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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Shannon Andrew Walsh
Bio: Shannon Andrew Walsh
Date:  September 14, 2014
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Topic category:  International Affairs/Foreign Policy

Unsupported Democracy

As we have seen our quest for a democratic Iraq open the door for the rise of ISIS/ISIL, we would do well to reconsider whether there are higher and more basic ends for American foreign policy than the institution of elections. A population fed a warped view of facts is, after all, unlikely to make a rational choice for its leaders. Also, some nations may need decades or even centuries before they enjoy the educational and social conditions needed to support democracy.

The fact that practical motives, such as prosperity, religious freedom, and free speech count more than elections was a point lost on both George W. Bush and the current president. Edmund Burke said in Conciliation With America that:

Man acts from adequate motives relative to his interest; and not on metaphysical speculations. Aristotle, the great master of reasoning, cautions us, and with great weight and propriety, against this species of delusive geometrical accuracy in moral arguments, as the most fallacious of all sophistries.
In other words, politics cannot be an exercise in a priorireasoning where "Two plus two equals four." One reason we got into this situation with Iraq was that the Bush administration's bible was Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man. Condaleeza Rice's view of things was that all human beings desired to live in western democracies. In a way, this is nearly Jimmy Carter's failing with Iran and Nicaragua. Jeanne Kirkpatrick's landmark essay "Dictatorships and Double Standards" (Commentary, November 1979)which described Carter's actions thus:
The U.S. has never tried so hard and failed so utterly to make and keep friends in the Third World. As if this were not bad enough, in the current year the United States has suffered two other major blows--in Iran and Nicaragua--of large and strategic significance. In each country, the Carter administration not only failed to prevent the undesired outcome, it actively collaborated in the replacement of moderate autocrats friendly to American interests with less friendly autocrats of extremist persuasion. Both these small nations were led by men who had not been selected by free elections, who recognized no duty to submit themselves to searching tests of popular acceptability. The Shah and Somoza were not only anti-Communist, they were positively friendly to the U.S., sending their sons and others to be educated in our universities, voting with us in the United Nations, and regularly supporting American interests and positions, even when these entailed personal and political cost. . . .In each of these countries {China, Cuba, Vietnam, Angola} the American effort to impose liberalization and democratization on a government confronted with violent internal opposition not only failed, but actually assisted the coming to power of new regimes in which ordinary people enjoy fewer freedoms and less personal security than under the previous autocracy--regimes, moreover, hostile to American interests and policies.
Indeed, the first thing that some people will do with their votes will be to install religious extremists as their government. The Bush administration made this mistake in its most extreme form when they encouraged the creation of the Palestinian Authority under the mistaken belief that Palestinians would create a moderate, democratic government. When they actually installed Hamas as the ruling party, Israel was now faced with the necessity of treating people who will not accept their existance as the Palestinian government. The current administration was instrumental in replacing Turkey's pro-western military dictatorship with a democratic government. Only time will show whether Turkey devolves into an Iranian-style mullahcracy. In conclusion, in foreign policy, sometimes "Two plus two equals seven." Supporting democracy often means creating governments that abuse their own people and threaten their neighbors. In any case, freedom trumps democracy.

Shannon Andrew Walsh
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Biography - Shannon Andrew Walsh

Shannon Walsh holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Master's degree in History from Western Illinois University. A lifelong Catholic, Mr. Walsh is a student of philosophical history.


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