Friedman on Iraqi Vote
As someone who believed, hoped, worried, prayed, worried, hoped and prayed some more that Iraqis could one day pull off the election they did, I am unreservedly happy about the outcome - and you should be, too.
Why? Because what threatens America most from the Middle East are the pathologies of a region where there is too little freedom and too many young people who aren't able to achieve their full potential. The only way to cure these pathologies is with a war of ideas within the Arab-Muslim world so those with bad ideas can be defeated by those with progressive ones.
We can't fight that war. Only the Arab progressives can - only they can tell the suicide bombers that what they are doing is shameful to Islam and to Arabs. But we can collaborate with them to create a space in the heart of their world where decent people have a chance to fight this war - and that is what American and British soldiers have been doing in Iraq.
But wait - not everyone is wearing a smiley face after the Iraqi elections, and that is good, considering who is unhappy. Let's start with the mullahs in Iran. Those who think that a Shiite-led government in Iraq is going to be the puppet of Iran's Shiite ayatollahs are so wrong. It is the ayatollahs in Iran who are terrified today.
Then there is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This Charles-Manson-with-a-turban who heads the insurgency in Iraq had a bad hair day on Sunday. I wonder whether anyone told him about the suicide bomber who managed to blow up only himself outside a Baghdad polling station and how Iraqi voters walked around his body, spitting on it as they went by.
In other words, this election has made it crystal clear that the Iraq war is not between fascist insurgents and America, but between the fascist insurgents and the Iraqi people. One hopes the French and Germans, whose newspapers often sound more like Al Jazeera than Al Jazeera, will wake up to this fact and throw their weight onto the right side of history.
It's about time, because whatever you thought about this war, it's not about Mr. Bush any more. It's about the aspirations of the Iraqi majority to build an alternative to Saddamism. By voting the way they did, in the face of real danger, Iraqis have earned the right to ask everyone now to put aside their squabbles and focus on what is no longer just a pipe dream but a real opportunity to implant decent, consensual government in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world.