Exit Strategies

Democracy in Iraq


The American public (along with the world) doesn't seem to care about last weekend's elections in Iraq. One doesn't even hear much about this March of Freedom from Dubya's greatest admirers within the conservative movement. Michelle Malkin, for instance, hasn't written a column on the subject. Only the center-left is talking up the election -- and it all seems forced, if not sarcastic: "Victory At Last!"; "Iraq's newborn democracy is a juggernaught that will not be stopped." Really?     

A lot of this unconcern is due to the fact that everyone's focused on the economy, healthcare, and Obama. But I think the main reason for it is that the display last weekend was profoundly embarrassing. There were over 6000 candidates "from all of the country's major sects and many different parties," according to Newsweek. And the election represented, even more baldly than here in America, an "advance sale on stolen goods." Jobs, handouts, a more equitable distribution of the fabled Iraqi dish  al-qawza were promised (though, in truth, that latter one was satire.) Even the one-time neocon darling Ahmad Chalabi took part: after getting his use from Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, he's now teamed up with anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr! Does anyone out there really want to stand up and exclaim, "Boys, this is what we've been fighting and dying for!"

But while it's easy to scoff at all this and say it will lead to endless political bickering and stalemate, my question is, Why can't we get some of this chaos here at home!?! For well over a century American "democracy" has been controlled by a two-party duopoly. And at least in my lifetime, these parties haven't differed in the slightest on the issues that matter. Third parities, and even insurgents within the major parties, simply haven't gone anywhere (from Theodore Roosevelt to Perot, Nader, Buchanan, and Paul.) Red State/Blue State isn't a conspiracy, exactly, but it's certainly a mutually beneficial arrangement for Democrats and Republicans in which Americans periodically get mad at one party and vote in their other. There seems little chance for something like a Vlaams Belang to arise in America (and for reasons other than our political system.) If voting actually mattered, it would be illegal.

One can see why the American ruling class likes its two-party system: it's predictable and keeps politicians "of the right sort" in power. Why exactly the Pentagon and State Department would want to integrate free-wheeling parliamentarism in their efforts at "nation-building" is a question to which I don't have an exact answer. My guess is that Washington generally wants the domestic sphere to be stabe and its vassal states to be disjointed and indecisive -- that is, weak.