Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: The 'civil war' that wasn't
Posted on 01/31/2005 6:11:24 AM PST by Eurotwit
AND so the "looming Iraqi election fiasco" joins "the brutal Afghan winter" and "the brutal Iraqi summer" and "the seething Arab street" and all the other junk in the overflowing trash can of post-9/11 Western media fictions. The sight of millions of brave voters emerging from polling stations holding high their purple dye-stained fingers was so inspiring that, from America's Democratic Party to European protest rallies, opponents of the war waited, oh, all of three minutes before flipping the Iraqis their own fingers, undyed.
"No one in the United States should try to over-hype this election," warned John Kerry yesterday before embarking on the world champion limbo dance of Iraqi election under-hyping.
He has a point. One vote does not a functioning democracy make. To be a truly advanced, sophisticated democracy you need an opposition party that knows how to react to good news by sounding whiny and grudging and moving the goalposts. "The real test is not the election," he declared, airily swatting aside 8 million voters. "The real test is..."
I dozed off at that point, so I'm unable to tell you what moved goalposts the senator inserted. But no doubt they involved, as they always do, the Bush administration needing to "reach out" more effectively to involve the "international community". "International community", by the way, doesn't mean Tony Blair, John Howard, the Poles, Japan, India, Fiji, et al but Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan, a pantomime horse in which both men are playing the rear end. But, in an advanced, sophisticated democracy, that's how we define the "international community": no matter how many foreigners are in your coalition, it's unilateral unless Jacques is on board.
In Commonwealth countries, of course, we have the concept of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, so called because the Loyal Opposition carries on like a hysterical old queen. Thus, Kim Beazley, back in the saddle and already sore -- on the very eve of the Iraqi election triumph, when elementary prudence might have suggested waiting 24 hours before singing another refrain of When It's Quagmire Time on the Tigris.
But the old new Labor Party leader had barely taken possession of the keys to the executive washroom before he was "warning" the US that it risked being bogged down in -- all together now -- "a long-running civil war in Iraq".
How lame do you have to be to be the last guy on the planet to do the old "Iraq on the brink of civil war" routine? Just as "the brutal Afghan winter" that was supposed to mire shivering US forces in the graveyard of empire is now one-third of a decade behind schedule, so Iraq has now been "teetering on the brink of civil war" for coming up for two years. Brink-wise, that's quite a leisurely teeter. There's no danger of a "long-running civil war in Iraq". Instead, we've had a long-running hysteria about impending civil war in Iraq.
Indeed, as long runs go, predictions of Iraqi civil war are the Cats of doomsday scenarios -- except that, unlike Cats, it's all previews and no opening night. Tom Clark of Canada's CTV network was warning that "Iraq could be teetering on the brink of civil war" in August 2003. Graydon Carter, editor of the perfumed glossy Vanity Fair, was warning that Iraq was "on the brink of civil war" a month earlier.
To their credit, both men teetered on the brink of making a laughably inaccurate prediction and then plunged right in. What's the point of Beazley teetering on the brink of retirement for half a decade only to come back and hurl himself into the abyss of yesterday's cliches?
To hold a civil war you need two sides. Iraq fails to meet that minimum requirement. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- not an Iraqi, incidentally -- has a few foreign jihadi, some enthusiastic head-hackers and a dwindling supply of suicide bombers, a job in which by definition it's hard to get people with experience. On election day, his guys bullied a kid with Down syndrome into taking the gig. You can't have a Sunni-Shia war because Zarqawi doesn't represent the Sunni. Meanwhile, in the face of his provocations, the Shia have been a model of restraint and discipline and political surefootedness. Beazley might learn a thing or two from them.
Granted, a footling suicide cult with no mass support will still blow up cars and burn buildings, and it's savvy enough to do so in parts of the country conveniently located so that Zarqawi's shills in the Western press corps don't have to stray far from their hotels tofilm it. Or as the internet satirist Scott Ott deftly summarised the coverage: "Iraqi Voting Disrupts News Reports of Bombings."
That's another sign that you're a mature, sophisticated democracy -- when you've got media so bogged down in the Vietnam-like quagmire of their ancient Vietnam quagmire analogies that they're unable to drag themselves free, whatever happens. The election was "an act of folly in the eyes of so many Iraqis", pronounced a confident Robert Fisk, the beloved comic doom-monger. Care to pin down that so many a bit more precisely, Robert?
In his own pre-election message, Zarqawi denounced the "evil" of democracy and warned any Iraqis who went along with it that they'd be regarded as having gone over to the other side. Yet at some Sunni Triangle precincts there were reports of 40per cent voter turnout -- courageous men and women who were willing to defy the thugs and murderers in their own so-called stronghold.
That's not how Paul McGeough, The Sydney Morning Herald's man in Baghdad, sees things. Zarqawi may have issued an explicit threat against voting in the election, but according to McGeough yesterday, you weren't
at risk of being killed for showing up but for staying away. "It was only a personal threat of violence that motivated some people to go to the polls." They came "only because of the gun at their backs".
How many would that be? Six million? Fourteen thousand? Couple of dozen? Hard to tell from McGeough's report. Perhaps he's just confused. Isn't it Australia where you're forced to vote whether you want to or not?
Three years ago, Jonathan Kay of Canada's National Post wrote that if Robert Mugabe turned up at an Arab League meeting he'd be the most democratically legitimate leader in the room. That's no longer true.
What happened on Sunday was a victory for the Iraqi people and a vindication for a relatively small group of Western politicians -- most notably the much-maligned US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose faith in those Iraqi people turned out to be so much shrewder than the sneers of his detractors.
John Kerry is wrong. It's time for him and Ted Kennedy and Kim Beazley and Paul McGeough to stop under-hyping. If freedom isn't on the march, it's moving forward dramatically in a region notoriously inimical to it.
This weekend's election was a rebuke to the parochial condescension of the West's elites.
"These elections are a joke," Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan, told Reuters. Sorry, professor, the joke's on you. And the modern Middle East history is being made by the fledgling democracy of the new Iraq.
Mark Steyn is a columnist with Britain's Telegraph group and a regular contributor to The Australian's Opinionpage.
Yep. Steyn gets it all right.
Maybe some day the "International Community" will too. Until then, W, Keep up the good work!
It is time to re-read this:(EUROPE - THY NAME IS COWARDICE)
How will Kerry sell the line that the election isn't significant when some of his traditional allies in the media say that it is significant?
That is the funniest thing I have read this year. Every time I read it I laugh even harder. A writer could literally claim his career an outstanding success just by penning that single line. Steyn gets one of those out about once a week.
Thank you Mr Steyn!
Mark Steyn is brilliant!
Beautiful Mind bump!
Wow ... if I could insult people with such smoothness, I'd be just impossible.
Eleanor Clift was saying it just yesterday! What a twit! EC not you!
Hope Iraq settles down soon.
This was my first thing to read on FR today - off to a good start!
Then I guess Eleanor Clift is pretty lame :-).
'...."Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan, a pantomime horse in which both men are playing the rear end. "
That is the funniest thing I have read this year. Every time I read it I laugh even harder. A writer could literally claim his career an outstanding success just by penning that single line. Steyn gets one of those out about once a week......'
I predict this phrase will enter our lexicon, and see a great deal of use. This is a quote for the ages.
Bump for lunchtime read...
What I'd like to ask the MSM:
"You guys were wrong about Afghanistan, the Afghani Winter, the invasion of Iraq, and on many other occasions. And now it seems you were wrong about the Iraqi election.
Are you prepared now to admit to the American people that you made mistakes in your reporting...Will you tell the American people that you just didn't get it right? Will you tell the American people that YOU WERE WRONG?...?"
Not that I'm holding my breath.
Does anyone know if there's any kind of "congratulations book" (comparable to the too frequent condolence books) set up for people to give their individual best wishes to the Iraqis? I'd love to sign something like that!