Today's edition of the WSJ Opinion Page, however, has brought me out of hiding to comment on a group with a great deal riding on the US Presidential election. The people of Iraq have endured much. The depredations of the Saddam regime saw many thousands suffer and die horribly, while the rest lived in constant (if not always conscious) terror of the brutally efficient Baathist secret police. After their liberation from that regime, however, a virulent infection of Sunni Jihadi terrorists and Iranian-backed Shiite goon squads threatened to poison their newfound chance at freedom with an even more chaotic sort of oppression and misery. Just when things seemed darkest, however, a critical corner was turned and the Iraqi people appear to have selected a government which is taking their security and self-determination very seriously. Now, for the very first time since the nation of Iraq was cobbled together after WW1, a free citizenry can see the promise of living in a state which allows them to partake fairly in the governance of their country and in the equitable distribution of its immense wealth.
Which is why those people are watching the progress of the current American election cycle with great interest. Indeed, if many are behaving as though their very lives depended on its outcome, it is because they see the situation rather more clearly than does much of the American electorate:
The administration and the Iraqi government are now wrangling over a status-of-forces agreement -- evidence that Iraq has reached a point where it can once again act like a sovereign nation. But the Iraqis leave no doubt that they want a deal, not least "so Iraq would be able to protect U.S. interests in the region," as Sheik Abu Rishah puts it. Having lost 4,100 Americans for Iraq, the Iraqis are offering to return the sacrifice -- assuming only that the alliance endures.
Throughout our interview, the men did not stop fingering their prayer beads, as if their future hinges on their ability to make their case to the American public. They're right: It does. Which is why Iraq, all but alone among the nations, will be praying for a McCain victory on the first Tuesday in November.
As huge as the gains in Iraqi security and political reconciliation have surely been, they could still be derailed, and Iraq plunged into corrosive chaos, if the checks on the still very potent entropic forces which threaten its nascent Republic are prematurely removed. And yet this is precisely what an Obama presidency would almost surely bring about, if even a fraction of what he 'promises' should come to pass when he settles into the Oval Office.
John McCain, by contrast, saw the need for a surge in troops, along with a change in strategy, long before that need was acknowledged within the Bush Administration. It should scarcely be surprising, then, if Iraqis should tend to support a candidate who has steadfastly aligned himself with their highest aspirations for their nation and coming generations of its people.
However, despite the shrill cries of many in this country that Iraq is little more than a province of the American Empire, the people of that nation have no direct say in the course of American politics. All they can do is watch, nervously, from a distance, and keep their prayer beads (and Kalashnikovs) close.