I wish people would stop talking about bringing democracy to Iraq, as if it were the utmost value in Western political civilization. In fact it runs well behind rule of law, freedom of expression, and property rights — which is probably not a winning platform here, let alone there. Don’t get me wrong, the franchise certainly has its uses. It helps forestall violent revolution, as von Mises long ago pointed out, and it’s a tiny measure of protection against governments running utterly amok. Civil societies are all democracies; it does not follow that all democracies become civil societies.
Democracy, however, is the only good on which essentially everyone agrees, and so democracy it is. Its recent track record does not inspire confidence. Turkey is a democracy of sorts, and insofar as they have a rational polity it’s because the military enforces it. Hugo ChÃ vez, busily expropriating Venezuela, was elected. They vote in Egypt, which gets us resentment and an enormous foreign aid bill. Hitler* ascended to power through democratic means, even if he never won an actual election. What do you suppose a Saudi Arabian democracy would look like? Or a Palestinian one? Like lipstick on a pig, I’m guessing.
Bush, whatever his other limitations, appears to grasp this much. In last night’s speech he talked about a free Iraq, a vital Iraq, an Iraq without torture chambers, and a self-governing Iraq. The last was almost an afterthought. And remember the howls of outrage when Bush said the U.S. would not negotiate with the Palestinians until they got rid of Arafat? But he was elected! He’s the people’s choice! Exactly. What’s your point?
*I claim a Godwin’s Law exemption on the grounds that this isn’t a thread yet.