29 June 2003

No country can democratise another
Democracy means the right of people to make mistakes on the way to reclaim their own liberty. When France thought, along with the US and Britain, that the Algerians had made a mistake in voting in the 1991 primary elections for a relatively modest Islamic party in conjunction with the Algerian military they withdrew the democratic mandate. The resultant ten years of civil war, terrorism and the death of the middle class were far worse than if the electoral results had been supported.

Finally, democracies must be allowed to make fundamental political and economic decisions. The US with the complicity of Britain is making all of the vital decisions that will determine the future shape of Iraqi society before there is a government to either approve or disapprove of the decision. They have announced that there will be a privatised media, a privatised energy industry, an independent judiciary, a Bill of Rights and that Ba'athists will be persona non grata in future governments.

These may be prudent and wise decisions but they are not decisions for the United States to make. By making these sweeping changes on the ground, the fundamental sovereign decisions of an Iraqi regime have been removed. Even if in a couple of years Iraq achieves some form of minimalist democracy, the government will have nothing to do but decide the detail of how to apply the blueprints dreamt up in Washington. Democracy that empowers people is an apt answer to terrorism, which is an ideology of the powerless, but that democracy must be real.

Yesterday's decision to cancel local and provincial elections in Iraq confirms on the ground the intellectual weakness in the war party's project for Iraq. For practitioners of realpolitik they have some fairly unrealistic ideas.

No comments: