Day By Day

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reporting Reconciliation In Iraq -- Or Not

I recently noted [here] that the Iraqi government has surpassed several of the benchmarks set by Congress about which Democrats have been complaining for many months. Tremendous progress has been made toward political reconciliation.

What's that you say? Never heard about it? That's because the MSM has been curiously quiet on the subject. Neo-Neocon describes the situation:

This particular event should have been the lead article on the front page of every newspaper. It should have been the big subject of all the talk shows. It ought to have been acknowledged by every critic of the surge—you know, the ones who initially said the surge wouldn’t work before it even began. The ones who then said Petraeus was lying about the drop in casualties. The ones who then said that it didn’t mean anything anyway because after all, the Iraqi legislature hadn’t met the proper benchmarks that would indicate political progress and reconciliation.

However, here’s how it played on the network news programs. Only ABC’s Charles Gibson saw fit to cover it, repeating an ABC pattern of being more favorable to favorable news from Iraq. And even Gibson alloted it only twenty seconds (although they were positive seconds), the sort of skim-the-surface coverage for which network TV news is notorious....
Read her whole piece here.


Wretchard over at the Belmont Club explains just why this new agreement is so important:

This measure is vital to institutionalizing the gains won by the Surge. Iraq has long been crippled by the defective, UN-designed "closed-party list" voting system, which created political parties based on sectarian affiliation. A UN website describes why it adopted this system. It had the advantage of being easy ("no census is required") and creating what in the UN view was an appropriate structure of political coalitions. The trouble was the system encouraged the very same fraction that took Iraq to the brink of civil war.

One of the key problems facing strategists of the Surge was to find a way to institutionalize the grassroots movement of the past year. Former insurgents would of course, be retrained and put under the discipline of the Army or Police. But what of the political leaders? The natural path was to encourage the leadership which emerged during the Surge to stand for office, which proved very difficult to do under the closed-party list system. They were dressed up with no place to go.

The impasse in Baghdad is partly the result of a logjam of sectarian interests. There are also a fair number of politicians, who because of the sectarian nature of the coalitions, are stooges of Teheran. A new election law could sweep the logjam away in a flood, with the stooges in the bargain. Electoral reform is supremely important for long term success. It is the linchpin of "reconciliation".

Read it here.

Note that a major obstacle to reconciliation as well as an important source of Iranian influence in Iraq has been an electoral system invented and imposed by the United Nations, while the key to reconciliation lies with the "bottom-up" approach to governance favored by the Bush administration. A major part of the problem with extending democracy into the Muslim world is that Western elites outside the United States [and including the Democratic Party leadership] cannot conceive of reform that is not directed from a central authority. In a very real sense it is Western lefties and transnational elites, not the Muslim peoples themselves, who are not ready for democratic reform in West Asia.