We don't know what will happen with the election in Iraq tomorrow. Even the most vociferous critics of this dreadful miscalculation and abuse of imagined power like myself, must hope that it goes well. Thousands of innocent Iraqi lives have been lost. Too many of our own young military men and women will either not return to their families or not return as they were. Saddam was a brutal dictator and the idea of free self rule replacing tyranny should not be trivialized. Whether the election will be seen as legitimate remains the big question and its answer is unlikely to be self evident. For sure, only a portion of eligible voters will go to the polls (we Americans can relate to that), and whole constituencies have indicated that they won't participate at all. Some votes will come from Iraqi never-to-return expatriates around the world, among them those who hold citizenship in their new countries. How will that go down with the people so at risk on the ground? The administration has consistently suggested that the election will be a turning point, the beginning of a new beginning for Iraq. But that dog has barked before – falling statues, mission accomplished, capture of Saddam, routing of Felluga – all fantasy watersheds.
What does seem clear is that both the Administration and the American people hope this election, if not the beginning of the beginning for Iraqis, is the beginning of the end for us. In that regard, I was struck by three unscientific online instant polls conducted today by MSNBC and CNN. One asked if the election was an opportunity for us to exit, another if it would be successful and a third if it would bring democratic government to Iraq. In each 65% or more of respondents weighed in on the side of either opportunity to exit or of expected failure. Perhaps we haven't reached a Viet Nam like tipping point of fatigue but, in a world that is moving much faster than it did in the 1960s, we are getting pretty damn close.
In today's column "The Bushies New Groove", David Brooks, the now singular conservatism op-ed voice at the New York Times, suggests that the administration is looking at things in a totally new way as they enter the second term. If you believe a new policy direction run by very ideologues who created the old is credible, then you probably believed there was a New Nixon. Remember what happened to that piece of mythology? In any event, it's instructive to read the administration's planted views in the paper of record suggesting that focus will turn from the Middle East to the world including places like South America. Now, aside from our pursuing the "evil doers", I don't remember the Bush people focusing much attention on real Middle East problems in the first term, certainly not on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which continues to be the most urgent and probably far reaching of them. That aside, I guess Brooks' sources are using him to signal a revealing "we're going to get out of that town as soon as possible" message. Very interesting! Almost as if they were in control of the situation. Fat chance of that.