The Economist: Iraq's Chances Are "Not Brilliant"

Saturday, December 17, 2005 at 12:50 PM

We can look at the Iraqi parliamentary elections this week in any of several ways.  And no one can say for certain how Iraq will "come out."  But here's somethings to think about in trying to make your own prediction on Iraq's future.

The Economist, the leading world magazine of capitalists and free marketers everywhere, and a big fan of the Iraq invasion, had this to say about Iraq in its 12/17 issue (page 11):

"IRAQ is a bloody mess and will stay that way for quite some time....The chances of a broad, tolerant, multi-sectarian coalition government emerging are not brilliant."

A fuller excerpt, to better understand the tenor:

IRAQ is a bloody mess and will stay that way for quite some time. It is nothing like George Bush-or,for that matter,The Economist-hoped it would become when he sent in his troops nearly three years ago to get rid of Saddam Hussein. This week's general election will not turn things round overnight.  But the election of a representative government offers Iraqis a chance to start slowly to stem the tide of mayhem and murder. For some time to come, America and its dwindling band of allies will have to underpin the new order's fragile security with military forces. But it will take more than American staying power to give Iraqis a decent, secure state. Almost everything now depends on their own desire for internal reconciliation, and their willingness to make sacrifices in order to achieve it.

What America can do
The chances of a broad, tolerant, multi-sectarian coalition government emerging are not brilliant. The best organised of the Islamist parties in the United Iraqi Alliance is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, better known as SCIRI. Some of its militias are sectarian, murderous and close to Iran. Too many of them are being incorporated whole, with their sectarian allegiances intact, in the new army and police.  While Sunni suicide-bombers kill Shias in mosques and buses, SCIRl'S friends assassinate and torture Sunnis. As the gulf widens, compromise becomes harder.

The new Shia ascendancy must realise that Iraq will become stable only if its new top dogs are generous. If the Shias do not recognise this for themselves, America should use its influence as the new government's protector to squeeze some generosity from them. Otherwise the country will not hold together, and the blood of too many Iraqis-and too many Americans-will have been spilt in vain.
[end excerpt]

This is pretty much in line with the extensive coverage of the Iraqi elections in Friday's NY Times.  The secularists are at a real disadvantage.  Most religious and ethnic factions had built-in advantages because they control the police and local militias, who electioneered night and day, and vandalized the posters and materials for more secular opposition.

Celebrate the election if you want.  It was a necessary step to the ultimate determination of Iraq's future.

But think real hard about the The Economist's opinion.  Think even harder about the fact that the opinion comes from a source that has been staunchly in the President's corner on Iraq.  Think hard about the fact that even many American military people have said, off the record, that there's a pretty good chance that we're training the very militias who will eventually try to take over Iraq and squash any semblance of democracy, or at least of the kind that Americans were told we could instill there..