Thursday, January 26, 2006


Why is it that Republicans, and many ordinary Americans, have this belief that democracy is in and of itself the answer to everything - that all we have to do is give the people a ballot box and peace, prosperity, freedom, justice, the rule of law, and cheap candy will blossom up? Bush constantly invokes this mantra - it's all about "Freedom" - some nebulous idea that we can all aspire to.

John Dickerson, in Slate, sums it up perfectly:

President Bush believes in a simple formula. Democracy is good. Terrorism is evil. When democracy is introduced in hostile countries it acts like enchanted water: Apply a drop and liberty flowers. That theory, never plausible, obviously has now been undone: The victory of the radical Islamic organization Hamas in the Palestinian elections demonstrates that democracy and terrorism are not mutually exclusive.
Add to the mix Iraq. Somehow, Dubya and co (he's just SO awesome) have this belief that "democracy" necessarily encompasses the meaning "secular westernism"; that in Iraq, once we opened up the polling stations, the masses would say, "oh yes, we want secular, nonreligious candidates and a western-style liberal democracy, and we'll add to that a secular Canadio-American Bill of Rights." Um. Wrong. Very wrong. That bit about the Shiites winning 48% or so kinda disproves the point. What's Bush's solution? "You can have any democracy you want, as long as it's one we approve of"?

That, as an expat, is something I've always thought Americans don't get. We (being one) think of foreigners as either a) Americans who dress/eat/talk funny, or b) if given the chance, would like nothing better than to become American. We assume that foreigners should or do react to events/stimuli exactly like we do, and then get mad at them (i.e. the French/Germans/Canadians) when they don't.

So now, we've bombed one country into democracy, and encouraged another, and what do we have? A country with a sharia-based constitution where the biggest party is made up of fundamentalists (Iraq), and a zone that we want to become a country run by a party of Islamic terrorists.

Apparently it takes a little more than just a ballot box.

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