Elections in 2005, Civil War in 2006?

Having been asked by AlterNet to start blogging, I have wrestled with how to structure the material I will submit. I have been given a wide remit covering not just Iraq and the Middle East, but national security and foreign policy as well. Rather than fall back on familiar ground, and write an essay about Iraq, I took a step back to evaluate where I thought the United States was heading from a national security perspective in 2006. I found myself coming back to Iraq as the central issue around which all others either revolve, or evolve. I believe that this will remain the primary theme for the United States in 2006, just as it was (with some intervention from Mother Nature) in 2005.

With the advent of a New Year, the buzz term being bandied about throughout America by politicians and media pundits regarding Iraq is "Democracy." The year 2005 witnessed three "historic" elections in Iraq, the accumulated result of which is ostensibly a new, democratic Iraq capable not only of self-governance, but also self-defense, thereby reducing the burden imposed on the US military in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion which toppled the distinctly non-democratic government of Saddam Hussein, and the subsequent occupation which oversaw Iraq's dark slide into chaos and anarchy.

The democratic process that transpired in 2005 was in and of itself a by-product of this chaos and anarchy. The January 2005 election of an interim governmental authority responsible for raising a national assembly whose job it was to draft a new Iraqi Constitution was a slip-shod affair, the timing of which was driven by American political imperative as opposed to representing the will and desire of an Iraqi electorate. In fact, the most telling outcome of that election was that while Iraq had a mass of people who were brave enough to face down terrorist attacks to make their way to the polling places to cast a vote, Iraq did not have an informed and organized electorate capable of defining and declaring core values upon which they selected candidates for national representative government.

What the January 2005 elections in Iraq showed more than anything is that an election does not certify a democracy; only a democracy can certify an election, and Iraq is, after 30 some-odd years of totalitarian rule, certifiably not prepared to organize itself and function as a free and democratic state run on principles of secular rule of law and human rights agreed upon by the majority of the Iraqi people. By rushing the January elections, the Bush administration initiated a process which was prone to abuse, something no amount of covert electioneering on the part of the Department of Defense and the CIA could prevent.

In post-Saddam Iraq there are three groups capable of organizing themselves to the extent that they can effectively participate in national-based elections. The first is the Ba'ath party of Saddam Hussein, outlawed in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and driven underground. Thus banned from overt participation, the Ba'athists have formed their own distinctly non-democratic coalition of secular Saddam loyalists, Sunni Islamists and tribalists who resist not only the US-led occupation of Iraq, but also any form of Iraqi government imposed on Iraq by the occupation.

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