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Jan 30, 2005

Comments

anonymous

Ordinarily I wouldn't bother commenting on this kind of thing, but I actually enjoy your VC related postings.

"The Iraqis (as well as the people of Afghanistan) also decided that death in the pursuit of liberty was better than than slavery to terrorists."???

This sentence really has a lot of problems. I think it's important to remember that:

(1) Those who fought for American independence did indeed "decide" to risk their lives for freedom from a foreign power rather than let things continue as they were. This was primarily a struggle for liberty, not democracy, which is an entirely different concept.

(2) In contrast, those in Iraq and Afghanistan did not "decide" anything -- the US military toppled their regimes and *imposed* a democracy. Those in majority factions who were previously powerless are of course happy about this; those in previously powerful minorities are definitely not.

(3) Neither country was run by "terrorists" under any reasonable definition of the word. In particular, they were not run by anyone who had anything to do with 9/11, which is the only kind of terrorist most Americans care about.

As to whether the people in these countries value democracy as a system -- even if it means that their minority views lose influence -- I would say this is as yet unknown. One thing is certain, the comparison you make above is misleading: no dictatorship, no matter how powerful, can rule without the the implicit consent of the ruled. If most ordinary people in Iraq and Afghanistan both understood and were willing to risk their lives for either liberty or democracy, as the fighters for American independence did, they would have done so without the US military having to force it on them.

Perhaps the administration's strategy of imposing democracy and having it become accepted as the "normal" way of doing things in places where it did not arise by itself will work, and perhaps it will not. But to swallow the media story that we are witnessing the birth of a free people somehow analagous to the American revolution is a grave mistake.

jeff

Point well taken, thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful note.

1) In a sense "we were they", the foreign power in question was the monarchy. Without liberty one cannot have democracy.

I think you are also not acknowledging that the Revolutionary War was not exactly a slam dunk for the Continental Army. In fact, the British Navy more or less pounded Washington's army from 1775-1777 where most of the fighting was in the north. In fact, the end of the Revolution may well have been in 1777 were it not for General Gates victory at Saratoga which convinced the French to get involved, marking a turning point in the war. It was 1781 when Gen. Corwallis was defeated in Chesapeake Bay by combined French and Continental Army forces and a treaty was signed shortly thereafter. Not even the American colonists could achieve victory without the help of a foreign power.

2) yes?

3) Taliban definitely supported a terrorist organization, which made them liable for the acts of that group. Saddam was a threat to the region, and arguably a threat to the U.S. through his acts to subvert UN sanctions, and of course through direct attack on U.S. forces enforcing the sanctions. The fact that he was also a mass murderer of historical proportions is also adequate evidence of hostile intentions. At any rate, it's a mistake to propose that any of this is solely about 9/11, as much as it is a mistake to propose that 9/11 itself is about one person, one group, or one act. This all goes back to the Marines in Lebanon...

There's only one way to find out if democracy is indeed a universal value, that is to try it out in places where it doesn't exist. I do fundamentally believe that people desire to be free and have a hand in their collective future through representative government. Democracy rarely happens on it's own, throughout history foreign forces have had a hand in the initiation of democracy in places like Japan and greater Asia, Central America, Eastern Europe, and now the Middle East. However ugly the process may be at times, the result is worth it.

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