Thursday, May 04, 2006

Iraq's 18 green fields

Andrew Sullivan has an entertainingly outraged post in response to old California leftie and Irish nationalism supporter Tom Hayden (once nominated to the "Top 100" by Irish America magazine). Hayden is arguing against George Packer and for the view that American troops are part of the problem, not part of the solution in Iraq:

Packer sees the US troops not as occupiers, not the cause of violence, but as "buffers" between violent Iraqis. The same civilizing role was claimed by the British when they sent troops to Northern Ireland in 1969; thirty years later they signed the Good Friday Agreement but still haven't permitted free elections. Baghdad is simply the next Belfast, in this view.

We've lost count of the number of posts we've done on Iraq-Ireland analogies [here's one] and while there are genuine echoes (note that Partition is quietly working its way into the discussion about what to do in Iraq), Sullivan correctly points out that Hayden is being a bit bizarre, although some of his usages are more Surrey blood than Irish heart:

As for Britain's colonial presence in Northern Ireland, it has existed for centuries, and represented one side in the conflict ... And then there's this bizarre assertion that Britain has not yet allowed free elections in Ulster [sic] (with the implication that this has also been the case in Iraq). Huh? Ulster [sic] has had several seats in the House of Commons under free elections for decades. London and Dublin have been attempting to broker regional government there for decades. The Irish republic is a booming democracy.

In anything, the average person in Northern Ireland probably feels that they've had too many elections recently, with the deadlock coming once the elected representatives have to work with each other. The Bush administration has fixated on elections per se as evidence of democratic transition, but the real tests come with the exercise of government and the outcome of the second election. By focusing on whether or not there have been elections, Sullivan is sidestepping the question of whether elections embody, or can mitigate, ethnic or sectarian divisions.

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