Iraqi Elections Hold Lessons for American Voters

Mideast expert right on Iraq elections, which put U.S. voters to shame.

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Mary Kate Cary, the Thomas Jefferson Street blog

As I was driving across East Texas last week, I was listening to former Ambassador Ryan Crocker's take on the Iraqi elections on NPR. He made this point:

"I do expect that these elections, as important as they are, are really a prelude to what is probably going to be a difficult and protracted period of government formation ... I think it's unlikely that any particular coalition is going to gain an absolute majority, so there will be a lot of negotiations to follow, much as we saw after the last national elections. I think what's different this time though is the quality and quantity of Iraq's security forces. And I think they will meet the challenges of maintaining order during the period of government formation."

Ambassador Crocker said that on Thursday, and was proven right over the weekend. While there was some violence yesterday, for the most part the Iraqi security forces allowed the elections to safely take place. Crocker knows what he's talking about. Not only was he our ambassador to Iraq, he was also U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Kuwait, Syria, and Lebanon, and he speaks fluent Arabic.

Here's the most remarkable part of the weekend's voting: Despite the fact that extremists killed 39 people in an effort to intimidate voters, Reuters reported that turnout yesterday in Iraq was 62 percent--higher than in American voter turnout in 2008, which was 56 percent. That to me says the most about the Iraqi people's determination to see free and fair elections succeed. Here in the United States, we worry about rain falling on Election Day and get 56 percent. There, they wait for the grenades to stop exploding and get 62 percent. Maybe there's hope for democracy in other parts of the Middle East as well.

So, the "rest of the story," as Paul Harvey used to say, is that I arrived safely at my destination, which was the Bush School of Public Service at Texas A&M, where Ambassador Crocker is the new dean. I had the honor of spending some time with him and the students. A vast majority of Bush School graduates--far more than grads from the Kennedy School at Harvard or the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton--actually go into public service as a career, just as Ambassador Crocker did.

Like President Bush 41, Crocker is leading by example, showing the young students there that a life of service to others is, as 41 puts it, "a life of meaning and adventure." I had the privilege of teaching a class at the school on Friday, and I'm happy to report that good young people are following Ambassador Crocker and President Bush's example and, despite the poisonous atmosphere in Washington, are still willing to go into public service. Maybe there's hope for our country, too ...

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