Freedom, strings attached

Pat Buchanan has concerns about the democracy movement, especially in the Arab world:

For it may fairly be said of this generation that it worships democracy. Indeed, the fanaticism of this faith in democracy as the path to worldly salvation causes many to hail any and all revolutions against any and all autocrats. . . . Before we endorse the right of all peoples to have what they want, perhaps we should know what they want. For in the Mideast, it appears that most would like to throw us out and throw our Israeli friends into the sea.

But is the democracy movement about giving people what they want?  I thought it was about self-rule.  That doesn't mean that they get what they want, but that they are in charge of their own political lives.  And so endorsing democratic movements in the Arab world may give a stage to the Anti-Americans and Anti-Israel crowd.  But that doesn't mean that they get to have what they want.  That just means that these folks also have a say in how their country functions.  Moreover, isn't one of the thoughts about democratization that once you get the factions working on the hard business of governing, they lose their bloodlust.  They may squabble, but they become less marginalized.  Governing in a democracy should have a moderating effect.  I'm not familiar with any evidence that shows that (or otherwise, either), but regardless of whether it's right, Buchanan's point is moot.  If people deserve political autonomy, then they deserve it and the right to make bad decisions with it.  In fact, if that right didn't have the option for making bad decisions (ie.g.., if you were about to make the wrong one and then everything shuts down), it doesn't really count as a right, does it?

3 thoughts on “Freedom, strings attached”

  1. This is not a response to this well-written post, but a request.

    Please look at this article by Christopher Hitchens on Slate:

    Hitchens is problem for me in that within the context of the War of Terror, he's a pro-war atheist, whereas I'm more of an anti-war atheist.  I don't care for his work on atheism, but I've found him enjoyable in the past when he writes about his war stance (though again, I disagree).  However, this article is just chock-full of straw-manning and false equivalence.  I would love to see you tear it apart.

  2. Seems to me he doesn't understand why "endless war" is an objection.  It's not only a temporal claim–it'll go on forever–though it is that.  It is endless because it has no clear objectives or criteria for victory.

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