TCS Daily


The Expectation Defiers

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - October 24, 2005 12:00 AM

It is understandable for observers of the current reconstruction in Iraq to believe that the next political test faced by the country will result in catastrophic failure. The insurgent attacks that continue to occur dominate news dispatches. Would-be foreign policy Cassandras worry and fret over a supposedly inevitable civil war -- the result of Sunnis who had enjoyed political primacy under the former regime of Saddam Hussein now having to contend for influence with Shi'ites and Kurds on a relatively level political playing field. And there remains the looming fear that Iraq might turn out to become a fundamentalist state heavily influenced by the actions and ideology of its large eastern neighbor, Iran.

But despite this dour pessimism, Iraqis are doing a strange thing: They are affirmatively fighting for a better future for their country. And they are regularly defying pessimistic expectations in doing so.

This defiance began with the governmental elections on January 30th of this year. Despite fears that violence and terrorism would keep Iraqis away from the voting booths, Iraqis turned out in droves and exercised rights they had longed to exercise for decades while under the boot of Saddam.

The pessimists argued that the governmental elections were most notable for their lack of Sunni participation. This lack of participation, they said, meant that it would be difficult to ensure Iraqi unity in advance of continuing political challenges. But quite swiftly after the January 30th elections, Iraqi Sunnis rethought their decision to stay out of the political process and decided that they wanted to be key players in the process after all. To be sure, the supposed lack of participation by the Sunnis was still cited as a key concern. But the handwriting was on the wall; the Sunnis realized that in order to be able to influence the shape of the Iraqi government, they would have to participate in it.

That decision led to yet another instance where Iraqis defied dour pessimists; the decision of key sectors of the Sunni population to back the Iraqi constitution in advance of the constitutional referendum. The decision to break away from anti-constitutional forces appears in hindsight to have been an important step in ensuring that the referendum would be a success.

And now, with Iraqi and coalition forces having worked to practically eliminate any and all attempts by insurgent terrorists to disrupt the elections, with voter participation appearing to have eclipsed even the high degree of participation in the January 30th elections and with high Sunni participation being especially noteworthy, the constitution appears to have been ratified. Once again, the sky-is-falling crowd have been defied by regular Iraqis.

No doubt, this will hardly cause the pessimists to draw breath and re-evaluate their prognostications and beliefs, as the same group of people bemoaning the lack of Sunni participation in the January 30th elections are now claiming that high Sunni participation for the constitutional referendum means the onset of civil war. But the rest of us can perhaps endeavor to view the situation in Iraq more objectively and to think that despite all of the hardship, the bloodshed and the trial and error that goes in the creation of a free society, the Iraqi people remain bound and determined to take their once-in-a-lifetime chance at putting the Ba'athist era behind them and to make the most of it.

There will be elections in December of this year to create a government that will replace the transitional government that resulted from the January 30th elections. there will be a new round of doom-crying, nay-saying and dour pessimism in advance of those elections. But the Iraqi people will work and struggle to persevere over it all. And there is a good chance they will succeed. Despite the nay-sayers, the Iraqi people continue to stand up for themselves. Their example should cue us to be more vocal and more insistent about standing up with them and standing fast at their side.

The author is a lawyer and TCS contributor. Find more of his writing here.

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