Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Electile Dysfunction: So Far So Good?

It's almost unfair to start making calls on the Iraqi election results, a mere three weeks after they took place. But we can already see which way the winds are blowing, and as the usual suspects are already starting to come back out of the woodwork, it behooves us to at least make a few critical observations.

Fortunately, international asshole of mystery Ahmad Chalabi didn't quite have the numbers he thought he had to be selected prime minister. Ibrahim Jaafari got the nod, and comes from the same list of parties that Chalabi did.

It would be hard for Jaafari to turn out to be as treacherous and untrustworthy as Chalabi has, and as Juan Cole points out, Jaafari is seen as a more unifying influence. Chalabi, as can be seen by the Stephanopoulos transcript further down Prof. Cole's page, would have just been a thorn in our side. (Indeed, he may still be, as Chalabi is considered a front-runner for the Interior Minister job, which would have hin overseeing everything from oil to internal security.) Still, we are talking about a party bloc dominated by fundamentalist Iranian-influenced clerics. They may not turn it into an all-out mullah-ocracy, but it will take a nuanced hand to get them to help us further our putative goals in the region. People can get funny ideas sometimes, and decide they want to pursue their own goals.

And the violence keeps on, despite the promises and appearance of resolution. Even the CIA admits that the war has not only fed the insurgency within Iraq, but turned into a recruitment tool for al-Qaeda and similar groups.

The insurgency in Iraq continues to baffle the U.S. military and intelligence communities, and the U.S. occupation has become a potent recruiting tool for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, top U.S. national security officials told Congress yesterday.
"Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S. jihadists," CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," he said. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."

If only someone had stood up before the war and warned of this possibility.

The histrionic triumphalism immediately after the election has already abated completely; it's as if it was a merely ceremonial function designed to prop up Bush for the State of the Union speech. Since then, the corner does not seem as obviously turned as it was again supposed to be. This is actually too bad; this is about the last issue on which one should have even a trace of schadenfreude.

But it is indicative of the operative foreign policy dynamic at work here, and the domestic propaganda mechanisms in play that whip people up with loads of hortatory rhetoric for the weekly news cycle, then disappear just as quickly, rather than render some depth to the argument with, say, objective facts.

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