Hypothetically speaking …
Opinionjournal’s “best of the web” jumped the shark many moons ago, but I still occasionally check it for pearls of wisdom like this:
Still, let’s say the worst happens and a combination of terrorism and boycotts succeeds in keeping all but a few Sunni Arabs away from the polls. Would that really make the election illegitimate? Before you answer, consider a thought experiment: Suppose that, when South Africa held its first postapartheid election in 1994, Afrikaner turnout had been depressed by similar measures. Would that have made the enfranchisement of a long-oppressed majority any less a cause for celebration?
Short answer: Fucking YES IT WOULD HAVE!
Long answer: Of all the fucked-up hypothetical scenarios one could use to shave some indignity off the Iraqi election, this takes the fucked-up cookie. The 1994 South African election was such a celebrated event because few people ever expected such an event to happen. By which I mean they didn’t expect a vote to happen. After the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre, the Afrikaner Nationalist government banned mainstream black political parties which naturally went underground and percolated up in the form of terrorist groups like Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). Meanwhile, the Nationalists pursued an openly oppressive and murderous strategy of dealing with dissidents in the black majority. For a very long time, the expectation was that South Africa’s government would be toppled by an invasion or a civil war.
It wasn’t. It bore a lot more similiarities to the 1989-1991 Soviet breakdown than the Iraq situation. Taranto doesn’t know what he’s talking about comparing them.
But if you want to go so far to compare both elections – the 1994 South Africa election was free of black-on-white violence, and no whites were prohibited from voting. (An extra day of voting was allowed after reports of poll problems.) The only serious violence of the campaign came in the form of – yes – the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, which waged a sizable guerilla campaign in the hopes of derailing the election.
So, next time James Taranto proposes a hypothetical, why not visit one of the millions of other fine sites on the internet?
UPDATE: John Tabin IMed to ask me to clarify this. Well, put simply: If “a combination of terrorism and boycotts” disenfranchised whites in the 1994 South African election, it would indeed have made it “less a cause for celebration.” The incredible lack of bitterness on both sides, unimaginable until 1990 or 1991, was the cause for celebration. If whites had been terrorized, it would have been like an election in present-day Zimbabwe – which is assuredly not a cause for celebration.