UNDER THE RADAR, a big victory in Iraq:
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."Keep reading.
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.
[...] All this barely pierced the consciousness of official Washington. After all, it fundamentally contradicts the general establishment/media narrative of Iraq as "fiasco."
One leading conservative thinker had concluded as early as 2004 that democracy in Iraq was "a childish fantasy." Another sneered that the 2005 election that brought Maliki to power was "not an election but a census" -- meaning people voted robotically according to their ethnicity and religious identity. The implication being that these primitives have no conception of democracy, and that trying to build one there is a fool's errand.
What was lacking in all this condescension is what the critics so pride themselves in having -- namely, context.