Sunday, January 30, 2005

Minutiae on Iraq

At In the Agora, Joshua Claybourn writes:
High turnout among the South Africans wasn't seen as the test of the South African elections' legitimacy, and neither should it be the sole test in Iraq.
There are two things that strike me as off about this analogy, one of which is pragmatic, while the other is rooted more in justice. First, the pragmatic: in South Africa, I don't think we were particularly concerned about a civil war or campaign of terror if the white voters were underrepresented. By contrast, this is precisely the concern that drove the movement to postpone the election and has animated many of the dire warnings that the election won't necessarily be a panacea. If Sunnis are greatly underrepresented, this line of argument goes, the citizenry may not feel they have a voice in the government, and may voice their dissatisfaction through violence.

It's the logical corollary of Bush's 'transformative power of democracy' thesis, which holds that if people gain a voice via democracy, they'll channel their energies peacefully. What I find interesting is that the reasoning of many on the left about legitimacy tacitly makes use of Bush's logic. It only challenges the facts on the ground while accepting the force of that logic.

If nothing else, that goes to show that Bush really does have command of the terms of the public discourse.

The second reason I don't find the analogy particularly apt derives from our sense of just-desserts. If the whites in South Africa were underrepresented, well, sucks to be them. In other words, since so many whites directly benefited from apartheid, there's a certain retributive justice in their subsequent disenfranchisement. I've found that my intuitions don't always match up with everyone's, but in this case, if Sunnis don't vote for whatever reason, I have a feeling that the reaction is more likely to be (and should be) 'that's not good,' rather than 'sucks to be them'.