January 30, 2005

Cole's Sad Defeatism

Although the violence and attacks have been extensive and took place all over the country, the security measures put in prevented massive loss of life. Suicide bombers clearly could not get close enough to crowds to take a big toll. [emphasis mine]

Juan Cole, writing today in his blog "Informed Comment." Professor Cole, alas, can't quite bring himself to come out and state the obvious. Which is that the insurgents suffered a major blow today--because Iraqis courageously came out in droves to vote and because there were far fewer insurgent attacks than anyone dared hope. And note the italicized portion quoted above. Is it just me, or does one almost espy a sense of regret that the security measures, you know, worked? [ed. note: Why do I still blogroll this guy? I respect his regional expertise--but I fear he's too knee-deep in Ward Churchill disease. Perhaps I'll have to remedy this during the next blog-roll cleanup.]

For more on Cole's excesses, be sure to see this post over at Volokh by David Bernstein. And don't miss Wretchard on Cole either. Both highly recommended reads.

UPDATE: I'm getting some mail along the lines that I'm unfair to Cole by suggesting he might derive pleasure from the deaths of innocents. That's not what I'm saying above. Cole cares about the region and its inhabitants, quite passionately. What I'm saying is that his quasi-pathological distrust and hate of the Bushies has greatly reduced his credibility. Why? Because he too often appears to be rooting for this Administration's policy objectives to fail (witness the almost monomaniacal obsession with each and every setback--day in, day out-- at his blog (never a good day, Juan, just one?). And also, people, because Bush is simply not the devil incarnate. Believe it or not, some of his policy moves can and do advance the cause of human liberty every now and again. Today was such a day. Cole would have done himself a favor by showing some magnanimity and judiciousness by acknowledging that. Instead, he's further embarrassing himself by penning such sour drivel:

I'm just appalled by the cheerleading tone of US news coverage of the so-called elections in Iraq on Sunday. I said on television last week that this event is a "political earthquake" and "a historical first step" for Iraq. It is an event of the utmost importance, for Iraq, the Middle East, and the world. All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it, of course. Iraqis hadn't been able to choose their leaders at all in recent decades, even by some strange process where they chose unknown leaders. But this process is not a model for anything, and would not willingly be imitated by anyone else in the region. The 1997 elections in Iran were much more democratic, as were the 2002 elections in Bahrain and Pakistan.

"All the boosterism has a kernel of truth to it..." How shabby, ungenerous and low. Meanwhile, I would look forward to an explication of Cole's methodology regarding how each of the Pakistani election of 2002 and the Iranian one of 1997 were "much more democratic" than today's in Iraq. Regardless, read all of Cole's post to get a full flavor of the hoops he will jump through to deny Bush any credit at all for what took place today. It's quite, er, breathtaking.

Posted by Gregory at January 30, 2005 05:43 PM | TrackBack (27)

Calm down, Mr. Djerejian. There is no need to disparage Professor Cole because he does not agree with you, on Iraq, or say things you want him to say. Isn't one of tenets of democracy respect for diverse opinion? I don't agree with most of what you write, but I respect your views on international issues, and consider you part of my required daily reading. I've even blogrolled you. However, I'm not going to remove The Belgravia Dispatch just because I don't share your enthusiasm about colonizing Iraq.

Posted by: Munir Umrani at January 30, 2005 08:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Umrani,
I think that what Mr. Djerejian objects to is the fact that Professor Cole has nothing *positive* to say about the elections. That's certainly how it struck me. Instead of saying "Voting and dancing have been extensive and took place all over the country, the security measures put in prevented massive loss of life", the professor chose instead to focus his interest on the opposite and say "Although violence and attacks have been extensive and took place all over the country, the security measures put in prevented massive loss of life".

Clearly, if one wanted to say or think that anything in Iraq had gone even slightly right - this day was that chance. The fact that you classify this as 'colonialism' indicates the prism through which you view these events. You'll learn that not everything can be viewed through one prism - you need to open your mind that sometimes the path you disagree with can yield some desirable results. The democrats today seem intent on disparaging everything that has occured simply because they disagree with the war. It is utterly ironic that this generally puts democrats on the side *against* democracy.

If Professor Cole could find it within himself to agree that voting was a positive step, then I think people like Mr. Djerejian and myself could take them more seriously in a reasonable conversation. No one on the 'hawks' side ever says that everything in Iraq is perfect or rosy. Yet most everyone on the other side says that everything is bad and wrong. One side is ready to discuss pros and cons, the other side is unwilling to do much more than name-calling.

Bryan McRoberts

Posted by: Bryan McRoberts at January 30, 2005 09:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I just got through checking about a dozen conservative-oriented as well as mainstream blogs/websites. The jubiliation that elections actually took place is striking, and borders on the hysterical. Over at NRO's Corner, for instance, the writers have been posting every few minutes all day long with stirring tales of courage and triumph.

"Mission accomplished" redux......

Posted by: HardLineRealism at January 30, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

JuanColeology is a time consuming practise.

Professor Cole initially supported the war. Then when things didn't go well he began to say 'well the idiots screwed it up', then he began to think, 'the idiots screwed it up just to make me look bad', then he began to say, 'well two can play that game, I'll just hope for a terrorist victory', now he is seeing that the terrorists are going to let him down and he is sad.

Sure he has the right to speak. He has the right to think. He has the right to feel that his opinions are important. And we have the right to mock him.

Posted by: mhw at January 30, 2005 09:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Umrani--

You don't share Mr. Djerejian's "enthusiasm about colonizing Iraq." You refer, I assume, to the sort of colonization the U.S. did with Germany -- those current lapdogs of America?

Or for that matter Japan? Or South Korea?

(I know it's an obvious comment, but it begged to be said.)

Posted by: Tom O'Bedlam at January 30, 2005 09:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Umrani, I think that you are a fookin loser.

How's that for short?

Posted by: The Outlaw Michael Cosyns at January 30, 2005 10:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

And Juan Cole is a fookin loser too.

Ok ok, it may not sound that intelligent but it cuts wood, don't you agree?

Posted by: The Outlaw Michael Cosyns at January 30, 2005 10:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You think that's bad? You should see what he wrote after that post! I love how "election" is qualified with quotation marks! The guy is simply dishonest.

Posted by: Tony at January 30, 2005 10:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Oh, and don't miss this either on Cole's "Likud-baiting" post.

Posted by: Tony at January 30, 2005 10:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, be sure to find a transcript of Kerry's remarks on Meet the Press this morning if you can't otherwise see it. The guy is just extremely depressing. He still thinks the "international community" (i.e., France and Kofi Annan) are going to have to bless this thing for it to be legitimate.

These moonbats are like Spinal Tap: they're appeal is becoming more selective.

Posted by: Toby Petzold at January 30, 2005 10:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That would be "their" appeal.

Posted by: Toby Petzold at January 30, 2005 10:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Suicide bombers clearly could not get close enough to crowds to take a big toll

God, he sounds so disapointed about that.

Posted by: John at January 30, 2005 10:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

People like Juan Cole say stuff like "I deplore terrorism, but I understand the 'conditions' that lead to terrorism".

So what are the conditions that led foreign terrorists from Chechnya, Saudi Arabia and Algeria to come to Iraq to blow up innocent Iraqis? What kind of injustices are ordinary Iraqi people who suffered under Saddam Hussein's regime guilty of ?

The answer is NONE. Same goes for Israel. Juan Cole doesn't think Israel should exist. Well tough sh*t, it does exist, and was recognized as a Jewish state by the UN in 1948. When the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world are ready to follow suit, then there will be a possibility for peace. Until then, the Israeli occupation is completely justified.

Posted by: The Fop at January 30, 2005 11:10 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cole's spin is especially pernicious because he knows better. Here are some of his more egregious distortions:

if the turnout is as light in the Sunni Arab areas as it now appears, the parliament/ constitutional assembly is going to be extremely lopsided. It would be sort of like having an election in California where the white Protestants all stayed home and the legislature was mostly Latinos, African-Americans and Asians.

Bullshit. The sunnis constitute ~20% of Iraq's population. White protestants in California = ~50% of California's voting population [white population of California is approximately 65% of the total--illegals don't count. Of these, Catholics = ~25% and atheists ~5%, so white protestants = ~45% of the population overall and more like 50% of the electorate.] In other words, Cole's analogy is so far off as to suggest that he's panicked and getting hysterical.

This thing was more like a referendum than an election. It was a referendum on which major party list associated with which major leader would lead parliament

More bullshit. A referendum asks for a Yes/No vote on a specific proposition; no candidates are involved. The result of the referendum is a specific legislative directive on a specific issue to an existing legislature.

Obviously, this election is just the opposite: it is designed to create a legislature where none exists; to grant constitutive power on a variety of issues to that legislature, not to direct it to act on a single issue; the vote is for legislators, not for a particular pice of legislation.

Furthermore, party lists are a standard feature of elections in many parliamentary democracies in which parties, not individuals, are the key organizing force in the government.

I cannot believe that the head of the Middle Eastern Studies Association is ignorant of the difference between a referendum and a party-list election for a constituent assembly. Or that he is not capable of calculating that California white protestants are not 20% of the state's population but 50%.

Cole is a small, mean-spirited little man whose hatred for the Bush administration is distorting his judgment. We expect better of a leading scholar.

Posted by: thibaud at January 30, 2005 11:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You say Juan Cole "knows better". NO, he DOES NOT. He is a typical tenured professor. He is also so dumb that he cannot find his rear end with both hands.

He is one of the least intelligent people I have ever had the misfortune of having to put up with.

Posted by: leaddog2 at January 31, 2005 12:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cole and the rest prefer Saddam and other strongmen ruling with blood and terror to any form of Democracy.

This is nothing surprising; Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao, Pinochet, and other brutal strongmen had plenty of apologists and admirers as well.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at January 31, 2005 02:45 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I was a little surprised by Prof. Cole's postings on the election, to be honest. There is hardly anyone in this country who has studied the Shiites of Iraq for longer and in greater depth than he has, or who has shown greater concern for their welfare. If any group of people can be said to have won a victory today, they can.

But Cole writes as if this was all about George Bush. Well, it isn't. Iraqis in unexpected numbers faced down an insurgency that had sworn in so many words to kill them if they tried to vote. That is something remarkable in Arab history, and Cole of all people might be expected to be sensitive to it.

Posted by: Zathras at January 31, 2005 04:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well I guess he was wrong and it was hard to swallow. Those who can't, teach.

Posted by: A Nony Mouse at January 31, 2005 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

z: agreed.


Posted by: greg at January 31, 2005 04:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Cole's "regional expertise" is far outweighed by his bias towards anti-Americanism. It's like listening to the Soviet experts of old who now claim that the Soviet Union, in seeing the misery that socialism had brought unto the Russian people, decided to end their reign on their own. It's a nice theory that looks okay to someone born, say, yesterday.
Cole views every problem that the ME faces today as their inheritance from too much western meddling. Reading his comments on the effect of false borders drawn up by western powers (which were, in fact, damning and poorly planned) you'd think that the arabs had never before, in their entire history, been at odds with each other. All the animosity is a result of the last hundred years. Problem is, if you ask an arab, and I have, they view all of their current problems with other arabs as the result of centuries-old feuds. Almost all of them are intra-muslim, and have no context outside of the tribal/islamic background, and virtually no meaning to any westerners or our actions. For Cole, none of that exists. If it hadn't been for the west, America generally, Bush in particular, Cole believes the ME would still be the Garden of Eden. Such expertise is no expertise at all.

Posted by: Diggs at January 31, 2005 05:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

man, greg, you sure can tell when Instapundit links to your blog... less Praktike and Zathras and more folks that use words like "moonbat" and "fookin loser"

Posted by: just me at January 31, 2005 05:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just Me, what do you got against a good neocyberism? I guess I could call these anti-democratic Leftists something else, but I prefer to dehumanize them as much as possible.

Posted by: Toby Petzold at January 31, 2005 06:12 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

In reading comments from lefty bloggers about the elections, Josh Marshall said what I thought Juan Cole would say.

"Nobody should be surprised that people show up in large numbers in a country where elections have never or only seldom happened; that happens all the time. But I'm not sure I can think of a similar instance when voting has occurred amidst such immediate and credible threats of violence."

Two things occured as a result of the restrictions on vehicles. First, people were able to come out of their homes to minimal risks from the most deadly devices; carbombs. Second, Iraqi security forces and Coalition troops were given an opportunity to make sweeps on suspected sites while also facing minimal risks of the most deadly devices available to the insurgency; carbombs.

Will there be more days like this with restrictions on vehicles? I suspect so. What is of particular interest to me is the reaction of Sunnis in neighboring countries. Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians have expressed fear of a new government serving the needs of Shiites. What future problems does such a government in Iraq pose for Shiites in Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

I think that if Juan Cole accepts the ruling of a Jordanian court regarding Ahmed Chalabi then he should be willing to accept that it is as possible that the Jordanian court was wrong as much as the US is right in Iraq.

Posted by: Brennan Stout at January 31, 2005 09:20 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Prof. Cole obviously doesnít like Bush, and occasionally makes some intemperate statements that make even a liberal like me wince, but his actual understanding of whatís going on in Iraq is quite informed and nuanced, and he often makes important points.

For example: these elections occurred only because the protests called by Sistani in Jan. 2004 forced the U.S. to change course. If it had been solely up to Bush and Bremer, this election would WOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENNED, and the whole upcoming process of the writing of the Iraqi constitution would have been seen as illegitimate by the vast majority of Iraqis. And yet not a single conservative blogger Iíve seen has even mentioned this. The only one who has pointed this out is Cole. This is a good example of why heís pretty essential reading.

Greg, If you have some specific disagreement with Cole, by all means have at it. (For example, he thinks these elections should have taken place last May, do you agree?) If you think he is being unfair to Bush, well than make the case for Bush. But this post isnít that. Itís just an attack on his tone and his personal motives. This is not conducive to any sort of productive debate. As a fan of your blog, I ask you to leave this kind of propagandizing to others.

Posted by: RC at February 1, 2005 12:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Others arrive RC!

First of all Greg had issues which one might think have little need for explication. Take the post in question.

The elections in Pakistan and Iran were more democratic? Cole has got to be joking. I will not try to explain all the myriad ways this is wrong, but that is a joke, not least because of course in Iran the candidates are screened by the government for "purity" first and the legislature has no power to enforce their decisions should they go against Rafsanjani and co. This is mind-blowingly ignorant statement or, as I and I believe Greg suspect, something he knows isn't true. I assume Greg blogrolls him because he is well informed, but if you put out nonsense like this then his knowledge is of little use.

Second, it is disingenuous for him to say that Bush had this forced on him. There were many proposals floated as to how to begin the transition to democracy, and there were legitimate concerns underlying each one. The form the initial assemblyís would take, the timing of each step, all were contested. However, to act like Bush wasn't really interested in elections because early on there was support for caucuses as a first step is a gross distortion. The reason no conservative (whatever you happen to mean by that) blogger has taken the "Bush was really trying to subvert democracy" line is because it is false. I don't just take exception to his characterization of what they were trying to do, his timeline of policy is wrong and in a sense made up. Just because Cole believes that Bush wanted Bremer as Prince of Baghdad doesn't make it true. He confuses his suppositions about intentions with what he cannot know, what they intended. Bush wanted democracy in word, now we have deed. They debated and maybe even flailed around about the best way to get there. Sistani and other Iraqi's determination for one man one vote convinced (granted Bush is an idealist on this and so readily persuaded) Bush to take a chance on what so many realists and Arabists said was too risky, a one man one vote election. Cole, by the way, at times seems to have been in that camp as well. That Bush spent too much time (ironic given the criticism) listening to the state department, UN bureaucrats and Arab League diplomats doesnít mean he was forced into this. It might mean he should maybe take all these sophisticated experts a little less seriously.

Posted by: Lance at February 1, 2005 04:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

'Is it just me, or does one almost espy a sense of regret that the security measures, you know, worked?'

I think its you. Where's the regret?

Posted by: actus at February 8, 2005 04:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Hey, I've lost track. It was 72% turnout, then 60 something... then I remember seeing something like 57% ...

And really, how can honestly call an election where heavily armed guys role up in a Stryker vehicle and tell you to vote

but okay, let's concede that the media conveyed impressions of the Iraq election were just about as joyous as those of the fall of Saddam. 1400 dead Americans, up to 100,000 dead iraqis latter, we know how accurate those impressions were.

Posted by: stari_momak at February 8, 2005 08:04 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Juan Cole rips a new one for Jonah Goldberg (and those whose "judgement" he cites):


Posted by: ts at February 8, 2005 10:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What a laughable thesis - the "elections" were a defeat for the anti-occupation forces. Yawn. Drivel and drool for the Bushevik sheeple. But you've accomplished something notable - you've been cited by a nasty little sphincter, Jonah Goldberg.

Keep it up.

Posted by: just pete at February 8, 2005 04:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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