Friday, November 23, 2007

Fisking Krauthammer

Cernig at the Newshoggers makes a full-on point-by-point rebuttal of Charles Krauthammer's claim that opponents of the Iraq war are now living in a state of denial.

Money quote:

Firstly, he (Krauthammer) writes that:

Why is top-down national reconciliation as yet unattainable? Because decades of Saddam Hussein's totalitarianism followed by the brutality of the post-invasion insurgency destroyed much of Iraq's political infrastructure, causing Iraqis to revert to the most basic political attachment -- tribe and locality.

In this, he glibly passes over the destruction of Iraq's political and actual infrastructure by the invasion iteself and by the badly mismanaged CPA
regime, which set the scene for the insurgency in the first place. A huge factor? Of course not! Look over there - a river in Egypt!

But Cernig misses a key opportunity here. "Top-down national reconciliation" hasn't happened yet because "top down national reconciliation" is impossible almost by definition. The very concept of "top-down national reconciliation" presumes that people are automotons who do whatever their government/leaders tell them to do. It presumes liberal democracy is a means to stability rather than the result of stability. If top-down reconciliation were possible, Israelis and Palestinians would have been at peace ever since the Oslo Accords.

This actually gets to the heart of why the dream of exporting democracy to Iraq by force was naive to begin with. Democracy cannot be forced; it is created. Historically, as I learned many years ago in my 100-level PolSci course, democracy has been successful only when it has arisen in societies that already had some degree of liberal freedom to begin with. Compare Spain's relatively smooth post-Franco transition to democracy with the anything-but-smooth transition to democracy in Russia. Or ask yourself how successful a democracy Poland would be if it didn't first have Lech Walesa and Solidarity to establish a democratic base. Or ask if the American Revolution would have happened without the freedoms afforded by the British Empire. Fact is, successful democracies have almost always arisen from the bottom-up, not from the top-down.

Think of it this way: when you try to create liberal democracy from the top-down, you are paradoxically trying to force people to be free. A top-down democracy is a democracy in name only: a politician in a liberal democracy can't force people to follow his lead. If he does, he is no longer leading a liberal democracy!