Democracy and nation building

One of the goals of war in Iraq is to install a democratic government. As Americans, we take it for granted that we stand for democracy at home and abroad. We believe in our country’s commitment to spreading democracy to other nations. Well, being the nosy college student that I am, I have been doing some thinking lately, and have one thing to say to these claims about American democracy: prove it.

“Germany and Japan!” is the response I expect to hear. Ok, yes, we did build democracy in these two countries and, oddly enough, their political systems are now more democratic than ours by a number of measures. After all, just how much reverence for democracy can a nation have that disregards the popular vote with an Electoral College? Only half of our population votes, and yet our representatives continue to behave as if American democracy is not only healthy, but also ready for export to other countries.

And, make no mistake, the 2000 election was extremely embarrassing for those convinced that this is the land of the free. Essentially, our current president committed election fraud, but still did not manage to win the popular vote. Then he got an appointed body, the Supreme Court, to settle the matter. Wow: got democracy? Because I think I left mine in, you guessed it, France. And, before I end this paragraph, let us keep in mind that blacks have only been voting for about 40 years, despite having been here for 400 years. It seems that unless you live on an oil field across the Atlantic under a dictator who embarrassed the president’s father, your democratic rights aren’t top priority.

So Germany and Japan are two good examples of democracy-building of which I am aware. I do not deny that there may be some more, but, for the purposes of spreading leftist propaganda, I am going to move right along to some cases of democracy demolition. As a rule, during the Cold War, if a country voted for someone other than who we wanted, they forfeited their right to democracy. Examples of the U.S. interfering in or helping overturn the results of democratic elections include Ortega in Nicaragua, Allende in Chile, Arbenz in Guatemala, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Papandreou in Greece, Bosch in the Dominican Republic, Jagan in Guyanna, and Communists in China, Italy and Greece. Most of these guys wanted to do some pretty wild things, like nationalize industries, promote education and health care, carry out land reform and try to improve the lives of the majority of their countries’ citizens. Even if their intentions were less noble, however, our disrespect for democracy and other peoples’ right to it is striking. Put another way, George W. Bush is both unelected and dangerous, but how would you feel if France kicked Bush out and installed a dictatorship friendlier to French interests? Even I would be pissed, and that is saying something.

All this is even more illuminating when you look at some of our past and present allies: the Khmer Rouge, Samoza, Noriega, the Taliban, Stalin, Pinochet, apartheid South Africa, the Shah and the Saudi royal family to name a few. Overall, it is hard to deny that, as far as the developing – or, put more bluntly, the brown and black – world is concerned, the U.S. has supported dictator after dictator and thug after thug. In the past 100 years, we have participated in 130 international interventions, of which, admittedly, only a fraction were direct attacks on others’ democracy. Nonetheless, Germany plus Japan equals two. Hmmmm…

I am not convinced that we have a good track record on democracy-spreading, and I do not believe my government when it assures us that Iraq will become a democracy, especially if we are the template democracy. Even if lightning strikes and we do succeed, I frankly would have rather spent the billions of dollars used to finance such an invasion on encouraging voting here at home. Sometimes I think I am just too patriotic for a post 9/11 world in which our own administration is bent on bringing the country to its knees.

To conclude, when we do go out into the world, we often end up spreading injustice and, in the process, ignoring injustice here at home. So I think we should stop trying to jump the gun. Al Qaeda attacked us, and they pose a threat to us, so, by all means, let’s roll. But neither Saddam Hussein nor Iraq has ever done anything to us; thus, in the interest of democracy, let’s just calm down and stick with the evil-doers’ evil-doing against us.

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