The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Brian's Question of Democracy

So, in relation to my previous blog, my good friend Brian was kind enough to point out:
i agree with much of it, but think you have virtually skimmed the most important section: democracy. Your assumptions here are far too shallow in light of the quality of the rest of the piece, and you completely neglect to mention that there are different versions of democracy, some more stable and desirable to the US than others. Just because people can vote doesn't mean that there will be "democracy" in the sense you seem to use the word. Instead, we need to discuss issues such as liberalism, and the role of Islam in Middle Eastern democracy. Voting is merely the most limited framework--the content is what really matters, and why many people question whether the Bush administration knows how to (or has the ability to) achieve such goals. For more on this, I have to point to Fareed Zakaria, who has written a book on illiberal democracy.

So lets talk a little about democracy. Iraq's progress in the development of its democracy is frustratingly slow. One would think that with all of the insurgencies occurring throughout the country that they might find some greater impetus to move forward. But the current outcome is both expected and hopeful. We completely dismantled an artificially united state. What we are left with is three quite distinct groups, each of whom is not particularly happy with the others. One of those groups, the sunnis, has lost all hope of regaining control of the united state. This alone provides motivation for the continuation of violence and "struggle." With all of this factoring in, it is perhaps a miracle that they were even able to successfully formulate a national constitution. But we must realize that his is not the United States. It is not annalogous, even, to most european states. The "nation," in truth, must exist as a loose federation of three largely self-governing states. The focus and source of federation must revolve around the allocation of resources so as to benefit the individual groups as well as the whole. The two main incentives are peace and potential for economic growth. But the economic incentive does not come naturally to Iraq, it must be built in. Unilke in the United States, where economic interaction between the north and the south provided a structure about which to form a Federal government that coordinates and promotes economic interests internally, Iraq does not have nearly as extensive a domestic trade program. This makes it more difficult to formulate an effective and fair government, particularly when one of the three groups has a greater control over economic interests than the others.
So the democracy in Iraq will likely be quite different than that which exists in the United States. And even a true democracy will not necessarily make Iraq an "ideal" nation. As I mentioned, democracy is but a single measurement of a nation's success. But it is most certainly not the only requisite. The nation must demonstrate a consistent support for human rights and for the promotion of trade and international relations. Even though Iraq has successfully held democratic elections, it has yet to show whether this can be maintained. It has yet to show a consistent dedication to the rights of the minority as well as the majority - this of course being complicated by the fact that the minority were previously the oppressors. Their method of democracy is not so important as the ability of its mechanisms to ensure these basic tenets of the global society rule set.
So their democracy is inevitably off to a shaky start. But realize that all of these things - democratic elections, human rights, trade with low tariffs, international cooperation - all of these make up the rule sets that dominate the landscape of the global economy. A desire for prosperity, for peace, and for participation in the global marketplacce will all contribute as equalizing factors, forcing them to an equilibrium that will hopefully leave a lasting effect not only on Iraq but on the rest of the middle eastern region.
They have to create a new reality. They need their practical builders, movers, and shakers. But they also require their idealists. Can they fail? Most certainly. But we must have hope that they will succeed.


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