Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Iraq's Blessed Affliction

by Omar Fadhil Al-Nidawi and Austin Bay

Wall Street Journal
August 4, 2010

As President Barack Obama focuses American attention on this month's drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq, the result of Iraq's last national election remains uncertain. No clear victor emerged when ballots were cast in March, as the opposing blocs of former Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki won 91 and 89 seats, respectively. No governing coalition has formed in five months of political jockeying, and the Iraqi people are frustrated.

Frustration, however, is not cause for despair. Compared to the tyrannical certainty governing Iran to the east and Syria to the west—and that existed under Saddam Hussein's heinous regime—the democratic wrangling of the new Iraq is a blessed affliction. The Iraqi public is disgusted with poor services and continued parliamentary deadlock, but the passing time has shown that predictions of collapse and violent fragmentation are mistaken.

Iraqis should be proud. Iraq's series of free and fair elections created the foundations of a democratic culture even faster than many optimists thought possible. The March election's aftermath indicates that the new social contract is real and resilient, as Iraqis are using peaceful means to influence their leaders. Iraqi politicians know that the public holds them accountable. Indeed, many privately admit their fear that dithering has cost them dearly. It is refreshing—and almost unprecedented—for Middle Eastern leaders to be genuinely concerned about their popular legitimacy.