Iraq's national elections, scheduled for Sunday but with some early voting today, are probably not going to establish Jeffersonian democracy in Baghdad. Iraqi citizens will continue to endure regular violence, Iraqi ethnic and religious fault lines will continue to hold, and Iraqi politicians will continue their less-than-honest habits. Iraqi democracy, in other words, will remain the troubled and turbulent exploration it has been since its establishment only a few years ago.
But as the Wall Street Journal's Fouad Ajami points out, a struggling Middle Eastern democracy is still a Middle Eastern democracy, and that's a big deal. Even the region's most open and stable nations are far from democratic.
The American project in Iraq has midwifed that rarest of creatures in the Greater Middle East: a government that emerges out of the consent of the governed. We should trust the Iraqis with their own history. That means letting their electoral process play out against the background of the Arab dynasties and autocracies, and of the Iranian theocracy next door that made a mockery out of its own national elections.
He acknowledges the failings and frailties of Iraq's nascent government, but expresses optimism about how far they have come in so short a time.
There will be irregularities in the Iraqi elections. Some votes are destined to be bought. But is the Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak, with the same man at the helm for three decades now, entitled to sit in judgment? [...]
There plays upon Iraqis the hope that their country can make its own way, defying the obituaries of doom written for their new order in neighboring lands and beyond. There is a transparent parliamentary culture in Iraq, and we for our part ought to be proud of what we have given birth to.