Iraq: The Folly of Deifying Democracy
We hear lots of criticism of the Iraq venture from the left, right and center. There is everything from silly notions about presidential prevarication to how "it is only about oil" to one-world government conspiracy theories. Yet, while military action can rise from policy objectives, it's often ignored that policy objectives tend to rise from the time's prevailing philosophy. And the truth is that insofar as the war in Iraq has been misguided, the blame can be laid at the feet of the spirit our age.
I speak of a political correctness that would prescribe Western-world solutions to Third World problems.
Our problem in Iraq has not been winning the war, but winning the peace. Toppling Saddam Hussein was easy enough, but toppling the medieval attitudes of a fractious and often ferocious people is a different matter. And what do we prescribe as a remedy for this malaise? A dalliance with democracy.
Those left scratching their heads have not learned from history, only pep talks. While we often view democracy as the terminus of governmental evolution, the stable end of political pursuits, the truth is that civilizations have tended to transition not from tyranny to democracy, but democracy to tyranny (e.g., the ancient Romans).
This brings us to the crux of the matter: Even if we can successfully install democratic republics in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, what makes us think they can keep them?
Political correctness does. To average westerners, all groups are essentially the same, despite profound religious and cultural differences. Why, if a civilization – be it Moslem or Christian, Occidental or Oriental – suffers under the yoke of tyranny, it is only due to a twist of fate that has bestowed the wrong system of government upon it. Change that system and voila!, all live happily ever after. What eludes these Pollyannas is that politics doesn't emerge in a vacuum but is a reflection of a far deeper realm, the spiritual/moral.
President Bush has said that all people want freedom. That's nice. How idealistic. Technically, though, Bush is correct: All people do want freedom. What's overlooked is that wanting and being able to acquire are very different things.