Tom Friedman has not exactly been a cheerleader for democracy around the globe. Truth be told, he’s rather partial to autocratic states, especially ones he and his New York Times comrade visit. But even he cannot deny the triumph of Iraqi democracy — nor of the U. S. president who made it possible. He writes:
Of all the pictures I saw from the Iraqi elections last weekend, my favorite was on nytimes.com: an Iraqi mother holding up her son to let him stuff her ballot into the box. I loved that picture. Being able to freely cast a ballot for the candidate of your choice is still unusual for Iraqis and for that entire region. That mother seemed to be saying: When I was a child, I never got to vote. I want to live in a world where my child will always be able to.
And unlike the Obami on Iraq, who — as Ann Richards once said of George H.W. Bush — effectively woke up on third base and thought they hit a triple, Friedman gives credit where credit is due:
Yes, the U.S.’s toppling of Saddam Hussein helped Iran expand its influence into the Arab world. Saddam’s Iraq was a temporary iron-fisted bulwark against Iranian expansion. But if Iraq has any sort of decent outcome — and becomes a real Shiite-majority, multiethnic democracy right next door to the phony Iranian version — it will be a source of permanent pressure on the Iranian regime. It will be a constant reminder that “Islamic democracy” — the rigged system the Iranians set up — is nonsense. Real “Islamic democracy” is just like any other democracy, except with Muslims voting.
Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.
Now why can’t Obama say the same? It would dispel the notion that he is peevish, small, and unable to accept his own errors in opposing the war — the results of which Friedman and the West now cheer.