Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What does democracy mean in Iraq

In the run-up to elections, some interesting observations about the rise of party machines among the Kurds and the Shi'a (see, for example, the Seattle Times coverage). What I found striking (and what is probably a heretical view for some here in Washington) was the comparison of machine/patronage politics emerging in Iraq with what you already have in places like Egypt.

The stage is being set for Iraqi democracy to be not one person, one vote but political contestation and negotiation between entrenched elites who use the ballot box to gain leverage and jockeying room for how national spoils are to be distributed--rather than democracy being a way for competing local elites to gain or lose power.

I think that that's what you see a lot of in transitioning to parliamentary systems without proper institutional checks on the state itself. You can develop state institutions and you can have a coherent taxation system that makes for accountable governance, and you can have liberal republican guarantees, but there is only so much government one can build on sand. When there is a total willingness to collude in order to maintain the elites, the democracy has a good chance of degenerating into oligarchy.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but ,yes, it's beginning to look like Iraq's going to go through at least a period of rule by unaccountable elites.
How can a brother spare a dime when he does not have two nickels to rub together? Are the elections in Iraq of any real benefit to America? You have helped pay the price of the war but has it made a difference in Iraq? You deserve these answers. Americans cannot walk around freely in Iraq, Non-Muslims cannot freely practice their religion in Iraq, and in most places woman still cannot drive or work in Iraq. Shouldn’t you have gotten more for your dollar in this war? Elections in Iraq, is it just the symbol of a failed policy that should be concluded by America?
Bush apologized for the intelligence mistakes, I guess that makes the almost 300 billion dollars, over 2000 lost lives, and countless injuries, all alright with everyone doesn’t it?
The main highlights of Bush’ speech presented some interesting points, some suitable, some unbelievable, some just plain unacceptable.
How about rebuilding the domestic American infrastructure, political landscape, and our nation’s security. How about helping Americans first then the rest when we have a chance?
Raymond B
Raymond's point is quite interesting. No matter the outcome of the elections, women and the Christian population of Iraq will be worse off than under Hussein's regime.

In the West, we blithely assume liberalism and democracy have to go hand in hand. In other parts of the world, the choice is often between liberal autocracy and illiberal democracy (in Zakaria's formulation). What happens in a system, as Brian points out in the first response, that lacks effective institutions and you have a majority consensus that wants to deny rights to a minority?

For all they trumpet their "Christianity" at home the current team can take credit for eviscerating a Christian community that could trace its origins back to the original apostles.
Raymond B's point about "helping America first.." is critical. An important first step toward helping America should be a vigorous examination of what constitutes or defines "democracy".

From my pedestrian perspective, our own unique experiment in democracy is radically unravelling and shapeshifting into a totalitarian dictatorship as select "elites" (fascist warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government) re-engineer the essential structure of American law and principles of democracy to conform to thier singular, select, partisan, currupt, (and so far wildly inaccurate and grotesquely mismanaged security concerns.)

What exactly is this thing called democracy?

If measured in historical metrics, our current panjandrum is a radical perversion of democracy.

The emerging government in Iraq will be an even more freakish devolution of this thing called democracy.

Somewhere on the twisting twirling path of time - the practical definition and application of "democracy" has morphed or shapedshifted into something that actually is NOT democracy in the classical sense. The word is still used, but the practical application in and of the political system is certain wildly different from the classical, say "Jeffersonian" definition of democracy.

Here in the land of OZ there are no longer any legitimate checks and balances between the three branches of government, - there is no more one person one vote reality (see Diebold debacle), - the people have lost the ability to petition the government for redress of grievances, - the office of the executive is accountable to no one and operates above, beyond, outside, in breach and in total disdain of our own laws and principles, - congress is beholden to large industries and oligarchs to the great disservice of the people who supposedly elect them - the structural separation of church and state has significantly eroded and fundamentalist religious zeolots have gained a disproportionate voice and impact on government, - the people have fewer rights, freedoms, privileges, and protections; - and at the same time select cronies and oligarchs in or beholden to the government are afforded unfettered access to, and extraordinary largess from the fascist warmongers and profiteers, - I mean totalitarian dictatorship - I mean "elites" controlling every political, judicial, military, and economic mechanism of the government.

America is no longer a functioning democracy.

We all need to engage in a thorough discussion and examination of exactly what defines American democracy, - before we can allow our socalled leaders to run amock imposing a perversion of democracy on other nations.
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