Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Pachyderm has left the Building

By which I mean to make reference to the Elephant in the Room (who is no longer in the room because I should have written on this topic on Monday and he has since vacated the room out of sheer boredom- how far can I push this metaphor?)- which is that the Iraq elections went well. Well, sort of. I mean, compared to the large-scale bloody eventualities we had in mind. And for Dems, this creates something of a dilemma. Mostly because the State of the Union is tonight and I for one am not looking forward to all of the gloating. Most of the left-leaning news outlets have addressed the situation by either A) saying something like "it was Iraq's victory, not ours; Allawi was pushing for January elections even when the Bush administration was for postponing them"; or B) that yes, it's all well and good that the Iraq elections went better than expected, but we can't let our guard down now, it's up to the Iraqis to turn this into something permanent and positive, etc. Both tactics, of course, taking as much credit away from Bush et al as possible.
On the one hand, this is fair because, like the hand-0ff of power last June, I'm not sure how much credit Bush et al can take for this somewhat symbolic event; also, the left's criticisms, while sounding a lot like whining and nursing our wounds, are valid- we can't let our guard up now, and Iraqis have to capitalize on this thirst for democracy to create a true coalition, etc. But on the other hand, we Dems were the gadflies criticizing the Bush administration for holding elections in the face of mounting violence, laughing at their naivete in believing that the Iraqi people's need for self-definition would overcome the most intimidating odds (I for one wouldn't have voted in that environment!)- but, with some notable exceptions and 55 horrible, inexcusable deaths as a result of election day violence, the Bush administration may have something with their "everyone loves freedom" thing.
Dare we admit it? I think a lot of Dems are caught between love of democratic country and cultural relativism that comes from a more nuanced understanding of the world than someone who had only travelled to Mexico before he was elected leader of the free world might have. But cultural relativism is a land mine in a lot of ways. It was "cultural relativism" that gave us an excuse to do nothing while the Taliban oppressed women, for instance. Or that allows for the institution of repressive Shari'a laws in not a few African and Middle Eastern countries. And having personally spent a fair amount of time in countries very different from the good old USA, I can say that although culturally we are as different as can be from, say, the Senegalese muslims, those that I met still expressed a longing for the economic and social freedoms that democracy promises.
Thus it must be for many Iraqis. And although I will cringe tonight with the other 49 million of my compatriots who can't stand Bush's smug expression, I have to admit that this time, and ONLY this time, the GOP can rightly celebrate its optimism and professed faith in democracy.


At 1:02 PM, Blogger St. Dickeybird said...

While I think that most would prefer freedom/democracy if they understood it the way we see it, I have a suspicion (assumption?) that the new Iraqi gov't is a puppet regime in place for the USA.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Noisette said...

Good point. That is our style of democracy-building, isn't it? This election is all about electing assembly members who will write a new constitution; but you're right- we can bet that if the constitution they write favors the Shiites over the Sunnis, or is too Islamic in general, we won't let it stand.

At 1:57 PM, Blogger St. Dickeybird said...

I hadn't thought of that: this gov't will write the Iraqi Constitution. You can bet they're all Yankee-friendly then!


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