Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back to the future

The Iraqi elections are quickly approaching, and needless to say they take up a lot of our attention over here. The naysayers are out in force, so I was glad to run across David Brooks' article "The Insurgency Buster." (It's from September, so I had to use a bootleg link to avoid having to pay for the article. Just scroll to the bottom of the page to read it.)


[In 1982 El Salvador] voters came out in the hundreds of thousands. In some towns, they had to duck beneath sniper fire to get to the polls. In San Salvador, a bomb went off near a line of people waiting outside a polling station. The people scattered, then the line reformed. "This nation may be falling apart," one voter told The Christian Science Monitor, "but by voting we may help to hold it together."


Yet these elections proved how resilient democracy is, how even in the most chaotic circumstances, meaningful elections can be held.


The reason we should work for full democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not just because it's noble, but because it's practical. It is easier to defeat an insurgency and restore order with elections than without.As we saw in El Salvador and as Iraqi insurgents understand, elections suck the oxygen from a rebel army. They refute the claim that violence is the best way to change things. Moreover, they produce democratic leaders who are much better equipped to in an insurgency war.


It's simply astounding that in the United States, the home of the greatest and most effective democratic revolution, so many people have come to regard democracy as a luxury-brand vehicle, suited only for the culturally upscale, when it's really a sturdy truck, effective in conditions both rough and smooth.

Along those lines, earlier today LTG Thomas Metz gave a press conference; his opening statement addressed freedom, self-determination, and the "tiny minority of thugs." Pretty powerful stuff - look out for it on TV, and I'll post a transcript when I can find one.

Update: Yesterday's ChiTrib:

But the attacks can't dampen the growing enthusiasm for the election in wide swaths of the country. There are indications that the number of Iraqis making sure that they are properly registered to vote has surged recently, according to the Washington Post. "We are very optimistic," a top Iraqi election official told the Post.

At personal risk, millions will likely turn out at the end of January. The world will once again witness the power of democracy, a power that cannot be extinguished by violence. Democracy has taken root in Afghanistan. It's flowering in Ukraine. And it will soon be embraced by millions of Iraqis. They will defy all-too-vivid death threats to do what they see fit: They will vote.