The Iraqi elections won't make any practical difference in the lives of most Americans or Iraqis. The United States owns Iraq now. It's ours, for better or (usually) worse. We can let Iraqis choose new leaders, but these new leaders don't come with a new army or social services or schools. The Iraqis will still be stuck with what we Americans give them now, which isn't very good.
In my recent world travels I met a writer who just went to Iraq. I figured some of the bad press about Iraq was probably hyperbolic, so I asked him: Isn't there a silent majority, or at least minority, of Iraqis who just get up in the morning and go to work and manage to avoid all the carnage? He just started at me. "No," he said. "Everyone's afraid to go anywhere."
Raad al-Naqib, a Baghdad dentist as quoted recently in the The New York Times, said much the same thing:
"Every day, when you leave your home, you don't know what will happen - bombs, bullets, kidnapping," Dr. Naqib said as he braced himself against the near-freezing cold in the garden of the private sports club where he had taken his wife and three children for lunch, their first family outing in months. "You ask me about hope - there is no hope. On ordinary days, I cannot even allow my children to play in the garden. To them, a garden is something they only see through windows."Will Iraq's new mystery leader make things any different? Of course not. He'll be a figurehead -- a new target for insurgents. It's almost cowardly of us to give Iraqis new leaders who will essentially be a decoy for the real people in power. The Iraqi leaders will be quarterbacks who can get sacked but can't run, throw, or call plays.
It reminds me of The Sopranos. Remember when Tony installed feeble, senile Uncle Junior as the titular head of the family? Tony knew what he was doing. He kept running the family business, but let Uncle Junior wear the target on his back. That's what we're doing to Iraq's new Uncle Juniors.