Thursday, December 15, 2005

So the turnout in Iraq is high and the right-wingers in America are waving those big inflatable We're Number One fingers and shouting "IN YOUR FACE, DEFEAT-AND-RETREAT LIBERAL LOSERS!!!" -- and meanwhile I'm reading Dexter Filkins in The New York Times, who's running down the basics of what happens next, and I'm thinking: Oh yeah, this is really gonna work.

...The cleric-led Shiite coalition is expected to get the largest number of votes but to fall short of capturing enough seats to enable Adel Abdul Mahdi, the group's probable nominee for prime minister, to form a government....

Arrayed against the Shiite bloc is likely to be a largely secular group of parties led by Ayad Allawi, the former Baathist and secular Shiite who has attracted a large following of Sunni Arabs. Along with the Sunni Arabs, Mr. Allawi is hoping to bring in the two major Kurdish parties....

Yet even Mr. Allawi's coalition, if it comes together at all, is not expected to gain an absolute majority, at least not initially.

...Some Iraqi political leaders predict it will take weeks, or even months, for such a government to emerge....

But wait -- there's more:

The formation of the next Iraqi government is expected to be further delayed by the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote for the election of a "presidential council" of a president and two vice presidents that will nominate a prime minister for parliamentary approval. In practice, that means that any Iraqi leader hoping to form a government will effectively need a supermajority....

And, of course:

Further complicating matters is the special mechanism to amend the new Constitution. Under that mechanism, which Iraqi leaders accepted to stave off another Sunni boycott, a commission is empowered to recommend changes to the new Parliament, which could approve them with a two-thirds majority vote. Some political candidates, particularly the Sunni ones, say they intend to withhold their support for any new government without specific guarantees on changes in the Constitution.

So the mere existence of a government in Iraq that's regarded as legitimate by all groups will require multiple compromises, and some of the make-or-break compromises must be by two-thirds majorities. Hell, in America we can't get two-thirds majorities on anything these days, and we've been doing this democracy thing for more than two hundred years.

Which might explain why, elsewhere in the Times, David Sanger cites the "somber tone" of briefings Bush has been receiving in recent days:

Military commanders have described possible situations that range from the best case -- drawing American troops down to about 100,000 before the American elections in November -- to keeping them at far higher numbers if the new Parliament turns to chaos, civil war threatens, or political leaders are assassinated.

Got that? 100,000 troops in November is the best-case scenario. You want a timetable from the administration? There's your timetable.

Onward to victory!

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