To democratize or not to democratize
In his State of the Union address, the president branded the United States as the world’s “partner for a better life.” He also recommitted “our nation” “abroad” “to an historic, long-term goal”: seeking “the end of tyranny in our world.” To discredit those who oppose recreational, unprovoked wars, coups and other state-sponsored global interventions, Mr. Bush deployed the “isolationist” epithet.
The president’s proselytizing is unconstitutional and has been undertaken with no real authority. If Mr. Bush is so bewitched by the demos – the rule of the many – he should try some Athenian magic on the foot soldiers who’ll be fighting and financing his schemes.
So how about a referendum on this question? Canadians and Europeans hold them periodically. The collectivist super-state, the European Union, was rejected by the French and Dutch via referendum. A direct popular vote may militate against the realities of democracy, enunciated by Benjamin Barber:
It is hard to find in all the daily activities of bureaucratic administration, judicial legislation, executive leadership, and paltry policy-making anything that resembles citizen engagement in the creation of civic communities and in the forging of public ends. Politics has become what politicians do; what citizens do (when they do anything) is to vote for politicians.
If the Constitution were binding and America still a republic of limited government, the president and his incontinent legislators would have to quit marking their territory around the world. Since we are obviously a democracy of unlimited government, Mr. Bush should at least ask before fleecing the people. The preamble to the referendum should cut the spin and state:
Missionizing for democracy demands blood and treasure: yours. Those who fight to democratize the world do so voluntarily; those who finance the mission do so involuntarily. Because they can’t withhold their tax dollars, it’s incumbent on me, your president, to specify what their noble sacrifice will entail.
There is no free lunch. For every dollar government spends, a dollar is siphoned from you. Diverting massive amounts of resources from the private economy to government endeavors exerts a price. Ronald Reagan remonstrated against deficits. “[I]nflation,” he warned, “is caused by government … spending more than it takes in, and it will go away just as soon as government stops doing that.”
Placing a couple of countries on the payroll, as we have Iraq and Afghanistan, is not cheap. It demands, moreover, that we maintain expensive and expansive bureaucracies. Once ensconced, these fiefdoms become self-perpetuating, forming a permanent drain on the private economy. Spreading democracy, I’m afraid, means decades of deficits.
To feed the deficit, my successors and I will have to pressure the Fed to print money. This practice – inflation – raises prices and depreciates the value of the currency, and with it your assets and purchasing power. You’ll become progressively poorer. The civil servants supervising the satrapies will all have pensions; you might not. If it’s any consolation, the process will be almost imperceptible. Call it creeping poverty, if you will.
Realize that, ultimately, “philanthropic” wars and coups are transfer programs – from you to the client states via me and my mandarins. Yes, our commitments abroad are the quintessential big-government projects. And yes, these programs flout every conservative admonition against central planning. I know that top-down central planning has never worked before because of the inverted and perverse incentive structure that characterizes state projects.
We can’t rule out unintended consequences, even failure. Indeed the danger exists that by subsidizing “freedom” for others, we’ll disempower them and encourage dependency. I concede I’ve had something of a reverse Midas touch in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, I’m asking you to buy my brand of made-in-America compassionate communism. It’ll work, because I, George Bush, give you my word.
Having read and understood your role as sacrificial lamb in my grand plan, please vote “yes” or “no” to the question, “Should the American state conscript its people and their property to end tyranny around the world?
Elect a new people
While throwing money and men to Moloch, the commander in chief ignores that the Arab Street has always been more militant than its leaders. The latter he openly condemns; the former he considers beyond reproach. The president should contemplate the words of Arab-American scholar Fouad Ajami: “It is a peculiarity of the Arab political order that many of the rulers and the dynasties are more moderate than the populace.”
This is why Iraqis turned out en masse for sharia law. And why, assisted by Bush and Rice, “the great people of Egypt” sought to replace Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party with the banned Muslim Brotherhood. The people’s proclivities catapulted Hezbollah into government in Lebanon. And they account for Ahmadinejad in Iran, and the smashing success enjoyed by Islamists in Saudi and Afghani elections.
The “Palestinian People” voted overwhelmingly for the “Islamic Resistance Movement” (Hamas), an organization whose raison d’etre is Israel’s destruction. In this, Hamas is no different from Fatah, except that the latter practiced Taqiyya – the Islamic custom of lying to win the political battle and protect Islam. Arafat and Abu Mazen’s goons killed and crippled Israeli civilians. But to get them to own up was like frisking a wet seal.
If anything, Hamas’ veracity about its “mission” is refreshing. We should worry when the Hamas honcho, Mahmoud al-Zahar, begins to deny responsibility for exploding innocents on the streets of Ashdod. This will mean that it’s Taqiyya time (also a mating call to Rachel Corrie’s acolytes, who can’t resist a “Sexy Beast” who speaks with a forked tongue).
Unlike Zahar, George Bush is adamant about deceiving the American people. He has told them that Palestinians want peace and that their “yes” to Hamas was merely a yen for health care and other welfare. The president is wrong. The peace of mind the “Palestinian people” crave appears to be predicated on the destruction of Israel. Not that it’ll help, but demanding Hamas renounce violence is worse than useless without requiring that the Palestinians do the same.
The only way Bush will get the democracy he desires in the Arab world is by dissolving the people and electing another, to paraphrase Bertold Brecht.