William Lind: Election magic in Iraq. Take a "state" with no functional institutions, a "government" that is a gang of rip-off artists and foreign hirelings, more religious and clan divisions than Arkansas and Fourth Generation war spreading like crabgrass. All you have to do is hold "elections," and Presto!, a real state emerges. Peace reigns triumphant, American troops can go home and secular democracy has converted another flea-bitten, flyblown Third World hellhole into Switzerland. This election magic is supposed to work its wonders in Iraq after the voting there on Jan. 30. But what is actually likely to happen? (UPI via Washington Times)
The Japan Times: Bad options in Iraq. With elections scheduled to take place in less than three weeks, the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. There are real doubts that a national vote can be held, a prospect that would seriously -- if not fatally -- undermine the legitimacy of the resulting government. Nonetheless, the United States and the existing Iraqi government remain committed to holding the vote as scheduled. Friends and supporters of democracy in Iraq face a dangerous dilemma: Whether to proceed with elections, though flawed they may be, or to postpone them and, by doing so, encourage extremists to inflame conditions further.
Analysis: It'll soon be time, at last, to vote. Though the election will be boycotted by many or even most Sunni Arabs, it should still offer Kurds and Shia Arabs a rare chance to choose their own leaders. At least in those parts of Iraq where the insurgents do not dominate, the election campaign has begun in earnest. Posters plaster the walls, at any rate in the Shia and Kurdish areas that contain a good three-quarters of the country's people. And though full lists of candidates' names are hard to find—and in some cases have yet to be drawn up (see our table)—Iraqis are gradually becoming aware of the main choices of party alliances and leaders on offer when some 5,500 polling stations open on January 30th. (The Economist)