Monday, January 24, 2005

Another step in the right direction

We're now less than one week from the Iraqi election. As is the case with many events with such a lengthy and tumultuous build-up, much attention is directed toward the event, with little foresight given the following days and months.

We are right to build the election up as an event of great significance for Iraq, the Middle East, and the rest of the world, but we must take care not to lose grasp of the larger picture.

Also, even if the election is an unparalleled success, the MSM will first refuse to admit it by focusing on the inevitable election-day violence, then tout stories of voter intimidation, trumpet any fatwahs of anti-democracy clerics, highlight the shortcomings of the fledgling Iraq government, and seek out any and all other angles to continue their legacy of negative, anti-US coverage of the situation here in Iraq.

For those of us who spent the last year preparing for January 30 (and are headed home shortly thereafter), the tendency to focus exclusively on the election is great.

However, we must temper our enthusiasm and realize that though the election is of inestimable importance, it is not an end in itself. Instead, it is a vital step in Iraq's journey toward representative and responsible government, with many miles to go.

Americans are used to huge elections with climactic finishes (usually followed by "meet the new boss. . .") In Iraq the situation is different; simply holding an election is a grand feat, and every vote is essentially for the same cause - victory of democracy over tyranny.

Soldiers here know that our jobs will not be significantly different on January 31, and we do not expect them to be - we know exactly how difficult change can be. It is important for the American people to realize that this election, however it turns out, is just the beginning of the long journey that our country began over two centuries ago.

I am optimistic that the Iraqi people will confound the pundits by turning out to vote despite the mortars, car bombs, and suicide attacks, but we must be ready to hold the course in the following days and months, since the media will certainly never concede the victory, no matter the reality on the ground.