"Let’s say you tried to have an election and you could have it in three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. But in some places you couldn’t because the violence was too great. Well, so be it. Nothing’s perfect in life, so you have an election that’s not quite perfect. Is it better than not having an election? You bet."
— Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, quoted by Reuters, on holding Iraqi elections in January.
First of all, let’s take a gander at how much of Iraq won’t be voting. Below, I have provided a map of the current situation of Iraq (courtesy of Juan Cole, who you should all be reading). The areas marked in red are areas which we have apparently given up on, and the purple areas represent areas which have seen heavy fighting recently, and which may be unsecurable come January (when Iraq hopes to have elections).
That said, does Rumsfeld really believe that an election that disenfranchizes so much of one country is better than no election at all? Isn’t that like saying that doing open heart surgery using spoons is better than no open-heart surgery at all? I mean, does anyone think that such an election could claim to produce a legitimate leader?
Or, to put it in another perspective, suppose the year is 1996 and Saddam Hussein is having an election where almost half of the country will not vote (for fear of getting shot or blown up if they go to the polls). In that scenario, would Rumsfeld be making the argument that the victor of that election (Saddam, presumably) is the legitimate President of Iraq? Would Rumsfeld be saying that the election was "better than not having an election"?
Knowingly electing an illegitimate leader is NOT better than have no election at all. It only fuels the fires of discontent. Rumsfeld is a total idiot.