Liberating Forces

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"A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress to the lives of millions," President Bush said last night. "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom to other nations of the region."

Like Kuwait?

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  1. Lefty,

    Let me get this straight, you think Daniel Ortega was a “populist?” This is the man that moved right into Somasa’s old mansion and systematically looted the country. After losing power, he went into the proffesional kidnapping, gun running and drug trafficking. (The allegations of sexual abuse are new to me though.) Interesting hero’s you have.

  2. Shannon:

    You’re right to be skeptical of the “populism” of many Left “heroes” like Ortega. But Lefty’s main point still stands. What the neocons mean by “democracy” and “rule of law” is a spectator democracy. Such a “democracy” is run by professionals and men in suits, and the political debate in it generally varies from a half inch left of center to a half inch right of center. The process of self-government consists of choosing between members of an elite that shares 80% of its policy orientation (including most of the structural features of global state capitalism/mercantilism), and then sitting down and shutting up and trusting the experts to know what’s best for us. Most of all, a “democratic” regime by Bush standards (or Clinton or Gore standards) will be one that takes instructions from the World Bank/IMF/WTO.

    As a thought experiment, imagine a REAL free market democracy that:
    1) legalized mutual banks by which working people could monetize their own assets and provide themselves credit at zero interest; and
    2) ceased to enforce international patent monopolies;
    3) ceased to work hand-in-gloves with feudal landlords and American agribusiness to evict peasants from their land.

    My guess is it would be classified as a terrorist state post-haste, the U.S. would be doing a lot of talking to School of the Americas alumni in its armed forces, and before you know it Milty Friedman would be singing paeans to the “free market” reforms of another Pinochet.

    REAL democracy is bottom-up organization, in which people directly control the events that affect their lives.

  3. I’m not a fan of Ortega. Kevin’s insight is appreciated.

    What if Iraq, after they’re “liberated”, vote in the Al Quaeda party to lead them? Or the Taliban, or some other fundie party? My guess is we’ll make them vote til they come up with something we approve. Or more likely, the U.S. military must bless all the candidates before they can run. That’s democracy?

    No, that is a prescription for splinter groups (FARC-like) to demonstrate their opposition violently from the hills instead of from within the democratic process.

  4. Kevin & Lefty,

    Ironically, you both seem to commit the same error you accuse other of i.e. if a government does not produce policies you approve of you define it as “not a true democracy.”

    Democracies are defined by the process by which decisions are made, not by the actual decisions themselves.

  5. “Posted by”:

    I can’t for the life of me figure out how you got that interpretation out of my post. My intention, at least, was to get across the exact opposite of your reading. What I call democracy is defined by procedural criteria like being direct, participatory and decentralized.

    I object to the kind of centralized, “representative” system the neocons call “democratic” precisely because indirect democracy can not be democracy in any real sense. Its policies will reflect the consensus of the “experts” and “professionals” who run the machinery of the state and the state-capitalist economy.

    The neocons are the direct descendants of the Federalists who wanted to remove the affairs of the state safely from direct interference by the lower orders, and reduce “democracy” to a periodic legitimizing ritual.

  6. Of course, the stated policy goal in Kuwait was neither regime change nor democratization. Rather, it was the removal of the Iraqi military.

  7. To Kevin:

    An issue of clarification: what do you mean by “indirect democracy”? Typically said term applies to systems such as our own which are representative democracies (i.e., one in which there is true contestation for power via the ballot box with citizens having full rights to participate (e.g., freedom of speech, press, assembly, etc.)). The term “direct democracy” is normally understood to refer to systems of government in which the people directly make public policy without intervening governmental institutions (which is a practical impossibility, save in very small communities).

    It would be my understanding that the “neocons” want representative democracy in the American mold to be planted in the Middle East.

    I assume part of it derives from what you call “bottom up organization” but it is a rare transition of any kind that is exclusively “bottom up.”

  8. Kevin,

    Why would anyone ever give away interest free credit?

  9. The example of Kuwait is disgusting. Unfortunately during the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait the “legitimate” government (the royal family) was waiting in exile in S. Arabia. They made lots of promises about more democratic govt after the US kicked the Iraqis out but of course never followed through (and most shamefully nor did the US Govt).

    Iraq (luckily) doesn’t have a royal family-in-waiting to take control after Saddam’s regime is out. This means the US will have amble opportunity to reshape Iraq in a more democratic image (see post war Japan & Germany for example).

    After Iraq I vote we invade Saudi Arabia and exercise a long overdue regime change there.

  10. I suppose it would be unsporting to point out that it was the “don’t destabilize the region” types in the U.S. government, the UN and the “international community” that argued successfully for leaving Saddam in power and blocked any pressure for reform in other Gulf States.

  11. Whoa, easy on that trigger finger there, MS!

    Sure Iraq is different from Kuwait, just as it’s also different from Japan and Germany. Each country and situation is unique, and only time will tell (since our invasion is a foregone conclusion) how successful our attempt to install democracy in Iraq will be in the long term.

    But the example of Kuwait is informative for this reason. Sure it’s easy to see NOW why we were wrong about Kuwait moving to democracy after we liberated them. And I suppose if Iraq comes apart at the seams as many predict, folks like MS will still say that next time will be different.

    Reminds of how when I tell my girlfriend that federal auto emmision regulations may have created more pollution by jump starting the SUV boom, she says well then fix the regulations so they don’t have that effect. My response is, “Oh, so THIS time the government will get it right!”

    We *have* had some successes “installing” democracy, but we’ve had failure too. Ultimately we’ll have to leave Iraqis to their own devices to run a democracy in a nation that was patched together by outsiders only eighty years ago in a region where democracy is little appreciated. I hope it works.

    As for invading Saudi Arabia, geez. Most of the world understands why we’re in Afghanistan, *maybe* half the world understands our upcoming invasion of Iraq, but who’s going to appreciate our invading Saudi Arabia???

    Hammering the Arab world into being nice hasn’t worked for Israel, I’d rather we not try it ourselves.

  12. The U.S. loves democracies in other countries – as long as they vote for the “right” candidate. That is, the one that will roll over to U.S. corporate interests. We have meddled in elections all over South America and my guess is, should democracy ever come to Iraq and a populist (that is, “it’s our country, not yours”) candidate should emerge, they would meddle there, too.

    In my book, that ain’t democracy.

    Here’s an article on the most recent election in Nicaragua. Think of Venezuela, too.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0%2C3604%2C589011%2C00.html

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