Monday, January 30, 2006


Thinking about George Bush, the middle east and the recent Palestinian election over the weekend, it occurred to me that the well-known saying about love can be adapted to democracy: "Democracy isn't the answer to all your problems, it's a whole set of new ones."

This is one of the things that I and others skeptical of Bush's plan to remake the middle east in our image have been trying to find a way to articulate to the administration's defenders. Alas, now history has given us an illustrative example, instead.

Bush has acted like democracy is some sort of miracle antiseptic: just a single drop is enough to kill oppression and terrorism in up to twelve countries! Unfortunately, American taxpayers didn't get a money-back satisfaction guarantee with Bush's democracy informercials.

Don't get me wrong; I think democracy's the best form of government that human beings have come up with, and there's certainly a lot to commend it. Wouldn't I rather have a secular democracy in Iraq rather than Saddam Hussein? Well, duh.

But improving the situation in the middle east has to be at a minimum a two-pronged strategy. Er, strategery. For American interests, changing a government to majority rule from a criminal despot doesn't help if the majority hates us. When I argued that you can't impose democracy at gunpoint, what I meant was the average Iraqi on the street is not going to say, "Hey America, thanks to you I'm blind in one eye, missing a leg, the power is still on less than it was before the invasion three years ago, my brother and father are dead and I saw my daughter blown up in front of me, but you got rid of Saddam Hussein, so I guess that's a fair deal."

The problem in this country is that Bushies act as if the phrase "Yes, but..." means the same thing as what Dick Cheney said to Senator Leahy. No one was opposed to the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein; no one was opposed to the idea of a democratic Iraq. It's just that when sensible people heard Bush's plan -- or rather, didn't hear one -- and responded to his "Democracy, ho!" speeches with a polite, "Yes, but..." they were smacked down and told that they were providing comfort to the enemy.

Now we've seen what was supposed to come after the "but": what if the government that legitimately comes to power isn't a friendly one?

When that question was posed to the president the day after the election, he responded, "You see, when you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls, they -- and if they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know."

Mr. President? We're letting you know.

1 comment:

little-cicero said...

No one is saying that Democracy is a miracle antiseptic. Read my post on "Man's Need to Govern" and you'll understand what I mean when I say that every man has a need to control the destiny of others and himself. There are two ways to fulfill one's need to way of violence or by way of political participation. Centuries of opression in the Middle East have led to violence being the only means. Directly after democratic ideals were spread in Europe, violence was an epidemic moreso than under absolutism, but it eventually subsided as politics replaced violence as a means to govern.

So when violence takes root in the Middle East, there may be revolutions and civil wars for many years, but eventually these years of violence will be overshadowed in the history book by the period after they realized that there is another way. Conflict is inevitable whenever people have free will and free thought...our responsibity is to give them the option of a non-lethal means of conflict, wherein their basic human rights are protected rather than squandered.

Also, your conjecture that most Iraqis are anti-American is false. It was found that a large portion of "insurgents" were foreign al-Quaeda insurgents fighting under the command of Zarqawi. Of course this would in large part be hidden as Zarquawi would prefer that our media continue reporting that there is a civil war in Iraq, when in fact it is a concrete battle between the forces of democracy and the forces of terror.