Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Iraq: A prediction

Yeah, yeah, I know -- and I'm sorry. It's not that I'm burned out on keeping up Kn@ppster, it's that I have a lot of irons in a lot of fires right now. I'm working on the launch of a (paying!) project that you'll be hearing more about soon, trying to get Au Contraire off to a good start, busting skull on a new piece for Free Market News Network (and still waiting to hear from Mark Fadiman -- knock, knock!), tweaking that there superfrap Linux install, etc. This semi-hiatus will pay off, y'all. I promise.

'Twixt and 'tween all of this other stuff, yes, I've been following the news and thinking my cynical little thoughts. Latest topic of interest. The upcoming constitutional referendum in Iraq. A Sunni boycott is on-again, off-again; Parliament changed the rules to rig the outcome in favor of ratification, but just changed them back again today.

So how's it gonna go? My prediction is: The constitution gets ratified ... whether the voters want it to or not.

Many years ago, an associate who will remain nameless (and this time it's really not me) worked in a union shop. The contract was up, things were at a deadlock, and a strike seemed not only inevitable, but desirable. Sometimes ya just gotta show'em who's boss. My associate voted, and was in some way, shape manner or form involved in the ballot counting (which is why he or she remains nameless -- I don't know if there's a statute of limitations on what happened). The new contract was approved ... by two votes. And then the union business manager walked over to the table, picked up three of the counted "yes" ballots, wadded them up and threw them in the trash. "This strike is necessary," he said to my associate, "and I'll be damned if I'll let two votes stand in the way of what's necessary."

From the perspective of the sitting pre-constitutional government, and of the Bush administration, this constitution is necessary ... and I doubt that they'll let a few votes stand in the way. If Iraq's voters ratify the constitution, fine. If they don't, the ballot boxes will be stuffed until the desired outcome is achieved.

The Kurd/Shiite pre-constitution government has a vested interest in seeing its work ratified and the framework it has set up given durability (and, let's be honest here, they haven't given the Sunnis the kind of short shrift they could have chosen to give them). If the constitution is not ratified, that government loses its claim to any perceived legitimacy of a higher level than that of, say, the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party or al Qaeda in Iraq. They become just one more gaggle of gunslingers trying to have things their way.

The Bush administration, on the other hand, wants two things: It wants the hell out of Iraq, and it wants a plausible claim of "victory" to soften the political impact of the exit. If Iraq falls through the thin paper floor of the constitutional process and into de jure instead of just de facto civil war, then the available options both stink: Stay and continue pouring American blood into the sand (and probably in larger volumes), or leave in obvious defeat. The effect of either course will be measured in terms of lost GOP House and Senate seats next November.

To paraphrase Boss Tweed (or, depending on who tells it, Stalin), the Iraqis can do all the voting they want as long as the Americans -- or the right Iraqis -- do the counting. I'll be surprised if the constitution fails. I'll be even more surprised if its ratification isn't accompanied by more, and more credible, reports of fraud than last January's poll.

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