October 21, 2004

Democracy Is


On Oct. 19, FoxNews reported the following comments by President Bush:

If free and open Iraqi elections lead to the seating of a fundamentalist Islamic government, "I will be disappointed. But democracy is democracy," Bush said. "If that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose."

Talk about disappointing. Unfortunately this is consistent with past Bush statements that he will not impose a government on the Iraqis.

I wrote in April 2003, "Indications are that the Bush Administration is not taking the principled approach advocated in the editorials above [see link], which argue that a secular government based on individual rights should be established in Iraq, not a mere democracy."

I think a fundamental mistake in Bush's prosecution of the war on terrorism is his promotion of "democracy" detached from any specific forms of free governments. Deposing terrorist-sponsoring regimes and establishing free countries in their place is a crucial element of the war on terror, and Bush is to be commended (and supported) for launching a long overdue offensive. But democracy alone will not guarantee a free country.

Objectivist scholar Leonard Peikoff has explained why democracy does not equal freedom (from The Ayn Rand Lexicon, edited by Harry Binswanger):

The American system is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. A democracy, if you attach meaning to terms, is a system of unlimited majority rule; the classic example is ancient Athens. And the symbol of it is the fate of Socrates, who was put to death legally, because the majority didn't like what he was saying, although he had initiated no force and had violated no one's rights.

Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies the individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom...

The American system is a constitutionally limited republic, restricted to the protection of individual rights. In such a system, majority rule is applicable only to lesser details, such as the selection of certain personnel. But the majority has no say over the basic principles governing the government. It has no power to ask for or gain the infringement of individual rights.

A free Iraq (or Afghanistan, or Iran for that matter) would not have to exactly duplicate the American system of government, but it would have to duplicate our basic protection of the individual against the majority, i.e., against a democracy.

The Bush Doctrine -- the doctrine of treating as hostile regimes any states that harbor and sponsor terrorists -- is the correct approach to the war on terrorism, even if Bush himself has not consistently followed it. And we know that the worst state sponsors of terrorists and jihad ideology are fundamentalist Islamic states like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

So it would be far more than merely "disappointing" if Iraq becomes a fundamentalist Islamic state. It would be a defeat for us in the war on terror. Yes, there's a chance that Iraqis will vote for a free country. But if we're in a war against dictatorships, why leave the creation of one to chance?

In this regard, presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry is no alternative to Bush, for this election is and should be about prosecuting the war on terror. Regular readers will know that we don't believe Kerry would properly pursue America's interests in the war (e.g., see here and here). But we also maintain that Bush has made serious compromises (e.g., see here and here). It is because of the importance of the war that we point them out.

Posted by Forkum at October 21, 2004 08:12 PM