There was no Election Day violence. Security was handled by Iraqi forces with little U.S. involvement. A fabulous bazaar of 14,400 candidates representing 400 parties participated, yielding results highly favorable to both Iraq and the United States.
Iraq moved away from religious sectarianism toward more secular nationalism. "All the parties that had the words 'Islamic' or 'Arab' in their names lost," noted Middle East expert Amir Taheri. "By contrast, all those that had the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi' gained."
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki went from leader of a small Islamic party to leader of the "State of Law Party," campaigning on security and secular nationalism. He won a smashing victory. His chief rival, a more sectarian and pro-Iranian Shiite religious party, was devastated. Another major Islamic party, the pro-Iranian Sadr faction, went from 11 percent of the vote to 3 percent, losing badly in its stronghold of Baghdad. The Islamic Fadhila party that had dominated Basra was almost wiped out.
The once-dominant Sunni party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the erstwhile insurgency was badly set back. New grass-roots tribal ("Awakening") and secular Sunni leaders emerged.
In other words, the garden we planted back in 2003, beset in times and places with marauding insects, hailstorms, thieves and ill-wishers, appears to be taking root. Krauthammer notes that - as always in the Middle East - Iraq is not out of danger; he points to three possible threats: military coup a la too much of the post-colonial world, strongman a la Chavez, and collapse due to a premature withdrawal of U.S. support. Iraqis, he reminds us, are responsible for ensuring that neither of the first two occurs; but we are responsible for ensuring that the third doesn't. Rather, President Obama, the will-o-the-wisp, the weathervane, is. Hurry up, Iraqis; you may not have much time to adjust to our absence.
Krauthammer ends his piece thus:
When you become president of the United States you inherit its history, even the parts you would have done differently. Obama might argue that American sacrifices in Iraq were not worth what we achieved. But for the purposes of current and future policy, that is entirely moot. Despite Obama's opposition, America went on to create a small miracle in the heart of the Arab Middle East. President Obama is now the custodian of that miracle. It is his duty as leader of the nation that gave birth to this fledgling democracy to ensure that he does nothing to undermine it.
The only part I take issue with is the "small miracle." American policy under Bush appears to have brought about an unprecedented miracle in Iraq, and in record time. I only hope that when the President is alone, he's both humble and sensible enough to realize the magnitude of what's happening there, and - his short public statement about the elections, "[Iraqis] should continue the process of Iraqis taking responsibility for their future," which Krauthammer correctly calls "ungenerous," notwithstanding - appreciates and accepts his responsibility for this child he didn't father.
Yes, I know I've grossly mixed my metaphors. Sue me.