Thursday, January 26, 2006

Education in Democracy

Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East -- countries of great strategic importance -- democracy has not yet taken root. And the questions arise: Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism? Are they alone never to know freedom, and never even to have a choice in the matter? I, for one, do not believe it. I believe every person has the ability and the right to be free. President Bush Nov 6, 2003

Bush says won't deal with Hamas - Jan 26, 2006

When I first heard the Bush Administration sing the praises of Democracy, I thought they would come to regret it. Now, in the sixth year of their reign they are getting a little education about one of Plato's least favorite forms of government.

To be charitable to the Bush team, they wanted to stick with slogans in public and words like "freedom" and "democracy" evoke feelings amongst the masses they wanted to evoke.

Yet, grand policy is implemented in public. When the words, that have been so forcefully projected into people's minds, and deeds don't match, political power, the sense that a leader's words are true and carry weight, ebbs.

Moreover, or so I believe, it is better to initially deal with the confusion of a complex policy in the open rather than try to argue that you meant this or that all along. If for no other reason than dealing with the complexities in public demonstrates an understanding of the complexity of the task itself. Propaganda works on both the listener AND the speaker. Even if one is aware on some level of the "truth" propaganda can make one a prisoner of rhetoric.

When President Bush asserted in the speech linked above, the roots of our democracy can be traced to England, and to its Parliament, he was caught in an error of oversimplification. It wasn't democracy per se that America carried with it from England but a democratic impulse within a Constitutional framework, itself contingent upon a certain view of man's place in the universe.

As Shakespeare might have put it, there is more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of in your political philosophy. Bringing democracy to the Middle East has so far, in Iraq and today in Palestine, only served to give voice to the anger of the oppressed. It is a turn I think only a die hard dispensationalist, one who years for the final battle between good and evil and the second coming, could cheer.

So now the Bush team will try to escape from their rhetorical prisons. Democracy alone, they are now asserting, is insufficient to justify a rise to power and the political manifestation of a view of the world. This strikes me as very perilous ground.

To me, the democratic impulse that is part of the western form of government is important in its legitimizing effect, within our aforenoted, but often ubiquitous sensibility of the world. If a democratic vote no longer provides that effect, what does? Plato had an answer, tyranny.