Like the "transfer of power" several months back, these Iraqi elections--though they are the announced point of it all--will change nothing about the day-to-day reality. Even the best case scenario, in my opinion, leaves treacherous likely outcomes. That would be if an elected government actually rallies a great number of the Iraqi people behind it, probably by kicking out the Americans. But, that of course leaves Iraq open to an even greater possible increase in chaos, despotism and the rise of heavy-handed Islamic fundamentalism, should the elected officials not have the capacity and the public legitimacy to govern and keep order.
The alternative is to keep us there for a modicum of security and the implicit threat of overwhelming force keeping fanatics from at least an organized takeover. This choice, we know now, has the added insult of turning more Iraqis into fanatics in the first place. And, maybe worst of all, American troops will continue to suffer days like today, the deadliest for US soldiers since the invasion.
When and how will this phase of 100,000+ troops on the ground end? Will we have to be asked to leave by a legitimately elected Iraqi government? Will we have to be satisfied that there is an effective Iraqi police force to maintain order? Or will we have to finally lose the public will to continue with no end in sight? Which sounds more likely to you? I suppose a fourth option would be a new conflict (real or imagined) necessitating our troops elsewhere.
I have been a believer through most of this in the you-break-it-you-own-it theory that says once we demolished their infrastructure and toppled their government, we had a duty to stay and help rebuild. The saddest part of all this is team Bush's apparent lack of interest in developing a reasonable plan to address this stage. There is no end in sight, plus I am very dubious about the training of an Iraqi police force, what with reports of desertion, inadequate training, and the constant threat of violence by extremist guerrilas.
I am sure we are doing plenty of good things in many part of Iraq, but I am starting to gravitate toward the get-the-hell-out-of-there camp. It rings especially true when thinking that most of the fighters would seem to be more angry about American occupation than they are about the idea of self-government which is supposedly keeping us there. Sure, if we break it we should fix it. But when does our presence there start amounting to further breakage (through sheer incitement) in itself? Among a horizon of horrible options, leaving pretty quickly is starting to feel like a less horrible one than the others.
Am I wrong?