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30 March 2006

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maye

You're not going to get a sober menu of ambitions from a group of people with no sense of history and no foundation in reality.

Eric

DITTO what maye said.

Michael Singer

Pat, thanks for bringing this declaration to us. Now isn't one of the first questions to be asked is if you agree with Mr. Sale, even just a little bit...what are our men and women in Iraq really fighting, dying and being crippled for? Michael Singer

Norbert Schulz

I have argued this point with friends often, and my view is that it is not so much democracy that has value in itself, but the freedoms that usually come with it, at least in the West. Democracy is just a way to achieve these freedoms. It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.

For some countries a democracy is a questionable solution because it won't work. Mugabe's Zimbabwe has an elected president and laws and a parliament and all the institutions of a democracy. Still it is a despocy, or a dictatorship of a majority at best. Somalia had a stable government when it had a system of tribal council. It kept the country together for 200 years. As a democracy it became a failed state in less than 50 years. For other countries a monarchy may be the better choice.

For democracy to work it needs a certain mindset that has to grow over time. Clan, tribal or ethnic focused thinking is a great obstacle for democracy to succeed.

In the end I think that a stable government that is actually governing and caring for the people, is what counts. What worth is having a freedom when trying to exercise it will get you bullied or killed by the majority in the population?

Neo-cons like Jeanne Kirkpatrick once claimed that a dictatorship like Pinochet's is better than socialist rule, with the argument that the former is authoritarian whereas the latter totalitarian, and thus unable to reform. How convenient an excuse for propping up dictators.
I've seen the collapse of eastern europe's communist block and with that in mind I wholeheartedly disagree. Yet Pinochet's rule would still arguably better than anarchy as we see it today in Iraq.

Duck of Death

Brilliant article. 'America is, at bottom, only a country, not some glorious cause.' Here is the crux, the current conservative movement is completely wrapped up in the mythology of America. That mythology tells us that we ARE a glorious cause, that God is on our side, that we are never wrong and that we cannot lose. How many times have we seen great men or nations undone by nationalist hubris? Sometimes I see Bush as Caligula, declaring war on Poseidon, driven to madness by the belief of his own divinity(remember Bush and God are tight). Sometimes I think of him as Nero, hopelessly out of touch, hopelessly incompetent at everything and oblivious to the crumbling empire around him.

Duck of Death

Brilliant article.
'America is, at bottom, only a country, not some glorious cause.'

Here is the crux, the current conservative movement is completely wrapped up in the mythology of America. That mythology tells us that we ARE a glorious cause, that God is on our side, that we are never wrong and that we cannot lose. How many times have we seen great men or nations undone by nationalist hubris? Sometimes I see Bush as Caligula, declaring war on Poseidon, driven to madness by the belief of his own divinity(remember Bush and God are tight). Sometimes I think of him as Nero, hopelessly out of touch, hopelessly incompetent at everything and oblivious to the crumbling empire around him.

David Habakkuk

A comment from London on your very interesting post:

This view of democracy as a kind of panacea for security problems rests largely on quite extraordinarily simplistic readings of European history since the period of the American and French revolutions. One can usefully go back to Tocqueville, not least because he is a fundamental influence on Kennan, whom you cite.

Tocqueville's work was in large measure an attempt to make sense of the contrasting outcomes of the American and French revolutions, and specifically of the fact that the high hopes of a new world of equality and liberty held by the French revolutionaries in 1789 had found their nemesis in the imperialistic 'Caesarism' of Napoleon. In trying to explain the different outcomes of the two revolutions, he introduced two oppositions. One was between aristocratic and democratic society, with democratic meaning egalitarian; the other, within democratic society in this sense, was between equality combined with liberty, on the American model, and 'democratic despotism'. The former distinction reflects the actual situation of early medieval Europe, where kingship was not absolute. At the practical level, the means available to royal power to enforce its will were limited. At the theoretical level, the obligation of obedience to divinely sanctioned authority was counterbalanced by the obligation of authority to consult -- a pattern replicated down the hierarchy of authority.

A central contention of Tocqueville's was that the centralising activities of monarchical absolutism had worked to create an atomised form of 'individualist' society, and in so doing undermined the legitimacy of the whole system. Having privilege without function, the nobility no longer supported the monarchy while in turn having no claim on the obedience of the non-noble. Not only was the system inherently unstable, but its collapse was inherently likely to produce anarchy followed by 'democratic despotism'. Tocqueville's intellectual problem lay largely in showing how this could be prevented from becoming a recurrent pattern, and a successful combination of equality and liberty achieved on the continent of Europe.

Given the success of the post-war Pax Americana in Western Europe, it is easy to assume some kind of natural teleology of Western civilisation towards the more hopeful of Tocqueville's two outcomes. But in the interwar years, one might indeed have concluded that if European history had any natural destination, it was towards Caesarism. And indeed, a good case can be made that the survival and success of liberal democracy in post-war Europe is the fortuitous result of a most peculiar combination of factors, not least important the fact that Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union. The diplomats of the German Moscow Embassy, the excellence of whose analyses is noted by Kennan in his memoirs, argued that experience showed that the nationalist version of 'Caesarism' was inherently more powerful than the internationalist communist one, and that this was reflected in the fact that Stalin was increasingly turning into a kind of national socialist. Accordingly, they argued, Germany's future lay in an alliance with the Soviet Union to form a 'continental bloc' of Germany, Japan, Italy, and the Soviet Union. Had Hitler not been gung-ho with hubristic self-confidence after the fall of France, their advice might well have been taken. And who knows -- Francis Fukayama might have been writing books explaining how the liberal era was simply an aberration on the path to the ineluctable triumph of fascism.

Very little in recent history gives warrant for confidence that the disintegration of traditional systems of legitimacy necessarily leads to benign outcomes. One implication is that, where such systems of legitimacy have disintegrated or are under threat, as seems to be the case in much of the Middle East, it is highly likely that one may end up looking, not for magic solutions, but for least worst options. If one deludes oneself that things can be better than they can be, they may end up a lot worse than they need be. Another is that one should not assume that having a long history of successful democratic government gives Americans, or British, any kind automatic immunity to the dangers of Caesarism.

Why

Thanks Mr. Sale - I agree with a lot you said.

But your starting point is: "Bush administration's policy of encouraging and supporting the growth of democratic institutions"

Bush does not support genuine democracy. He is coming from a free anarchistic market model and sees "democracy" as a (sometimes) helpful tool to achieve that.

In his recent speech at Freedom house Bush said:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/03/20060329-6.html
"I happen to believe free markets eventually yield free societies. One of the most -- one of the most pure forms of democracy is the marketplace, where demand causes something to happen. Excess demand causes prices to -- the supply causes prices to go up, and vice versa. That stands in contrast to governments that felt like they could set price and control demand."

To him its markets. Try to replace "democracy" with "free market" in anything the Cheney government says and you can read their real religion.

(Ignore Bush's senseless demand/supply blubber in that quote. Who gave this man a MDA diploma?)

If for Bush it is about "free markets", the "Clash with Islam" can be seen in a very different light too. Islam has much to do with an egalitarian society with tightly controlled markets.

It is against free capitalism of the Bush propagated type. Unfortunatly this aspect of the whole conflict has not received enough interest yet.

Babak Makkinejad

The United States is not a democracy; it is a representative republic with well-established and well-respected legal framework for the protection of individual rights (the Rule of Law)
During 3000 years of Chinese history, only a minuscule number of the Chinese people ever enjoyed the benefits of the Rule of Law. And that was in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong during its 99-year existence; which was not a democracy.
It would have been a more achievable goal, in my opinion, if US policy had been concentrating on the development and imposition of the Rule of Law in ME and else where.
But building and sustaining the Rule of Law is neither glamorous nor easy. It does not attract headlines and does not capture men’s imagination. Yet that is where, in my opinion, our future on this planet must lie.

W. Patrick Lang

Michael

nothing. pl

maye

"The United States is not a democracy; it is a representative republic. . ."Posted by: Babak Makkinejad | 31 March 2006 at 10:18 AM

. . . Except in California where the only laws getting enacted are ballot initiatives passed via direct democracy. I leave it to the judgment of others the merits of this system. (P.S., We have an action hero as a governor.)

Patrick Henry

Babak..You raise interesting issues,,

I tend to agree with you on Rule of Law..Which is the Highest law of the Land..


It needs to be established
but in a just and humanitarian Way..Similar the the Rule Of Law in the United States and England..

With Sufficient Due Processs and Human Rights and Safeguards..

That is what true Democracy has to Offer and what is the difference betweeen Our Social order and Rule of Law..AND THOSE OF MORE SECTARIAN..oppressive regimes..with stricter rules..

Use their Rul of Law to Oppress the People when its convenient..

Less Human rights or Regards for the Welfare and Happiness of the People..so they can live without Fear..

As long as thier are differences ..There will always be debate of the Issues and differences between the Unitwed States and other Cultures and Peoples..

The Question is how to resolve those differences in Peaceful and diplomatic Way..With Wisdom..

Not With iolence and Confrontation..

The Drums of War..Hatred..
and violence..

Should NOt beat..Should Never Beat..

Without First Consideri9ng the BEAT of Mans heart..

And Rather Peace Could and Should Be the Better Alternative...


Babak Makkinejad

Patrick Henry:
Thank you for your kind and supportive response.
I beg to differ with you on several points:
1. I do not think that the Rule of Law can be established or maintained anywhere at any time without violence. Certainly US has not been an exception in the need for the constant exercise of violence to maintain the Rule of Law.
2. Secondly, the “oppressive regimes” do have laws. But they tend not to obey & follow their own rules & laws (Stalin’s Constitution was one of the most progressive ones at its time.) In other words, there is no Rule of Law.
3. I do not believe that human beings are capable of avoiding war; they like war (2500 years ago Plato wrote “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”). Perhaps because war is exciting or perhaps because of the love/hate feelings that human beings have for one another.
4. My own concern has been not with the possibility of war but rather the decision to go to war. It seems to me that both in ancient and modern warfare there was an emotional (non-rational) decision (by a group of mostly males) to go to war-the possible outcomes and cost/effect analysis were never performed. Thus one could easily wind up in a war that ruins oneself (Athens vs. Sparta).
I do agree with you that diplomacy and non-military solutions are often more desirable. They do entail costs like everything else but when one looks at the Civil War one would wonder if the Federal Government could not have offered to buy all the slaves and thus avoid that war. Or in case of Iraq, if containment would not have been a better choice for many more: for US, for Iraq, for Jordan, etc.

Babak Makkinejad

Patrick Henry:
Thank you for your kind and supportive response.
I beg to differ with you on several points:
1. I do not think that the Rule of Law can be established or maintained anywhere at any time without violence. Certainly US has not been an exception in the need for the constant exercise of violence to maintain the Rule of Law.
2. Secondly, the “oppressive regimes” do have laws. But they tend not to obey & follow their own rules & laws (Stalin’s Constitution was one of the most progressive ones at its time.) In other words, there is no Rule of Law.
3. I do not believe that human beings are capable of avoiding war; they like war (2500 years ago Plato wrote “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”). Perhaps because war is exciting or perhaps because of the love/hate feelings that human beings have for one another.
4. My own concern has been not with the possibility of war but rather the decision to go to war. It seems to me that both in ancient and modern warfare there was an emotional (non-rational) decision (by a group of mostly males) to go to war-the possible outcomes and cost/effect analysis were never performed. Thus one could easily wind up in a war that ruins oneself (Athens vs. Sparta).
I do agree with you that diplomacy and non-military solutions are often more desirable. They do entail costs like everything else but when one looks at the Civil War one would wonder if the Federal Government could not have offered to buy all the slaves and thus avoid that war. Or in case of Iraq, if containment would not have been a better choice for many more: for US, for Iraq, for Jordan, etc.

anna

I think it scares me that we even approach these questions at the level proposed by Bush.

I think almst every third world country had democratic elections and other trappings since WWII, often lots of times. With a long list of collapses.

I am not sure what the requirements for success are, perhaps a system that preserves rights, and other pieces, but I do know simplistic proposals are insanity at this point. They are for peple who live in an imagiery reality, a faith based world.

But then again it seems to work for them. For example the approach to civil war is identical to that of the Greenhouse effect.

Point 1- It doesn't exist.
Point 2- If it does exist we had nothing to do with it and can do nothing.
Point 3- If we are responsible then it's a good thing.

Patrick Henry

Babak..Thank you for your Response and comments..I can tell you give this subject deep thought..

You have also Caused me to give the subject more thought also..


i welocme your right to have differt perspectives and thoughts on the matter..

We all have our Own experiences..Perspectives and Insights..

There is wisom in Peaceful Debate..among Friends..


The Fact is..Yes..rules of Law Have been Established..with the Use of violence..

Thats Past History for the United States..We Had Our Revolution..Against oppression..and unfare Taxs..and Disregard for Human Dignety or Human Rights..With security..

Thus we Established Our Constitution..and Bill of Rights With That in Mind and built In Safeguards..
That protect the CITIZENS..
and all others who pass throguh Our judicial System with its RULE OF LAW..

The WILL of the People is the ..Rule of LAW..

A Nation OF the PEOPLE..BY the People and FOR the People.(.True On a Scale) democracy..

With built in Safeguards from from Monarchal..Dictoral..Sectarian or Political Regimes..
or forms of government that Oppress the People..

Read The Preamble to the US Constitution..


Thats the Heart of the Debate..


fbg46

"The Bush admiinistration's unthinking advocacy of democracy without fully understanding the cultural and poliitical traiditions where democracy is being attempted seems to be another species of the delusion that we know with certainty what other people want, a self conceit that evades any honest evaluation to determine if our own beliefs, values and habits are relevent to people and institutions very different from ourselves."

As if to underscore this point, Dear Leader yesterday:

""We support democracy, but that doesn't mean we have to support governments that get elected as a result of democracy."

How could he possibly think that the world view identified in the first point above leads anywhere but to the dilemmas which led him to yesterday's quote?

The man's knowledge of how the US and the world works seems to have stopped with Mrs. McGillicuddy's sixth grade Civics class at Midland - Odessa Middle School.


abic

More on Sale's piece:
http://www.moonofalabama.org/2006/03/compassionate_i.html

Charlie Green

IMO, the best run nation in the modern world is Monaco, a benevolent monarchy. Keeping a monarch benevolent is the biggest problem.

Babak Makkinejad

Patrick Henry:
I have read the preamble of the US Constitution.

The point I was hoping to make was that there will always be a need for what people like Colonel Jessup do to create a blanket of security.

I am completely against the hubris of the fools that go out there and looking to make more enemies in order to live their (infantile) fantasies; the liberal fantasies in Vitenam, the humanitarian fantasies in Somalia and Yugoslavia, and now the neo-conservative fantasies in Iraq.

And at the end of these wars, the policy makers go and right books such as "In Retrospect" and tell us why the policy was wrong. Tell that to the dead and the wonded and their families.

Patrick Henry

There can be differnt forms of Rule..some monarchs can and have been very wise and Benevolent..

Our Revolution was against a Monarchy Who wasn't so benevolent..

Any Power to Rule bears great responsibility..

True..there are Various Forms of Democracy..The so called Will of the People..

The does Not mean that the will of the people is disquised in a Way..that it disprgards ALL the People..

The United States as a Democracy is still the best Example of Having Freedoms for ALL People..Feedom to Chose,,To Worship or not Worship..To peacefully assemble..to protest..Have Free Speech..Debate..without Persecution or fear of oppression..

We are Many peoples..Gathered from many Nations..races..cultures..creeds and Beliefs..

We all have Our Individual Rights..

We Live in relative Peace..and tolerance..with out the Extreme Forms of violence of other Cultures..and "Democracys"

The Difference is..That WE THE PEOPLE.Reconginzed oppression.Desired Our Freedom..and Human Rights..

And FOUGHT for it Ourselfs..

FOR~ALL `THE `PEOPLE..

Democracy begans at Home..

Our Leaders..Elected Officials..and People..

Should Walk to Walk..

Before they Talk the Talk..

Patrick henry

I would like to add One more thought to this Discussion..before I turn my Puter off for the day..and enjoy some gardening..now that its warming up alitte..

I believe the problems we see come from Idelogical..Theocratic differnces among Nations and People..

I believe that any or all of them can and do go to extremes in defending what they believe to be the Right Process..

Each has its flaws..or benifits depending on Time and Circumstances..

i believe in Free Markets and free Market reform..There must always be Commerce..with Goods and Commodites for the People..every where..

That is sadly lacking in many Parts of the World..Mostly due to Strict policys and Controls by Those who RULE..

I do not approve of Strick or Violent efforts to Protect IDELOGOY..

Rather Capitolism..Communism..Naziism.. Fascism..Sectarianism..or any other SECTISM..

Humanitarianism..Based on a Respect for the Value of the 'Idividual" and Human Life..


Most people just want Food..a`roof..some happiness..Security for thier Children and thier Homes..and..

Wise and benevolent Leadership..

Of ANY KIND..

Thats a On Going..and Constant GROWING Process..

For ALL of us..


Duck of Death

'I think almst every third world country had democratic elections and other trappings since WWII, often lots of times. With a long list of collapses.'

Some of those 'collapses' were coups instigated or carried out by the U.S. I'm not sure the fledgling democracies of South and Central America, or Iran were given much of a chance to succeed before we squashed them.

searp

Perhaps the most important question is the impact of the ideology on policy and public opinion.

Democracy as the end-state for all our policy efforts suggests a long game quite akin, in my own mind, to the creation of the workers' paradise under you-know-who.

The analogy is entirely apt - we overlay our policies, which often incline towards the pragmatic, with an ideological gloss. The gloss appeals to some, but is rejected by most as naive, hypocritical and utopian.

I'd say the democracy thing is mostly for domestic consumption, and probably does us no good at all in the wider world. We believe in democracy and American exceptionalism, not the rest of the world.

A more genuine expression of the yearning for freedom would be a policy emphasis on human rights as opposed to democracy. Carter was pilloried for giving a policy priority to human rights; the current crew clearly does not believe in human rights. Having foreclosed this appealing option, we are left with... purple fingers.

Norbert Schulz

Duck of Death,
what you point out is easily explained with the Bush wonderful quote brought by fbg46:

"We support democracy, but that doesn't mean we have to support governments that get elected as a result of democracy."

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