Dear Lord, what’s going to go wrong next?

A successful national referendum. Nearly violence-free. Participation of large numbers of Sunnis. National charter passed.

What else could possibly go wrong?

Today’s WaPo:

For the Bush administration, the apparent approval of Iraq’s constitution is less of a victory than yet another chance to possibly fashion a political solution that does not result in the bloody division of Iraq.

Not. A. Victory. A chance to “possibly” “fashion” a “political solution”. (Hint: That apparently means that the plan as it’s been all along.) Makes it sound like the Bush administration is playing Iraqi Roulette, where five chambers out of six are loaded with civil war. Make that Bloody. Civil. War.

Publicly, administration officials hailed the result but privately some officials acknowledged that the road ahead is still very difficult, especially because Sunni Arab voters appeared to have rejected the constitution by wide margins.

Uh, doesn’t this make it sound like you can EITHER “hail the result” OR “acknowledge that the road ahead is still very difficult”? That’s the problem when discussing this issue. Critics don’t seem to understand that hard things that take time are hard and take time. If anyone suggests that something good has happened, they’re somehow proven wrong because other bad things are still possible.

As one official put it, every time the administration appears on the edge of a precipice, it manages to cobble together a result that allows it to move on to the next precipice.

This, actually, sums up what I sense to be a large part of the bitterness the Left harbors over Iraq. They wish and hope so strongly for a Bush failure that the sting of every Bush success bites deeper than the last.

Even so, the constitution appears to have been soundly rejected in two Sunni provinces, indicating deep opposition to the document in the areas most crucial to ending the insurgency and binding Iraq’s political wounds.

It needed to be rejected by a two-thirds majority in at least three provinces. Only two rejected it at all. I don’t know if either of them reached the two-thirds rejection level.

“This thing is an enormous fiasco,” said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan historian and a specialist on Shiite Islam. He said having such a solid bloc in opposition to the constitution “really undermines its legitimacy, and this result guarantees the guerrilla war will go on.”

It’s hard to tell whether he’s talking about the Iraqi constitution or the most recent US Presidential election. No matter how loud you whine about it, if you lose you lose. I haven’t had it explained to me yet why one Sunni vote should count more than one Shiite or Kurdish vote. Until that is defined, I don’t understand how any “legitimacy” has been “undermined”.

Success in Iraq — still elusive 2 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion — is critical to President Bush’s hopes to provide a democratic anchor in a region long dominated by autocratic governments. But recent polls show a majority of Americans have soured on the invasion, a key factor in the president’s low approval ratings.

To prove that success isn’t being gained in Iraq, they point out American polls about the invasion and American approval ratings, not the adoption of a national constitution in Iraq. This isn’t Star Search.

In the December election, provinces will receive proportional representation so even a low turnout in Sunni provinces will still result in more Sunni Arabs being sent to the legislature.

Because giving one group preferential treatment over other is critical if you’re going to be fair, I guess.

In the January elections for the interim parliament, Sunni representation was especially low because most Sunnis boycotted the elections while Kurds largely voted for a Kurdish coalition and Shiites backed a coalition of Shiite Islamist parties.

No kidding. NEWSFLASH! In the most recent American election, Republican voters voted overwhelmingly in favor of Republican candidates, while Democratic voters heavily favored Democrats. Also, black candidates did somewhat better with black voters, according to exit poll data, and very few Jewish voters supported Neo-Nazi candidates. Astounding, isn’t it?

A last-minute deal last week on the constitution — allowing it to be amended in the next year, rather than eight years as originally anticipated — is also designed to encourage Sunni Arabs to become more involved and reject the insurgency.

This deal was a good one.

The constitution was largely drafted to reflect the interests of the Kurdish and Shiite groups that dominate the assembly, including carving out distinct ethnically based territories with greater control over oil wealth.

You don’t say. I wonder if this “domination” could have anything to do with the make-up of the population? Nah. It’s more fun when oil companies are the bad guys.

But experts said that, even so, Sunni Arabs will remain a minority in the unicameral body and in a country with 60 percent of the population adherents of the Shiite Muslim faith. Some said that Saturday’s result — demonstrating anew that Sunni Arab concerns will be outvoted — could actually do little to encourage the Sunnis.

Thank goodness for experts. Otherwise I wouldn’t have realized that a group with 20% of the national population and a large number of folks who refuse to participate in the governmental process would remain in the minority. They want to have a larger share of the vote? Maybe they should have more kids, and also stop sending the ones they already have off to fight the US Marines. Just a thought.

“The fundamental problem is this is not a consensus constitution, and one part of the country has massively rejected it,” said Larry Diamond, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a former adviser to the U.S.-led Iraqi provisional government. “This was not a joyful vote. It was a pragmatic vote to continue the process.”

Does this mean that the problem is that not everyone is “joyful”? Is he kidding? The problem is that this nation-forging document isn’t “joyful” enough, and is nothing more than a continuation of the process? Give the guy credit. He’s wants the moon and isn’t afraid to say so.

Anthony H. Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the referendum “really doesn’t finish anything”

What? You mean everything’s not done yet? The United States was completely finished after we adopted our constitution. The Iraqis must be slackers, or something, if this hasn’t fixed everything.

Martin S. Indyk, a former Clinton administration official who directs the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said the administration’s scenario of greater Sunni participation is plausible. But he said it is also plausible the Sunnis will conclude that because they failed to block the constitution, the political process is stacked against them.

Indyk said the Kurds and Shiites could continue to maneuver to use the political process to protect their interests, and thus the Sunnis will forever find themselves receiving the bad end of the bargain. “We could be fooling ourselves,” he said. “If they [Shiites and Kurds] in fact engage in the process in order to destroy it, the administration theory could be very wrong.”

Hard to believe that the Shiites and Kurds would act in their own best interests. Oh. Wait. THAT’S THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS! And the Sunnis, with 20% of Iraq to back them, are left out in the cold. What did they ever do to the Shiites or the Kurds, anyway?

But Cole said the Bush administration increasingly has little influence over the political turmoil in Iraq. “The whole thing is out of their hands,” he said. “The Bush administration is pretty helpless in Iraq.”

Well, the esteemed professor is right in a way about “the Bush administration increasingly has little influence over the political turmoil in Iraq”, just like King George III had increasingly less and less influence over the Thirteen Colonies as the years went by or like the United States Army had increasingly less and less influence over Japan as the 20th Century marched on. What was the reason for all of this decreasing influence? It couldn’t have been that the parties in question were increasingly running their own affairs, could it have been?

We want the whole thing to be almost completely “out of our hands” at some point, don’t we? Isn’t that the point?

There’s a long, long way to go. The violence won’t end any time soon. But Iraq is on the right path and progress is being made.

That sure makes some people mad.

Comments

  1. I have one thing, and one thing only to point out, which I think Murdoc skipped over, although I know he is going to agree with this and has probably pointed it out already in the past. Most referrenda don’t allow minorities to vote them down. This one did. Because of this (or perhaps for other reasons), the majority parties were concerned enough to make changes to the proposed constitution specifically to please that minority party, which already had had some input into its contents. This is a victory of sorts for Sunnis. They didn’t manage to reject the constitution outright but they managed to get it ammended in their favour. In other words, just like in other democratic countries, a minority party was not able to completely change the course of a process, but was able to have an influence on it. ALL Iraqis, except those advocating violence, will benefit from this I believe. Having a constitution is a good thing, and it isn’t set in stone, or the be-all and end-all of legislation. It’s important but not the only issue. So, to sum up, everyone benefits from this, Sunnis can see that they still have power, many of them participated in the process. To find fault in this you have to try really hard. It makes one look like a bit of a fool. You could claim that this will never be ‘won’. It takes a special kind of bitter pessimist to do so. I can think of at least one person fitting that description, a ‘professor’ no less.

  2. Excellent critique, Murdoc! To use Juan Cole as an expert in anything, The Washington Post was stretching even more than usual. Another problem with most news stories on Iraq: They go on and on, and yet they seldom seem to get around to pointing out that many Sunni Arabs voted against the Iraq Constitution simply because, since 1968, Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority was favored by Saddam’s fascist dictatorship. If news reporters more often noted the element of totalitarian nostalgia in Iraq’s struggle, the Sunni Arab cause would be placed in its proper perspective. Some heroic Sunni Arab democrats unselfishly helped pass the Iraq Constitution. Understanding the benefits of freedom, lots of ordinary Sunni Arabs voted for the Constitution. The back of Sunni Arab fascism has been broken in Iraq.

  3. Over at Ace of Spades, Ace came up with a wonderful idea. A t-shirt for terrorists. I want to take his idea and point it in another direction. How about a t-shirt for American Journalists? It would read ‘I Supported the Terrorists and all I got for it was this lousy constitution.’ The orginal idea is of course Ace’s and he should be entitled to the lion’s share of the royalties. I just want to see a bunch of people standing in the window behind the talking heads on the today show wearing them.

  4. Side Notes from the American Revolution The Dissaffected Minority– ‘Estimates of the number of Loyalists range as high as 500,000, or 20 percent of the white population of the colonies.’ The Armed Minority ‘a minority, about 19,000 Loyalists, armed and supplied by the British, fought in the conflict.’ I think alot of people are stuck on having instant resolutions. 3 years is an very short time to institute major governmental societal change. The American revolution took 7 years and it took another 6 years under the articles of confederation before federal system was developed. Getting groups of (3) different cultural , religious groups to live in a democratic system is hard. England, Scotland & Ireland come to mind…and that is about a 1000 years of on and off wars and rebellions. Canda has two groups – but its a French thing. France itself goes about 50 years between revolutions and about 30 years between surrenderings to the Germans. Long story short – The sad part about this whole Iraq thing, is just when its becomming clear that insurgency is failling and is on the down slope. That its clear that Bush’s vision for Iraq is going to come true – the opposition to Bush has set the tone and the arguement. 20 years from now, its going to become clear – that for good or ill, Bush is going to be one of most influencial presidents on American and world history in the 21st centtury.

  5. the more that I read your articles the more I realize that you have never been to war.You should try it!It sure does change your point of view.

  6. So the election was fixed with a result in mind? If the goal here was to convince the Sunni minority that they had to come in and join the government doesnt the fact that they voted heavily, and their votes didnt matter really convince them that this isnt their government? OTOH, if the sunni’s saw that they could vote down the constitution wouldnt that encourage them to participate and renegotiate it? What exactly is our metric for success here? how do we know if this is doing any good other then endless chearleading? will it be reductions in the number of attacks? what will it be?

  7. Aaron, you obviously didn’t read my comment. I explained why this was a good result for Sunnis. What is our metric for success? Well, there are lots. The fact that there were a tiny fraction of the number of attacks, woundings and killings of the last elections is a pretty good measure of success I think, as well as increased overall participation in the political process. However, that’s not the only good news. I don’t really see the point of going over all this again since you’ll just change the topic anyway, judging from past behaviour.

  8. Dave A: You are correct, sir. I have never been to war. In fact, I have never served in the military. I have no doubt whatsoever that being in a war would certainly change anyone’s point of view dramatically. ‘Chickenhawk’ accusations aside, though, how would this changed point of view alter the personal opinions expressed in this post? Please try to limit your comments to the subject of this post. If you have comments on another subject, please find a relevant post to make them on. Though you, no doubt, have no such intentions, you’d be surprised at how many commenters critical of my views use things like ‘chickenhawk’ accusations to attempt to hijack a thread. It’s usually because they don’t have a good point to make.

  9. The convoluted rhetoric the left media uses to make a good situation feel bad defies logic. Makes you wonder what they teach at the elite J schools– Doublespeak 101? Seems to me it would be much easier to tell the truth in ten words, rather than use 100 words to skirt around it. Guess they haven’t heard about blogs, yet. Blogs, the ultimate equalizer.

  10. Funny, I know a lot of people in the military and they overwhelmingly support what we’re doing. Those who’ve served in combat over there especially support it. In any case: we’ll see what the full results are on Friday, but I’ve ceased to do more than roll my eyes at the constant, unrelentingly negative press. What can you do with these people?