Saturday, March 31, 2007

Democracy or Liberty

Lawrence of Arabia has a great post on the failure of American and European foreign policy in the Middle East.
The failure, then, is the inability of the United States, among others, to recognize and articulate that it does not want democratization but liberalization in the middle east: something that is not tied, initially in any case, to a particular form of choosing one's rulers. Monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, etc. are all capable of being liberal, and it was only the liberal revolutions in France in and the United States that made democracy something more than the tyranny of the mob (and that only after a great deal of bloodshed at the hand of the mob in France).
I'm a strong believer in democracy, that is, the right and duty of the citizen to be involved in the governing of the society. Of course, elections is a very small part in this. True democracy is about the individual haveing the possibility to control his or her life. This is exactly what liberty is about.


::aaron g:: said...

Have you read Jeffery Stout’s “Democracy and Tradition”? It is a book “everybody” is talking about.

(By the way, he takes your good buddy Milbank to task.)

cyberpastor said...

Is this a notion of freedom "from" or freedom "for?"

Lee said...

I don't know if he was the first, but Benjamin Constant described this as the contrast between "the liberty of the ancients" and "the liberty of the moderns." Ancient liberty was the right to participate in the governing of the polis whereas modern (i.e. Enlightenment) liberty is the right to have a sphere of self-determination.


Paul said...

Elections as they've come to be run in the US are truly the tiniest fraction of liberty. We're at liberty to choose between corporate sponsored Candidate A and corporate sponsored Candidate B - that is, for those elections that aren't close enough to fix.

On the other hand our corporations have all the liberty in the world...

K T Cat said...

I think it's a bit early to talk of failure. I would suggest instead that the problem with American foreign policy is the lack of understanding of our competitors such as Iran and Syria.

Iran, as a matter of conscious policy, used waves of children to clear minefields in its recent war with Iraq. Just what kind of conversation and negotiation do you expect to have with such people?

The recent kidnapping of the British sailors is predictable. Iran is flexing its muscles in the area by showing it can do whatever it wants without penalty. We are responding with UN resolutions and negotiations. They are two totally different languages.

What do you think a UN resolution means to a government that sent thousands of children into minefields to clear them?

Patrik said...

k t cat, maybe you should ask yourself what kind of situation pushes a people to the desperate kind of tactics like those used by Iran in the war they called the "imposed" war, because it was forced upon them by Iraq supported by everybody else in the world. Iran's muscle is a matter of western propaganda, it is a country where little is functioning very well, because they have so few friends in the world.

That you can call the situation in Iraq anything but a failure (a fairly mild world) is deeply unsettling. The number of dead are closing in on a million. That's not about competition. That's genocide.

For the final question, I think it means about as much as it does for the US government, I'm afraid.