Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The silver lining of elections in Iraq

Much has been written here and elsewhere as to the vast differences between Iraq and El Salvador, and in particular what difference elections might have on the war in Iraq. Buried in today's Los Angeles Times piece today, about how the U.S. has decided to reduce its offensive operations and focus more on training, is a key point:
U.S. commanders also are concerned that when the Iraqi election is over and new leaders are in place, U.S. forces will have less authority to launch offensives that might anger Sunni Arabs — a group the new government is likely to try to win over.
The U.S. never "occupied" El Salvador as they are doing in Iraq, so they never had to face this dilemma.

The counter-insurgency argument for elections in the middle of war is the need to create greater legitimacy for those fighting the insurgency. Even Che Guevara recognized this, when he wrote in Guerrilla Warfare (Chapter 1, page 2):
When a government has come into power through some sort of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted.
What an irony it will be if these elections, flawed as they might be, actually turn out to make it harder for U.S. forces to destroy more cities, like Falluja, in order to save them.

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