it's just common sense

The musings of an over qualified white male on matters of media, music, science, politics, etc, that are patently obvious.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Political Theory 101: Iraq, Democracy, Dictatorship, and a Dash of Regis Philbin

Okay, so just ignore all of the pre war rhetoric about the US invading Iraq as a matter of national security and WMD's. We all saw the seamless morphing of the war's justification from security into something called Operation Iraqi Freedom. That's the one where the real goal all along was to liberate the Iraqi people from the burdens of strong man rule, and to give the gift of democracy. I mean after all, how is it possible to argue with such a clear, concise, and simple objective. Concise yes, but clear and simple?

Our State Department is filled with very learned people from all realms of academic discipline, and among the many areas of expertise represented there would be something called political theory. ( ). Political theorists are a cross between historians and political scientists. In brief, one of the foci of study among people of that ilk is to look at the various forms of government that arise in the human condition. These would include such formulations as monarchy, theocracy, democracy, or dictatorship to name just a few. One of basic ideas explored in this regard is to further look at the various factors of people, place, and time, among others, that seem to particularly favor the establishment and maintenance of one form of political system over another. What factors contribute to the creation of a stable democracy? Why do some countries, regions, or conditions seem prone to dictatorship, or strong arm rule?

It is the purpose of agencies such as the State Department to utilize their resources and to inform our leaders about factors that might influence policy and the decision making process. It is the job of our government and our media, particularly in something so delicate as a democracy, to pass such key information along in order to ensure an informed populace. No such thing has happened in even the most elementary sense about the profound difficulties in establishing democracy in any place on earth, let alone the special experience and history of the Iraqi people. This constitutes yet another in a long line of lies of omission that seem to characterize the Bush administration, ably assisted by a compliant media.

Basic political theory, among writers since Alexis de Tocqueville in his landmark1831 tome Democracy in America, (, have held that of all the different forms of government that might arise, democracy is among the most difficult to establish, let alone flourish. Democracy is anything but simple to build and maintain. Its growth may even include elements of luck and geography that are specific to the United States, (

In brief, Political Theory 101 teaches us that special sets of conditions promote and foster democracy as Americans conceive of it. The short list of key indexes would include the following:

1) A long tradition, respect for, and experience with the notions of free speech and a vigorous and inquiring press.
2) A population that is informed, and is itself vigorously questioning.
3) Respect and experience with the judiciary and the rule of law.
4) A national consciousness that includes a devotion and tradition with the ideas of self determination.
5) A tradition of self reliance.
6) Acceptance of the supremacy of the federal government and the manner in which power is shared with the states or regional authorities.
7) Experience and understanding of freedom, equality, and the rights of humankind.
8) Stable economy and matters of infrastructure, abundant and varied resources.

Clearly, in the case of the United States, and other countries with various forms of democracy about the globe, this partial list of factors is quite evident. Clearly, each and everyone of these items are glaringly absent from the Iraqi experience both past and present. The job of establishing that beacon of democracy in Iraq is in need of many more building blocks and much More time and money than anyone in Washington or on the airwaves would have us believe. It took the US decades to actually arrive at some of the aforementioned parameters.

However, not only does Iraq want for nearly every major factor to ease democracy into existence, but the actions of the present administration have magnified and in some instances created circumstances that are diametrically opposed to democrarcy. Conditions in Iraq, economic, political, and otherwise actually represent a wonderful mixture for the rise of dictatorship and strong arm rule. This is a bold and simply supreme irony that should influence the decision of every voter in some way.

Basic political theory has outlined the conditions favoring the rise of dictators and strong man rule, ( Some of the most vivid examples of this in recent history can be found in post WW I Europe with the rise of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The history of Latin America and Africa are also rife with examples. (Latin America in particular shares with Iraq, the problems associated with what has been called monoculture, i.e., the reliance on a single resource for revenue, but that is another whole discussion beyond the scope here). The short list of factors favoring the rise of dictators would include such things as:

1) Unstable economic conditions such as rampant unemployment, and strong inflation threatening the basic security of the population in terms of survival.
2) Breakdown in the rule of law further lessening the safety of the people.
3) Unstable infrastructure with respect to utilities, water, electricity and the availability of food and life services.
4) The rise of regional and ethnic factions pronouncing their own self interest or hearkening back to some more stable perceived golden era in the past.
5) A collective blow to the national self image and ego.

When a population is confronted with these types of conditions, theory holds that the people will yearn for the basic immediacy and stability that can be offered through some form of dictatorship or strong man rule. US policy under George W. Bush has contributed to and multiplied each and every one of these tendencies in ways direct and indirect.

The ideas outlined above are simple, completely elementary in the thinking that embodies political theory. The monumental task of establishing democracy, and the healthy environment for dictatorship created by US military presence and actions simply cry out to be heard. This Iraqi situation is anything but easy, and progress is no where to be seen. The lies of omission, and at best the supreme irony of American actions in Iraq should not be lost on even the most casual observer, and have only been hinted at in the mainstream media, (

Operation Iraqi Freedom? This thing should be a reality show called Who Wants to Be a Dictator?