it will prove that Bush was right and his critics were wrong. Iraq could become a democratic nation.
    Of course, it’s unclear whether any of this will come to pass; but the mere fact that Allawi was announced as the winner says alot.


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