The MSM here have paid a great deal of attention to the presumed downsides of the election process, the campaign, and the prospects. One gets the strong sense while reading the assorted treatments that dramatic failure is in the offing, that the results of the election will go a very long way to demonstrating the inherently bankrupt policy of the US from the moment of the invasion onward.
It doesn't push the envelop too far to aver the MSM convey the strong impression of wishing, hoping (perhaps even praying) for a debacle in Iraq of seismic magnitude. A failure of Iraq's internal politics which screams, "The US was wrong! All those American lives were wasted! Our adventure was one not of regime change but of evil."
The reality, of course, is not so simple or so much a projection of an American political morality play. Rather the events in Iraq during the run-up to the election are a completely expectable manifestation of Iraqi demographics, culture, and recent history. Beyond that they reflect the actions of two men who are not only rivals for power but also able practitioners of the tribal or, at best, regional politics which are indigenous to Iraq.
The rivals are the one time favorite son of the neocon ninnies of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld years, Ahmed Chalabi, and the up-from-nowhere surprise Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Both men play the game of Iraqi politics quite well; al-Maliki has been playing it better--despite the predictions of the MSM.
To say that Chalabi is duplicitous, mendacious, and tergiversatious is to both state the obvious and pay him a deserved compliment. To point out his connection with Iran is both honest and damning. To continue belaboring the obvious, Chalabi is out for himself. He has a lust for power which crosses the border into the flatly obscene. When leaning on his American "friends" came a cropper several years ago, Chalabi, a man whose religious convictions have the flexibility of those possessed by Saddam Hussein, moved ever closer to the Shia majority finally aligning himself firmly with those who are agents of Tehran.
In his role with the commission vetting the many candidates for the upcoming election, Chalabi used this heaven(?) sent opportunity to plant--and detonate--an electoral IED. He whisked nearly five hundred names off the ballot, most of which were borne by Sunnis, with the bland statement that all were tarnished with a Baathist past. In partial justification of this action Chalabi pointed back to the "de-Baathification" program and orders of Jerry Bremer. He did this while cheerfully ignoring the more recent actions driven by al-Maliki in the "reintegration" effort which brought numerous "Baathists" back into government and the military.
The astute(?) journalists from the US and elsewhere shook their collective heads and declared disintegration of Iraq had been brought closer. In doing so these writers again emphasized the decaying security systems in the country as made evident in the uptick of VBIED attacks. The media assured us that these were the manifestation of spiraling sectarian conflict and a reprise of the bloody days of three to five years ago would soon be upon the nation.
During this brouhaha al-Maliki had made placatory gestures to the Islamist oriented component of the Shia community. The highest profile of these was the growing ban on alcohol sales and use in Baghdad. These moves have paid off to a significant degree.
The main move of al-Maliki came late last week. He dramatically expanded the "reintegration" effort by announcing the immediate recall of some twenty thousand Saddam era officers and NCOs to the armed forces.
The reaction within the American MSM was simply that al-Maliki had made a crass political move, seeking votes at any price. There was a general odor of censure in the coverage as if seeking to gain votes with a "public employment" project is somehow underhanded.
Of course al-Maliki sought votes by this action. It probably has gained him beaucoup--the recalled personnel, their families, their friends and so on. Nothing wrong with that.
Beyond the votes al-Maliki needs, the recall provides badly needed mid-level "management" for the Iraqi armed and security forces. The creation of a three hundred thousand man force has been done very rapidly, and quite incompletely. The particular deficiencies reside within the senior level NCOs and lower field grade officer corps. Bringing back men who never, but never, should have been sacked by Proconsul Bremer is a must-do if the Iraqi armed and security forces are going to become both an effective instrument of state and a representative institution of the nation.
The armed forces are the only potential national institution in a country deeply divided by region, religion, and tribal identity. Over the years, the generations, the centuries, there has rarely, if ever, been a unified Iraqi national identity. There is not one at the moment. However, the potential for one exists today. In large measure this pleasant and optimistic development is the product of al-Maliki and his party.
Prime Minister Maliki and his cohorts have placed a very high emphasis upon the notion that there does exist a unique and compelling Iraqi national identity. On occasion this has reflected itself in obnoxious ways such as the "victory" celebrations last summer with the withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi urban centers. The Geek cheered at the time. He still does.
If the accomplishment of the minimum necessary American strategic goal, that of "not losing" is to have any lasting value or true and positive impact on the Iraqi people, it must come from the propagation and development of a credible sense of national self among the fractionated Iraqi publics. This means, in short, the creation and acceptance of a transcendent national sense of self.
Transcendent national identities do not come quickly. Nor do they come easily. We Americans forget too often and too completely how recently the primary sense of identity, of place came, not from the nation--the US of A--but from a particular region, state, or locality. In shorthand form, the stress was placed on the word, "states" not the word, "united." We were, not so much Americans as Southerners or New Englanders, Texans, or New Yorkers. (Some few of us were even New Mexicans.)
In national politics "ticket balancing" in presidential elections was considered absolutely essential. Even today faint echoes of this hoary tradition persist in the face of all the centripetal forces acting upon us. Most recently regional and state loyalties have resurfaced, albeit cautiously, in the rediscovery of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments propelled by a growing anxiety (dare one write "fear") of the remote, one-size-fits-all approach favored by Washington.
As his actions have made clear, al-Maliki understands the only counter to the divisions which threaten Iraq with energetic disassembly is the force draft development of a transcendent national identity. He has pursued this goal with a well judged and reasonably well-timed balancing of religious, tribal, and (to an unfortunately lesser extent) regional factions and interests.
He has not been successful yet. And, importantly, his nascent chance of success is not only threatened by intentional "wreckers and saboteurs" (to use a fine old Soviet term) such as the Iranian tool and expansively ambitious Chalabi but also by the challenge presented by the return of hundreds of thousands of emigres as well as the resettlement of an even greater number of internally displaced persons.
Iraq as well as al-Maliki have a long and very tough road to travel. The reality is they must travel this road alone. But, it is important to them, to the region and the US that they do not travel this long, lonely road unassisted. If nothing else the blood of our dead, the pain of our wounded, demand that We the People offer whatever helping hand is requested--or even our collective hind end when the development of an Iraqi national sense of self demands that Uncle Sam be given a swift kick.
It would also be pleasant, even important, if the American MSM quit licking their chops in apparent eager anticipation of disaster in Iraq. They do us, their readers, the Iraqis, and even themselves a massive disservice by seeking defeat where victory may yet flourish.