Brooks, Democratically Downscale


David Brooks' latest column may be a tad weak on the comparisons and light on the challenges, but he captures an essential truth of how the U.S. can win in Iraq: by regarding Iraqi democracy as something necessary because it is practical, not, as he puts it, "a luxury-brand vehicle, suited only for the culturally upscale."

Worrying Brooks is the message explicit in this Washington Post column by William Rasberry, who wrote: "[T]he new consensus seems to be that bringing American-style democracy to Iraq is no longer an achievable goal—that the best we can hope for is a truce sufficient to get our troops out of a situation they shouldn't have been in in the first place."

NEXT: The Market for Bush

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  1. So Brooks is saying democracy is an “off-road vehicle,” eh?
    I’ll show him a steenking off-road vehicle that’s much cheaper and gets better mileage: anarchy.

  2. Prove it, Sans Ruth.

  3. I don’t remember where I saw it now, but a blogger I happened upon yesterday had a critique of the Brooks piece I thought was dead-on: He starts in the ballpark of acknowledging the real argument, which is that it’s increasingly clear that establishing a functional democracy in Iraq by U.S. military power is just not a live option: we can fail now, or we can throw more bodies at the problem and still fail. But instead of addressing that argument, he turns into a proponent of the Tinkerbell Theory and closes with the implication that the problem is that these pseudo-realists *just don’t care enough* about democracy. It’d be easier if Brooks could just accuse his opponents of being enamored of Saddam Hussein so it’d at least be *obvious* what kind of game he was playing & we could ignore him.

  4. Todd:
    No expenses for voting paraphanalia, nor polling place security.
    No emotional stress on Jimmy Carter.
    Shall I continue?

  5. Brooks, of course, commits the same fatal error as all of the democracy exporters in that he ignores the fact that the conditions that were present and facilitated the development of a stable, democratic government in El Salvador are not present in Iraq: El Salvador had a history of domestically generated civil governance, it was fairly homogenous in terms of language/religion/culture, its neighbors (Guatemala and Honduras) had reason to actively cooperate in the suppression of arms-trafficking, etc.

  6. Ruthless, you should be one happy SOB. Iraq already has anarchy! Way to go, anarchy!

  7. Also left unsaid was the fact that the UN ran the El Salvadore elections. Yes, THAT UN that has never accomplished anything in its history and is a mere debating society, was instrumental in putting a country on its way to democracy.

    Right now the UN has about 30 people bunkered in the green zone in Iraq and is not sending any more until it calms down. Not quite the conditions in El Salvadore in 1982.

  8. E. Steven,
    I could be one happy SOB except my government, the US, insists on getting people killed and wasting my money trying to get anarchy to flow uphill, as it were.

  9. Pardon me, Ruthless, but it sometimes seems to me that the anarchist’s position is similar to that ofa physicist who’s so upset at the inefficiencies caused by air resistance that he strives to create a vaccuum with giant fans. Sure, you get rid of the current air, but new air will fill the void. Have US forces withdraw from Iraq and have Allawi go home and the UN disband and you wouldn’t cease to have government. You’d just have a different government (and a much nastier one at that). I’m not opposed to the position of anarchy any more than I’m opposed to the prospect of a unicorn. I’d just prefer that, during wars, we talked about actual possibilities

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