John Podhoretz responds to those like Ralph Peters and David Brooks who have concluded that, as JPod frames it, “the entire Iraq adventure was a fool’s errand – well-intentioned but fundamentally unworkable because it was based on the notion that Iraqis would step up to the plate and take control of their own destinies in a positive way.” His answer is that the Iraqi people actually did step up to the plate when they participated en masse in elections. By virtue of that participation, the Iraqis “have done everything possible to demonstrate their willingness – indeed, their eagerness, to seize control of their own futures and build a new kind of society in the Arab world.”
In my view, Iraqi participation in elections, sometimes at great personal risk, goes a long way towards answering those who say there’s something in the Iraqi (or Arab) DNA that is incompatible with the administration’s democracy project. Unfortunately, though, more was required of the Iraqi peoople than just voting. The situation called on them to elect leaders who would work in good faith for national reconciliation, rather than tilting substantially in the direction of one sectarian faction. The Iraqis failed to do this when they voted in the Shia-militia-friendly Maliki government, thereby making it difficult, if not impossible, for the U.S. to work with the current government to curb sectarian violence.
The Iraqis, of course, are not the first people to make a very bad decision at the polls. The fact that they did so is not necessarily evidence of some national “genetic” flaw, much less a demonstration that democracy can’t work in the Middle East. It just means that the Iraqi people did less than what a difficult situation required, and that we must face up to and deal with the consequences.
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