The electoral seat of Bontoc (175 miles north of Manila) was decided by the toss of a coin in yesterday's local election in the Philippines. The two candidates, Byran Byrd Bellang and Benjamin Ngeteg, received exactly the same number of votes for the last of eight council seats. The election supervisor asked the candidates if the wanted to break the tie by tossing a coin or drawing lots, both permitted under the local election rules. They chose a coin toss. Bellang opted for heads and won, and the two men sealed the outcome with a handshake. Dennis Dimalnat, a provincial elections supervisor, said that the two candidates set a refreshing example:
I hope others would see the beauty of this kind of peaceful resolution."
He may have a point. The Philippines is notorious for electoral violence. So much so, in fact, that the recent elections on May 14 were praised for being "generally peaceful"; a mere 121 were killed this year compared to the 189 dead in 2004. But the outcome of both elections remains the same: Gloria Arroyo once again looks in good shape to hold onto her country's top position—without the aid of a coin, though possibly with the aid of some other, less fair, tactics.
The perks of being a worker in France are well known: thirty-five hour work weeks, months of vacation, virtual immunity from being fired. The benefits were enough to draw students out into the streets en masse last year to protest even the slightest erosion of the carefree employment conditions that are their birthright. Throw in cultural acceptance of drinking wine at lunch, and it becomes clear that the French really do have nothing to complain about, right?
Well, don't tell that to the French. According to a new study, the French are the world's whiniest workers, edging out Britain and Sweden (another socialist labor paradise) for the top spot. Charlotte Cornish, who heads the company that ran the study, thinks the results bode ill for new French president Nicolas Sarkozy's reform plans:
The French come out on top -- it seems unlikely that Nicolas Sarkozy's election and the likely shift to more Anglo-Saxon economic practices will make the workers in France any more happy with their lot."
Another interpretation is more plausible, though. If some of the best working conditions in the world haven't been enough to make French workers happy, then maybe the paternalistic coddling and stifling embrace of its system are at fault. The Swedes' foul moods lend credence to that interpretation. If so, then Sarkozy's "rupture" might be just what the doctor ordered to cure the French maladie. With some more dynamism in the their economy, maybe the French would only be as unhappy as Americans—who ranked number five.
With Bush's approval rating at the lowest of any president since Jimmy Carter in 1979, Republican insiders are seeking solace in Nicolas Sarkozy's win. After all, France's new president was able to pull out a victory for the incumbent party despite Jacques Chirac, a similarly troubled and maligned leader. Here is Newt Gingrich summing it up on Face the Nation yesterday:
Nicolas Sarkozy is in the Chirac government. Chirac is at the end of 10 years, two terms. People are totally fed up with him, they're very tired. And yet Sarkozy has managed to become the candidate of change while Segolene Royal, the socialist opposition, has become the candidate of status quo."
But who among the current Republican field can position himself as a Sarkozy? Toby Harnden, who writes for London's Telegraph, suspects that Sen. John McCain's campaign may be trying to mimic Sarkozy's playbook. I don't see him pulling it off. Where Sarkozy offered France radical solutions on the country's two most pressing issues—immigration and economic malaise—McCain has become the candidate of the status quo on the United States' most pressing problem, Iraq. Sarkozy is about to become France's first baby boom president. McCain, if elected, would become the United States' oldest commander in chief.
Rather than having a maverick of the Sarkozy type emerge from within the Republican field, I suspect we are instead more likely to see one splinter off from the party and go it alone. Two leading contenders for that role, Sen. Chuck Hagel and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appear to at least be giving that option some consideration. They'd better hurry. Desperate to get behind any candidate who offers charisma and hope, many Republicans who might support a Hagel or Bloomberg are already defecting to Sen. Barak Obama's camp. And that should tell us everything we need to know about the likelihood of a radical of the Sarkozy vein emerging from the Republican primary.
Check out the results of this MSNBC online poll on last night's debate. The little-known Rep. Ron Paul comes out on top, while Sen. John McCain is judged as having "the most rehearsed answers." Internet polls are notoriously unreliable. Still, this has to tell us something about what impact the war in Iraq will have on 2008—and how well a Republican who opposes President Bush's policy in Iraq could fare.
Who showed the most leadership qualities? 50293 responses
|Who had the most rehearsed answers? * 49111 responses|
Democracy has had a rough run over the past year or so. Military interventions in Thailand and Bangladesh ended decades-long experiments with elected governments. In Lebanon and Ukraine, the "color revolutions" of 2004 have barely been able to hold back revisionists seeking to grab back the power of the state. Elections in Nigeria last week were a debacle, while earlier polls in the Congo were followed swiftly by a resumption of political violence. China cheerfully peddles its recipe for one-party state-sponsored growth with a side of brutality throughout Africa. Russia, meanwhile, increasingly doesn't even bother to pretend it's a democracy, while those who point that out have developed the disturbing habit of turning up dead.
Now Turkey may succumb to the anti-democratic tide as well. The mildly Islamist ruling party enjoys wide support, but not from the military or the traditional governing elite. An attempt by the government to move its candidate for the presidency through parliament met with widespread protests by secularists and an ominous veiled threat from the military to intervene if necessary to protect the separation of mosque and state. A court ruling against the government and a call for fresh elections have postponed a direct clash between the two sides. The conflict seems to pit modernity and secularism against democratic values, however—not an appetizing choice.
To get to the bottom of these developments, FP talked Turkey with Andrew Mango, a longtime scholar of the geopolitically crucial country. In this week's Seven Questions, he explains that the conflict has roots deep in Turkish culture and that neither side can claim a monopoly on democratic values. Sitting uncomfortably between the West and the Middle East, Turkey has long been a bridge between the two; its direction will have far-reaching implications for them both. Check it out.
I'll bet that most people don't know that Scotland is in the midst of a fierce debate over whether to secede from the United Kingdom and become an independent country. Tomorrow, Scots will head to the polls to elect members of the Scottish parliament. The Scottish Nationalist Party, which—as you might be able to guess from its name—favors independence, is expected to do well. The SNP vows to hold a nationwide referendum to decide Scotland's fate if it wins a majority, as seems increasingly likely.
Enter Gordon Brown, the Scotsman who happens to be slated to become the next prime minister of the UK when Tony Blair steps down later this month. Brown frames the Scottish parliamentary elections as "a big choice ... between those who want to break up Britain and those who want to build up Scotland." His not-so-subtle message: Support the Labor Party instead. But Labor's image has taken a beating as Britons have become ever more unhappy with the war in Iraq. And thus, in a strange twist of fate, the invasion and occupation of Iraq could conceivably lead to the breakup of ... the United Kingdom.
As Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy jostle for position in the upcoming French presidential runoff, Sarkozy—generally thought of as pro-American—appears to be engaging in some ritualistic Yankee-bashing. He blasted the U.S. position on climate change in a recent interview. That's fair enough. But he also suggested that French forces may not be in Afghanistan for long if he's elected:
The long-term presence of French troops in that part of the world does not look definitive to me," he said in an interview with France-2 television.
That's quite troubling, particularly in light of the recent French withdrawal of special forces from the region. For the moment, I'm attributing Sarkozy's loose talk to the need to lure centrist voters skeptical of cooperation with the United States.
The polls turned out to be pretty accurate after all:
With most votes counted in Sunday's first round, Mr Sarkozy had nearly 31%, with Ms Royal, bidding to be France's first woman president, on 25%.
Centrist Francois Bayrou got 18%, and far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen almost 11%.
Voting throughout the day reached record numbers, with turnout put at 85% - the highest for nearly 50 years.
So what happens next? Sarkozy faces Royal for a left-right showdown on May 6. Do the French want the eat-your-spinach approach of Sarkozy, or more social spending, as Royal is promising? We'll find out soon enough—but my bet is on Sarkozy.
This weekend is host to three elections: Nigeria, where ethno-religious violence and widespread accusations of fraud have marred the country's first attempt at a democratic rotation of power; France, where the gap between conservative Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Ségolène Royal has narrowed somewhat in recent days and many voters are still undecided; and ... what was that third country again?
Oh yeah, Syria.
Syria, an anachronistic Baathist regime ruled by an opthamologist, is holding "elections without politics" on Sunday and Monday, in the words of the Carnegie Endowment's Omayma Abdel Latif. You probably haven't heard much about Syria's parliamentary contests because, well, there isn't much to tell. One faction of the beleaguered opposition, as is typical in countries where politics are window-dressing for dictatorship, has had enough:
It is "pointless to take part in an election whose results are known in advance," said lawyer Hassan Abdel-Azim, spokesman for six banned parties operating under the umbrella National Democratic Rally (NDR).
And that is all you need to know about election #3.
Such a candidate wouldn’t have the slightest chance. There could be some kind of marginal figure, a clown. But they would get 1 per cent or half a per cent of votes.
-Sergei Ivanov, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and possible Putin successor, Financial Times, April 12 2007, giving his view of a hypothetical candidate in the 2008 Russian elections who would criticize Vladimir Putin
Women workers are today’s proletariat ... There’s an unacceptable gap between golden parachutes and private pension plans [of executives] and the salaries being paid to workers.”
-Ségolène Royal, Socialist candidate for president in France, Financial Times, April 19, 2007, at a Carrefour-owned store in central Paris
It's crunch time for France's presidential candidates. With the first round beginning on Sunday, Nicolas Sarkozy, Ségolène Royal, François Bayrou, and Jean-Marie Le Pen are pounding the pavement in a last-ditch effort to round up votes. Who will win? The latest polls posted on Le Monde's website depict a tightening race between Sarkozy and Royal, the two frontrunners. If Sarkozy wins, he'll have to deal with the fact that he's deeply hated in Muslim and immigrant areas for his actions as interior minister during the 2005 unrest, when he famously denounced rioting youth as "scum."
As you can see from the following Google mashup map of the candidates' public appearances, Sarkozy has studiously avoided North African suburbs of Paris like Montfermeil and Clichy-sous-Bois, ground zero for the riots. (Sarkozy's is the blue and red UMP logo; Royal is depicted by the purple-ringed icon in the middle of the map.)
And who can blame him for staying away? David Rieff, writing in Sunday's New York Times, quotes Mamadou, a Muslim from one of Paris's notorious banlieues:
If I could get my hands on Sarkozy, I’d kill him.”
Sarkozy is making a lot of sense on economic reform and relations with the United States, but if he does win, he's going to have to govern millions of people like Mamadou who hate his guts almost as vehemently. How's that going to work?
The march of democracy has hit yet another road bump. Hopes had been that presidential elections in tiny Timor-Leste would help the country move on from widespread violence and disorder that had broken out last year. Sadly, that looks not to be the case. Five opposition parties are disputing the results and the party leading at the polls has made accusations of "manipulation"—before any results have even been announced. Heavy United Nations support and the sign-off of the EU on the fairness of the process have not put these concerns to rest. More violence before a likely run-off election is possible.
The importance of the elections go far beyond the well-being of the country's estimated one million inhabitants, most of them desperately poor. In 1999, when the territory then known as East Timor voted to secede from Indonesia, it was seen as a test case for the ability of the international community to help along political and economic development. The U.N. ran the place as a fiefdom for three years and maintained a peacekeeping contingent there through 2005. Whatever lessons it tried to teach obviously didn't take. Now, the U.N. is back, albeit in a supporting role and with the help of Australian troops. And still, there seems to be no obvious path to political stability or even the beginnings of economic development.
It's a sobering thought that the best of intentions and the support of the entire international community have not been enough to help a country with a population roughly the same size as San Diego's.
Mobile phone text messaging services will be blocked this weekend during a two day "tranquility period" ahead of Cambodia's local elections. The order was made at the request of the National Election Committee, which feared that voters would be inundated with political text messages from parties seeking their votes, "spoiling" the calm in the lead-up to the election. All three major phone companies in the country have agreed to carry out the ban. But the main opposition party has criticized the decision, arguing that it would curb constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.
These local elections are ostensibly aimed at decentralizing government power and strengthening democracy, but analysts expect that they will only reinforce the central government and the longstanding leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen. In the upcoming April 1 elections, there are twelve political parties fielding a total of 102,266 candidates. Cambodian elections have been characterized by violence and intimidation in the past. But the text messaging ban is puzzling.
At last count, about one out of every 14 Cambodians had mobile phones. Rural access is improving, but even so, cellphone users remain a small minority. So why the ban? Perhaps it's a way of the government flexing its muscles and demonstrating its control before the elections. Or maybe it's a way of irking opposition activists. Whatever the case, it's a bizarre example of authoritarian overreach.
If you're reading the papers this week, you know that there's a constitutional crisis brewing in Pakistan. But Egypt, too? As Blake mentioned in the brief this morning, Egypt is due to hold a nationwide referendum on a series of constitutional amendments on Monday. The amendments were only finalized days ago, leaving Egyptians less than a week to make up their minds about the future of their political system.
Marc Lynch puts it this way:
Amnesty International has described the changes as "the biggest threat to Egyptian democracy since emergency laws passed after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by Islamist extremists in 1981." That's exactly right. Except these aren't emergency laws: this revises the Constitution itself .... Mubarak is about to do exactly what he always accuses Islamists of secretly planning: win an election and then use his majority to abolish democracy.
Mubarak's blatant power grab would have been far less likely had it not been for Iraq. In the current FP cover story Who Wins in Iraq?, Middle East expert Marina Ottaway crowns Arab dictators some of the biggest beneficiaries of the war. With the United States in no mood to press for democratic reforms in the region, Middle East strongmen are resting easy. And none is sleeping more soundly than Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. Case in point: Just last week, Bush thanked Mubarak for all his efforts in bringing freedom to Iraq.
Here in America, we have a hard time getting our rudimentary electronic voting machines to work. But over in the former Soviet republic of Estonia—which is about the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined and boasts a per capita GDP of under $20,000—they've held the world's first online elections. Internet polling, which ended on Wednesday, drew about 30,000 voters, or 3.5 percent of the registered pool. Those votes will be added to the ballots cast this Sunday, Estonia's official election day. A handful of other countries have tested similar technology, including Britain, France, and the Netherlands. But, for the most part, the idea of online voting still scares the majority of nations, especially America. John Borland over at Wired explains:
Critics worry that voting systems using ordinary Windows PCs and the open internet could be hacked by unscrupulous outsiders, or subverted by insiders.
A high-profile United States Defense Department system called SERVE, or Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment, aimed at allowing overseas military personnel to vote was canceled after a 2004 review by computer security experts said it presented an easy target for hackers."
Between electronic voting machines that cause multi-hour delays at polling stations and hanging chads on our paper ballots, we probably ought to concentrate on making sure we can get every American's vote counted before attempting to reinvent the wheel.
Americans have long been knocked for taking too superficial an approach to their politics. Saturday Night Live's caricatures of presidents and presidential candidates have been especially influential in defining their identities for the public. The French, though, have gone one step further, and turned to puppets.
Les Guignols de l'info ("News Puppets" in English), a puppet-based political satire airing on French TV station Canal+, has been popular for years. But how it aims its latex-clad barbs may now have an outsized effect on the contest between presidential candidates Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. Fully half of the French electorate believes the show will have an "important" effect on the outcome of the election, according to a recent poll.
The show ridicules everyone, but like American satires such as the Daily Show, it can't avoid appearing hostile to the conservatives currently in power. If Socialist candidate Royal eventually prevails, she may have more than the usual number of stagehands and behind-the-scenes manipulators to thank. Most politicians are in debt to figurative puppet-masters; she may find herself beholden to the real thing.
Why settle for being a Nobel Peace Prize winner when you can be a politician? Microcredit guru Muhammad Yunus announced yesterday that he's launching a new political party in his native Bangladesh. Sick of his country's divisiveness and corruption, the 2006 Nobel laureate wants to create an "honest" political alternative, no small feat in a country where politics have long been held hostage to two main parties of bitter (and equally corrupt) rivals.
Bangladesh has been in a state of emergency for over a month, when the army stepped in and indefinitely delayed imminent elections. Since then, political activity has been largely banned, press freedoms have been restricted, and allegations of extra-judicial killings have been widespread. But the public reaction to the delay has been surprisingly muted—almost one of relief from the months of political protests going on between the constantly feuding main players. Whether Yunus can seize this interim period as a moment to launch a serious third way in Bangladeshi politics remains to be seen. Vocal or not, it certainly seems like much of the public shares his call for a fresh start.
As the world's eyes focus on Baghdad, problems in other parts of the world have a stubborn way of plodding along, whether or not anyone takes notice. In Bangladesh, a fragile democracy of nearly 150 million souls, caretaker president Iajuddin Ahmed has just resigned as "chief adviser" in the face of a general strike and growing protests. Our Thursday Video takes you to the streets of Dhaka, where violence between police and protesters is getting increasingly out of control:
Demonstrations by the opposition Awami League have thrown much of the country into chaos; the League claims that the outgoing government of the Bangladesh National Party has rigged a general election due in two weeks. The UN and the EU have both left, claiming that the deteriorating situation make it impossible to hold a free and fair vote as scheduled. A state of emergency had been declared by President Ahmed last night.
Why does this matter? As a country made up of mostly moderate Muslims, Bangladesh is an important counterweight to more politically repressive regimes elsewhere in the Islamic world. Countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Turkey, when their political systems work, show that democracy and Islam are not mutually exclusive. They also preclude the emergence of religiously-based terrorist groups by better channeling dissent. The success or failure of democracy in places like Bangladesh could reverberate in other countries, like nearby Pakistan and distant Iraq, that occupy more real estate on newspaper front pages.
It's an off year in American politics. But elsewhere, voters will make crucial decisions at the polls in 2007. The results could test the limits of tolerance in Europe, become bellwethers for democracy in the Muslim world, and strengthen the left's grip on Latin America. This week, The List takes a look at five key elections to watch this year.
Turkmenistan's democracy is in good hands:
The government of the one-party state named a slate of candidates for the presidential ballot. But the chief of Turkmenistan’s elections office pledged his allegiance to the interim president, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov (pronounced Gur-ban-GOOLY Berdy-moo-kha-MED-off).
Murad Kariyev, the elections chief, said he will "do everything to make him (Berdymukhamedov) president because he is a worthy successor."
Who knew Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a sister?
In the Tehran municipal election the president's sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, who is running on a list titled "the Pleasant Scent of Service," ranks 11th from 15th candidates, state television said. She could fail to win a seat.
Friday's elections for Iran's local councils and Assembly of Experts were widely reported as a "setback" for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And they were. But a more appropriate way to view them, says blogger Jonathan Edelstein, is as a crisis averted for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
As Edelstein, a lawyer in New York with a knack for analyzing Middle East politics, explains, Ahmadinejad's faction was hoping to take control of the Assembly in order to install Ayatollah Mohammed Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi as the new Supreme Leader. With Yazdi in charge, Ahmadinejad would be free from the shackles Khamenei has placed on him in the realm of foreign policy.
So, what did Khamenei do to ward off this threat? Same thing he does every time: Reject candidates he doesn't like. The Council of Guardians, which Khamenei controls, has the power under Iran's constitution to disqualify any candidate. In Edelstein's words, "they made it a foregone conclusion that the presidential faction would lose."
Edelstein concludes that outside of Tehran, where the Iranian President has never been loved, we just don't know whether Ahmadinejad is losing popularity on the street or not. What we do know is that an anti-Ahmadinejad alliance has formed between conservatives and reformists, at least temporarily. And that makes Ayatollah Khamenei sleep easier at night.
Amid a shaky truce, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas plans on going ahead with early presidential and parliamentary elections. His goal is to unseat the ruling Hamas government, whose refusal to recognize Israel has meant a cutoff of vital Western funding.
What are Abbas's odds of success? According to a December 14–16 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), Fatah would beat Hamas 42 to 36 percent if the election were today. But Stephen Weber, chief operating officer at World Public Opinion.org, told me that although Fatah probably won't lose to Hamas, the poll’s margin of error (closer to ±4% than PSR's of ±3%) means you can't be sure that Fatah would actually win either.
What's more, PSR's polls have skewed in favor if Fatah in the past. They failed to foresee Hamas's victory last January, predicting that Fatah would receive 42 percent of the national vote to Hamas's 35 percent. Fatah did win 42 percent of the vote, but got only 34 percent of the seats (sub. req'd). Hamas, however, won 44 percent of the vote and 56 percent of the seats. The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority designed the electoral law for its own benefit, but Hamas quickly adapted to the complicated list system and beat Fatah at its own game.
Eleven months later, Hamas says it will not participate in Abbas's early elections on the grounds that they are "unconstitutional." That's legally accurate, but Hamas would probably support elections if it was confident of a strong showing at the polls.
If Hamas changes its mind, the movement could win at least a few cabinet spots. If, instead, Hamas does boycott, the organization could slip back into its comfortable role of political spoiler. That's how it built its popularity. If Abbas really wants to weaken Hamas, perhaps he should hold off on the risky elections idea and give the stubborn Hamas government more time to shoot itself in the foot.
All of you out there obsessed with 2008 know that there's been some rampant speculation about when Barack Obama's first major political gaffe is going to hit the wires and take a little bit of the freshman senator's sheen away. Well, it may have just happened. Here's the story:
Tony Rezko, a Chicago political insider indicted this year on influence-peddling (charges unrelated to Obama), sold the senator a sliver of yard adjacent to his South Side home in June 2005.
After news of the deal broke last month in the Chicago Tribune, Obama said he had erred by creating the appearance that Rezko had done him a favor by selling him a portion of the lot....
"There's no doubt that this was a mistake on my part. 'Boneheaded' would be accurate," Obama said in a telephone interview Friday. "There's no doubt I should have seen some red flags in terms of me purchasing a piece of property from him."
Obama recently donated to charity $11,500 that Rezko had contributed to his federal campaign account.
I will say this: If this minor hiccup is the worst the senator has to offer, get those Obama '08 shirts ready.
The past few days have generated great speculation about the fate of the Latin American "socialist revolution." Castro's absence from his long-belated 80th birthday party and the celebration of the revolution's anniversary on Saturday, heightened suspicion that the leader is on his last lap of life. Meanwhile, Castro did manage to send a letter of congratulations to his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, for his success in the presidential elections. It's no secret that the two are extremely close, and that Chavez seems to be preoccupied with securing a Castroesque legacy of his own. But with the end of one revolutionary and the apparent revival of another, it's unclear just where the social justice revolution is going. Will Chavez be able to finish off his Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela with a dose of Cuban-style socialism and a hefty wad of petrodollars? And will Chavez attempt to assert influence in Cuba after Castro's death in order to keep the revolution humming? While we can only watch this space, FP has some great articles to fuel your speculations. Check out Javier Corrales's look at the many "lefts" in Latin America, and his article on the Venezuelan chavista himself.
The presidential elections in Venezuela are closing in as citizens take to the polls in just four days. Incumbent Hugo Chávez is widely expected to be victorious. The BBC is running a great photo journal about life in the Jose Felix Ribas barrio of Caracas - one of Latin America's largest shantytowns. It is a compelling look into the lives of Chávez's core supporters, and why his policies and rhetroic appeal so much to them.
From President Bush's radio address this weekend:
One freedom that defines our way of life is the freedom to choose our leaders at the ballot box. We saw that freedom earlier this week, when millions of Americans went to the polls to cast their votes for a new Congress. Whatever your opinion of the outcome, all Americans can take pride in the example our democracy sets for the world by holding elections even in a time of war.
Hat tip: Huffington Post
Following the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, terrorism expert Loretta Napoleoni filed a compelling ForeignPolicy.com exclusive disputing the contention by U.S. intelligence that his successor as leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq was Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (aka Abu Ayyub al Masri and at right). She wrote,
... Zarqawi's death has given rise to a new round of propaganda, this time over his successor. U.S. military leaders, under pressure to demonstrate both that they know the identity of Zarqawi's heir and that the link between the insurgency and al Qaeda remains strong, are once again skillfully spinning the facts.
Whoever Muhajir may be, he has reportedly released a message today celebrating the defeat of Republicans in the U.S. elections. The CIA is currently verifying the authenticity of the tape, which taunts the beleaguered administration,
We call on the lame duck [Bush] not to hurry his escape the way the defense secretary did... we haven't had enough of your blood yet... We will not rest from our Jihad until we are under the olive trees of Rumieh and we have blown up the filthiest house — which is called the White House.
The midterm results were nothing short of a minor earthquake here in Washington, with a new party in power and new leadership at the Pentagon. To decipher just what it all means for the war in Iraq, the race in 2008, and our allies - and enemies - abroad, FP turned to David Gergen, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School and advisor to four presidents, to get an insider's take. Here's a excerpt:
FP: After 9/11, many people said the “Vietnam Syndrome” was dead—that Americans were now willing to accept large numbers of casualties in prolonged interventions overseas. Does this election prove that wrong?
DG: What we are seeing in Iraq is not a replay of the Vietnam Syndrome. Rather, it’s a sense that we are engaged in a conflict without an obvious end in sight and [that] things are getting worse. The Vietnam Syndrome argued that we should not commit force again unless our vital interests are clearly at stake. But in Iraq, we did commit our troops to conflict without a clear national interest at stake. It was a war of discretion and yet, the American people supported it. So, I don’t think the Vietnam Syndrome is what our problem is here. Rather, it is that the war has been so incompetently managed that the people have lost faith in the capacity of those running it.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.