The ultimate tragedy in Iraq may well be that the nation actually had a chance for a decent future -- a chance that the Bush administration had given the Iraqi people through its deft backing of a truly national leader like Allawi, yet a chance which the same administration may well have fecklessly thrown away through its ideological fixation on formal democracy as a panacea for all that ails the Middle East. In the past, democracies have not only voted good men out of office, in order to put terrible men into their place, but democracies have, at times, even voted themselves out of existence. The French did this when they elected Louis Napoleon emperor, the Italians did this when they made Mussolini the Duce, the Germans did it when they made Hitler the F?hrer. The once supposedly democratic revolution in Iran ended in a Shi'ite theocracy; and it could happen once again in Iraq.
The Austrian philosopher, Karl Popper, the champion of the open society, warned of what he called the paradox of democracy. If the people wish to vote themselves out of power, what is to stop them -- except a minority determined to protect the rights of a majority who is no longer interested in defending such rights themselves?
By this paradox, it may well have been that the best policy to pursue in Iraq would have been to back Allawi to the hilt, come hell and high water. True, those who hate us would have called us imperialists; but they us call that anyway, even after the elections that we held in order to prove that we are not. The Bush administration, by hoping to appear admirable in the eyes of its enemies, may well have ended by betraying its best friends -- Allawi and those who shared his views of Iraq as an open and liberal society.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Lee Harris offers this sobering assessment of the election results in Iraq: