can liberty be imposed?

an essay in The New Yorker relates a historical parallel to our Iraq adventure - that of French Algieria:

Unlike the French mission in Algeria, Washington�s goal in Iraq is not to prevent the people from governing their own country but to help them to do so. Presumably, the insurgents�about whose politics, allegiances, organization, and objectives shockingly little is known�also want to see Iraqis in power, if not the same ones that Washington might favor. The question �Is America to remain in Iraq?� would ultimately receive the same negative answer from the occupiers as from the guerrillas. But, as the Bush Administration pushes for speedy elections and a speedy exit, Algeria�s example is again worth bearing in mind. In the early nineties, an Islamic fundamentalist party won elections in that country by a solid majority but was prevented from taking power by the secular military, which refused to accept the democratic election of an anti-democratic government. As a result, the country descended into a civil war that is reported to have claimed a hundred thousand lives.

This really is the nub of the question - are we seeking to give Iraq democracy, or liberty? Both are important and idealistic concepts. Democracy is the will of the people, and is more universal a human desire. Liberty is a freedom to dictate the circumstances of your personal life, such that you can achieve the pursuit of happiness (as defined by our American founding documents) and rests solidly upon the First Amendment - freedom of speech and religion.

I am confident that democracy can be imposed, but the outcome is not guaranteed to be liberty. People don't, as a rule, understand liberty as a concept until they actually have to fght for it, to earn it - as our Founders said, the tree of liberty must be watered from time to time with the blood of patriots. Can liberty be given? I don't think so. It has to be won, not gifted.

I don't doubt that we will succeed in gifting democracy to Iraq. But my prediction is that the result will be a Shi'a theocracy, though unlike Iran the true political clerical leadership of Iraq's Shi'a are more open to the concepts of liberty than the fundamentalists who imposed theocratic rule in Iran were (with the people's democratic blessing).

Ayatollah Sistani will be better than Saddam in all respects - and the true villains remaining on the field are those on the Interim Governing Council who are taking note of Bush's plan to cut and run in time for election 2004, and moving to cement their positions accordingly.

Given a choice between the imposed rule of the IGC and the democratic groundswell of the Shi'a majority, what seems inevitable? Democracy is as desirable, if not more, than liberty, and of the two concepts, only one is within the reach of th emajority of people in Iraq. They will harvest that fruit soon enough.

The Islamic Republic of Iraq is inevitable.

No comments: