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Date Posted: 05:03:03 02/05/06 Sun
Author: Chuck in ND
Subject: For your reading pleasure
Here is dh's column, appearing in today's paper:
(P.S. The regular opinion editor is away and left someone else in charge. Can you find where he messed up the punctuation?? :D)
Democracy is no guarantee that world peace will reign
Published Sunday, February 05, 2006
"America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” So spoke President Bush in his 2005 State of the Union address, a theme he has repeatedly sounded since his initial reason for devastating Iraq – weapons of mass destruction – didn’t pan out.
What then do Bush and his fellow warmongers make of Hamas’ stunning election to power by the Palestinians? An openly terrorist group has just been voted into 76 of 132 parliament seats, ousting the Fatah party that has ruled for decades. Perhaps now we will hear a little less of the mindless praise of democracy, a little less of the right we claim to overthrow nations for no other reason than to shove the ambrosia of suffrage down their throats.
Evidently the Bush administration regards democracy as a panacea, which is contrary to all good sense and history. No one forgets Hitler’s rise to power on a plurality vote. Now recall the 1992 lesson from the first round of elections in Algeria, which the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front swept. Only a military coup stopped the Front from democratically gaining power in the second round. You can believe that no American administration has complained that Algeria’s military crushed this particular democratic upswelling.
We have President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran who won democratically over a more progressive candidate. It appears we might soon be dropping bombs on this fledgling democracy. Elections in Egypt have left the Muslim Brotherhood a forerunner to Hamas, the main opposition to President Mubarak’s regime. Hezbollah has made a strong return in Lebanon’s parliament after the first vote since the Syrian withdrawal. The possibility that an open vote in Middle East countries could put fundamentalist Islamic parties, not Jeffersonian democrats, into power seems never to have occurred to Bush.
Which might be understandable, given Bush’s complete incuriosity and unwillingness to read anything not regurgitated by his assistants. But what of the hundreds of policymakers, speechwriters, researchers, and advisers that teem inside the White House? You have to wonder when the last time was any of them opened a political text. Democracy, defined as unfettered majority rule, used to have a very bad odor in America.
James Madison heartily rejected Athenian-style democracies as “spectacles of turbulence and contention ... incompatible with personal security or the rights of property,” and in general “as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.”
In fact many of the American constitutional convention’s delegates openly disliked democracies and mistrusted the people. It comes as no surprise, then, that our own Constitution was antidemocratic in many ways. Indirect election of senators, disproportionate senatorial representation itself, and the Electoral College for the election of presidents are examples.
Representative governments are not turnkey affairs that you simply drop on a people with guaranteed great results. Among other things, an adherence to the rule of law and a certain civic virtue of restraint are essential and can take a very long time to develop.
We must also reject Bush’s uncritical praise of democracies as peaceful. England had representative government and an empire which required nearly constant aggressive wars. America in the 20th century has been frequently embroiled in wars, assassination plots, and endless minor conflicts that were entirely optional. What we call democracy is no guarantee of peacefulness.
There is hope yet for the crush-and-democratize crowd. Hamas might have to turn civilized if it wishes to keep the American taxpayer siphon open. But blowback from warmongering for democracy is one more reason not to fight when we don’t have to.