And I have a few predictions.
I predict that the Wrong-wing of the Republican Party will unilaterally declare victory, for returning Democracy to the region. This is only obvious. Other obvious events will be a high turn-out of Shia and Kurds, along with a low turnout of Sunni's for the vote. There will be violence, which many Iraqi's will ignore and risk anyway. Those killed in this day will be considered martyrs by both sides. The death toll will certainly be in the double-digits and possibly even in the triple-digits.
But the vote will occur, and ultimately it will be a good thing.
Democrats and Liberals will have very difficult time admitting this. They may eventually do so, but it won't be easy. Too much of the results have been tied to the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war, but most importantly too much of what brought us into this conflict was based on lies and mis-information. That fact remains and will continue to remain the primary fueling point for the insurgency. If the President had begun this conflict with the tone that he's is attempting to complete it with - that of a humanitarian and human rights effort - the situation would be vastly different. Much of the fire that has driven Iraqi nationals as well as foreign fighters into the insurgency would have been doused. (Clearly without the hypocracy of the President attempting a human rights relief effort by using torture and murder in clear violation of international standards of human rights - things would be far better) Without this he would most certainly have had Democrats on board (not just at the beginning when he claimed Saddam had WMD's - they would be on board still rather than aggressively grilling his Cabinet nominees) , he might have had a much more difficult time with the hawks in his own party who opposed similar "national building" when it was undertaken by President Bill Clinton in Bosnia, but the U.S. would be far more united behind it's support of this war and that support would have been better reflected by the Iraqi people. This war was bungled from the start.
It wasn't entirely the wrong war, but it was certainly entered in the wrong way - on the backs of those who died in 9/11, rather than on the hopes of the Iraqi people. The Repubs will rejoice, and declare that the hard part is over. But this conflict is a long way from over. The difficult part is just beginning.
From the news reports I've heard there is nearly a 50/50 split between Shia's who support Interim Prime Minister Allawi and those who support Muslim Cleric Sustani. Under Allawi, Iraq is likely to have many of the trappings of democracy and freedom, but practical civil rights will be as difficult for them to maintain in the midst of ongoing insurgent violence as it has become for Russian President Putin to maintain in in the midst of attacks by Chechen Seperatists. Sustani on the other hand is likely to attempt the implement of a governmental system which is largely founded on Islamic law in a manner similar to Iran. I suspect neither will be an absolute winner or an absolute loser in this election, and the eventual conferences to write the Iraqi Constitution will be extremely contentious.
Again, all this is fairly obvious.
What isn't obvious is my own opinion that despite the violence at the polls and the boycott called by Sunni's against this election, once the election is done some Sunni's will manage to take hold of public office and some of those Sunni's will in fact not be loyal to the government, but will be loyal to the insurgency. On the one hand this could be a positive thing for the Sunni's as the influence of these people may help to quell the potential tyranny of the Shia majority, a tyrannical retaliation for the decades of oppression that the Sunni's under the rulership of Saddam Hussein had heaped upon the Shia and Kurds. On the other hand, these insurgent infiltrators in the Iraqi government will present a massive security risk.
I think it's inevitable that this will occur, particular since the main power of the insurgents is their ability to remain annonymous and the primary danger of this election is the fact that many of those on the ballot are also similarly - annonymous. With access to the government itself, insurgent forces will be able to better pinpoint and target their attacks, taking out political rivals and using their government access to frustrate the security forces. Without knowing where the leak is coming from - the violence will be unstoppable. The murder and death will escalate rather than abate as the brand new Iraqi Government turns on itself with finger-pointing mistrust and blame. It's going to be very, very ugly.
I don't hope that this will occur, I suspect and fear it. I'm sure there are some liberals who would actually welcome it, as their hatred of Bush and his cronies is so strong that they wish him to fail in all things, and that eventually his failures will pile upon themselves to high that their truth will be clear for all to see - even for the most rabid of ditto-heads. I do admit some sympathy with that goal, for I believe that Bush and his neo-fascist cronies are a pox upon this nation and this world - but I don't believe that fortunes of the Iraqi people should be treated in such a callous and manipulative way. I do hope that long and short term result of this election are more positive that I've predicted even if it makes Bush look good, I just don't think they will be.
But that's just my opinion. I'm sure wrong-wingers will claim that this election represents the "begining of the end" of our problems in Iraq. I think it's only the begining of a entirely new - and potentially very dark - begining.
Mission NOT YET Accomplished IMO.