Friday, December 05, 2003

there's the rub
From the New York Times:

"Nobody wants Palm Beach County in Baghdad," Mr. Feldman added. "Historical experience also suggests that quick elections under postwar conditions elect people not dedicated to democratization. Simply put, if you move too fast, the wrong people could get elected."

Ah, the right people. That was always the problem with the “trust George” argument. The US and its appendages have put a huge amount of blood, money and effort into the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It strains credibility to believe after that that they would let a bunch of Iraqis run around the place deciding things on their own behalf. They may have thought that the invasion would lead spontaneously to the rise of a friendly government, elected by a grateful populace, which would automatically endeavour to meet US policy goals in the region. Let’s call that the sincere neocon position.

Or they may have thought that this was just grist for the suckers and that the real job was to create a proxy government, preferably by democratic means but in practice by any means necessary. After all, its only real jobs would be to recognize Israel, host US troops and act as a facilities management service for KBR, et al. Call that the cynical realist position.

What we seem to have got is electoral realism: Let’s rig up something that’ll quiet everybody down until the week following the first week of November 2004. So, what are we likely to get? The B&T punditry department offers three alternatives.

Benign: A vaguely theocratic Shi’a dominated state, Islamic in general character but liberal enough in practice for Sunnis, Kurds and secularists to rub along together reasonably well. It probably represents a step back in women’s rights, but the chicks are always an afterthought in these situations. It also tees up an interesting conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia and shifts the focus of Sunni jihadism away from the West. That in turn enables victory in the war against terror to be declared. In the longer term, let’s get hydrogen power on stream as fast as possible.

Moderate: A similar regime takes power, but is distrusted and seen as lacking popular legitimacy, and as such fails to disarm or break up confessional or ethnic paramilitary groups. While none of these enjoy mass support, Iraqis distrust each other and the government enough to let them recruit and operate. Low intensity conflict continues over several decades until all sides collapse into a “peace of exhaustion.” The Northern Ireland scenario.

Terrible: A government is installed which no-one accepts. An armed power struggle ensues between and within major factions, inflamed as outside powers use local fighters as proxies. Outlined here. The Zaire on the Euphrates scenario.

I don’t know how things will actually work out. I bet George and Tony don’t either. My hunch: that if you take the above as a scale, it’ll be somewhere between two and three.