Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Democracy and peace

Democracy and peace may not always be compatible:

The American republic was the most democratic on earth in 1860 when the Confederate states voted to secede and the Union invaded and crushed them at a cost of 600,000 dead.

Never was democracy more advanced in Europe than in August 1914, when the continent plunged into the bloodiest war in history. The Weimar republic was the most democratic government Germany ever knew. It ushered in Hitler. If Europe is peaceful, is it because she is democratic, or because she bled herself almost to death between 1914 and 1945, and collapsed in exhaustion?

Democracy has taken root in offshore Asia, but not China, Vietnam or Burma. In Africa and the Arab world, there is virtually no democracy. What was there vanished. In Latin America, it has given us Hugo Chavez. Israel is democratic, but she has fought five Arab wars and two intifadas against the Palestinians in half a century. In Ukraine, free elections have given us Yushchenko; in Russia, Putin.

George Bush has wagered his presidency on two wars to introduce democracy to nations that have never known it: Afghanistan and Iraq. But, in such nations, men consign their fortunes to elections only when things they hold far more dear are not imperiled.

The Afghan warlords accept Hamid Karzai because U.S. guns back him up, U.S. aid pours in, and they have been allowed to revive a heroin poppy trade that enriches them. Eradicate the poppy fields and shut down the drug trafficking, and we will discover how committed to democracy the Afghan warlords and their warriors really are.

Ayatollah Sistani favors elections in Iraq because he expects the majority Shia to win and take power. The Sunni, like the South Africans, resist elections because they mean their dispossession. Would the Kurds consign their fate to elections if they knew the Arabs would force them back under Baghdad?

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