Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Name:
Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

31.1.05

Elections are meaningless

I would love to see the Iraq elections succeed. Despite my hatred of Bush's regime and all that he does to spread freedom overseas while denying it to his own people, if the Iraqis want democracy, I hope they get it. But just like our excitement about the elections in Afghanistan should be tempered, so should our excitement about the elections in Iraq. Why? Because elections are meaningless.

Democracy is a hard process. The point is not free elections, although those are nice. The point is voluntary transfer of power. We have seen plenty of countries hold nice, free elections, and then, four or five or six years down the line when his term is up, the president says, "Whoops, there's a national emergency -- I'm gonna have to hold onto power for a while." Ten, fifteen years later, he's still there. That's why democracy is hard -- people who have power don't often want to give it up. That's why we should really reflect on the Founding Fathers more and appreciate them -- you can think what you want about George Washington (I think he was a lousy general and a feeble president) but he could have become king if he wanted to. He chose not to, and set a wonderful precedent. We were still having problems with elections for years after we had our first one -- the election of 1800 was ridiculously contentious, and people weren't sure if Adams would give up the office, and the election of 1876 was a mess as well. It's not good enough to have free elections. The real work comes afterward.

That's why I'm not confident about Iraq. I could argue that in 1776, the colonists were steeped in a tradition of participatory government that stretched back at least to 1215 (Magna Carta) and even, theoretically, to ancient Greece. The people of Mesopotamia have an even longer tradition of despotic rulership. Maybe they want to change, but it's tough going against tradition. It can be done, but it's hard work, and will require an American presence there for years. Are the American people willing to prop up a democratic government long enough for it to become part of the political culture in Iraq? I don't know. We can look at the great post-war success stories, Germany and Japan, and say yes, but the Germans had a long tradition of 1) a fractured national identity, which led to rudimentary democracy; and 2) a tradition of Germanic tribes that was not completely tyrannical; while Japan's emperors weren't ever really dictators, and the country had a long tradition of at least an oligarchy working together. Iraq has neither.

I'd like to be optimistic, and it's nice that so many people came out and voted. I'd like to see a couple things from Iraq: 1) Continued voter participation, even if threats continue (it's easy to vote the first time, when the emotional high is there, but not as much when your life continues to be at stake); and 2) Bush to respect the new government, even if they tell him thank you very much, but we'd like you out of our country. That won't happen, since the initial government at least will be a creation of the United States, but it would be interesting to see what Bush would say to that.