Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Problem with Democracy

Benevolent Dictatorships Always Work Better than Democracies

Things were better for some Iraqis when Saddam was in charge. If you were a Sunni, and you kept your nose clean, life was pretty good for you at that time. Now, after those nasty Americans invaded your country you can’t even go out for a cup of coffee without worrying about being blown up.

Dictatorships are always better than democracies at keeping the peace. Hitler could just cremate the “troublemakers” in Germany; Mussolini could hang anyone who didn’t make the trains run on time; Saddam could drop poison gas on trouble-making Kurds.

These dictators were not benevolent. What if you could find a benevolent dictator, like Napoleon Bonaparte maybe? Let’s say, for example sake, that Jesus himself would become your dictator. That would be a pretty good deal. The trains would run on time, and you would be treated humanely and fairly.

One problem with dictatorships, though, is that true benevolent dictators are rare. Maybe King Hussein in Jordan comes close to this ideal. There are other problems too, though. Power corrupts, as they say, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Even the benevolent dictator can be tempted to abuse his power. If King David, for example, wants another man’s wife, he can send that man off to certain death in battle. Another problem is how can you find the next benevolent dictator when this one dies or retires? One further problem is that a single man, or woman, cannot be an expert in all matters. This is why Germany lost WWII. Hitler’s war strategies led to disaster for his country.

click to show/hide the rest of the post

So, the final word on kingdoms and dictatorships is that they can work very well if you have a brilliant saint in charge. If you have less than a brilliant saint in charge, though, these forms of government lead either to human rights abuses or worse, or at least to decision-making that threatens the survival of the nation.

Even in Saddam’s Iraq, even if you were a Sunni, the quality of life was severely crimped by the fact that you always had to fear offending Saddam. No one was safe from his moods or whims. Your wife and children weren’t secure. There was no real protection of the law. That’s no kind of life.

The Problem with Democracy

Democracy is inherently more disorderly than any kingdom or dictatorship. It is always closer to mob rule. The trade-off is freedom.

In a democracy, the rights of citizens are protected, so that, for example, criminals have the right to defend themselves. You can’t torture someone to get a confession. You can’t hang a man because he looks at you funny. You can’t even search a man’s property unless you have a warrant. All in all, it’s a safer environment for criminals. So, there’s more crime, more disorder, more protests in a democracy.

Democracy and War

Democracies have a more difficult time sustaining war efforts than dictatorships. The terrorists, for example, can kill you if you don’t join them in bombing the local hospital. They can pluck your eyes out if you don’t chop off the head of the hostage you just captured. They can throw your children in a ditch and cover them up if you don’t join the street demonstration against the “awful” American devils. Dictators can whip up and sustain a fever war pitch in their populaces by brainwashing their subjects, threatening them, torturing and killing them if they resist.

Democracies go to war following major events, like the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the toppling of the World Trade Center towers. In these instances, they are so incensed by something that their anger can only be assuaged by military effort. Democracies can then maintain their war efforts only as long as the populace believes in the justness of the war. If they see their young men dying, and forget the reasons why, they begin to withdraw their support for the effort, and then can stop the war by the power of their vote or collective opinions.

Dictatorships understand all this. They know that one part of every war with a democracy is to fight the propaganda war too. All you need to do is convince about 60% of the citizens in your enemy’s democracy that the war is not worth it in order to win.

The Value of Democracy

All this, in my opinion, nonetheless lends support to the value of democracy. It is a trade-off. We give up some order in our society in order to have freedom. We give up some staying power in war in order to ensure that our cause in any war is just.

This is why democracies are safer for the world. Democracies rarely can sustain a war effort that proves ineffective or unjust. This is a good thing. It means futile wars end sooner than later, and it discourages adventurism and imperialism.

Lessons for Iraq

It would be great if we could install democracy in Iraq. This would indeed make the world safer. The trade-off, though, is less order there. In the present, it even means chaos. Iraq is in the same place America was during our Civil War, or in the darkest days of our Revolution. It is a place of chaos. This is the price of freedom. This chaos will end if and when the Iraqi people decide to fight, die, and win for freedom.

If democracy takes over in Iraq, things might never be as orderly as they once were when Saddam was in charge. On the other hand, people then will be able to go out for a cup of coffee, and relax while drinking that coffee, without having to worry that their daughter will be raped by a soldier with a whim.

click to hide most of this post

No comments: