Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What's Wrong with Democratization?

This question has been raised many times across the blogosphere, and I've ventured into it many times myself. I've only touched on it vaguely here at Webster's, so I'd like to do a fuller investigation into the matter for the sake of the archives.

One of the main arguments I've always made concerning the question of democratizing anyone is that democracy (and I really don't even like the term democracy because it indicates mob-rule) is not a suitable form of government for some peoples and cultures. I would say that pure democracy is not a suitable form of government for any people, but I digress. Somehow we've come to believe that because we find what we call democracy suitable to our liking, that that automatically means it is equally suitable to the liking of others, they just don't know it yet. But we're bound and determined to educate them on this point and bring them to the light that what they really want and desire above all is to be free. But what is it they want to be free of?...

Let's see whether we can put together a suitable analogy here for the sake of providing some clarity to the question. Let's say that at the age of 18 some young American is accused of a violent crime resulting in the death of some other young American. Let's say that the accused is charged and found guilty of the crime, and that he is given a life sentence in prison as punishment for his alleged crime. Now, what I want to point out here is that it does not matter whether the youngster is actually guilty. What matters is the fact that he's been found guilty by a jury of his peers, and he is sentenced to life in prison. That's all that matters in this context.

Now, let's say that thirty years after the fact, all the while the accused maintaining his innocence while being confined to prison and prison life, new evidence comes out that proves his actual innocence and exonerates him of any wrongdoing. He is immediately released from prison and sent to live back in society. Does it not make sense that this person is going to have a difficult time adjusting from life in prison to a life of freedom in a free and open society? How much more so when you do the same thing to whole societies of people?

Think about some of the things this person, innocent as he is of any crime, had to learn and adopt simply to survive within the confines of an American prison. He would be continually looking over his shoulder and watching his back. Not to mention that he would have little understanding or experience with what it means to govern oneself and live peacefully among others, and so on and so forth.

If we take the truth of this and apply it to, say, Iraq and the Iraqi people, I think it is fairly evident that, whatever their innermost desires may truly be, democratizing them is a virtual impossibility, particularly in the short go. As I've said so many times before, given enough time I suppose virtually anything is theoretically doable. But I see no wisdom at all in this idea of trying to democratize peoples and cultures who are not accustomed to exercising or living under any form of freedom as we know it. And besides that, what makes us think that our own modern ideas of freedom are not themselves found wanting, and resulting in progressively less and less of the same?