Authentic Democracy

Since the Iraqi elections took place a few days ago, many conservatives and war hawks have bemoaned the lack of enthusiasm on the Left for the great success that a burgeoning Iraqi democracy. Out of a plethora of choices, I’ve chosen John Podhoretz as my favorite representative of the blue-tipped finger-pointers:
There are literally millions of Americans who are unhappy today because millions of Iraqis went to the polls yesterday. And why? Because this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication.

It's a big fat gigantic winning vindication of the guy that the Moores and Kennedys and millions of others still can't believe anybody voted for.

And they know it.

And it's killing them.


Yesterday was a day for Democrats and opponents of George W. Bush to swallow their bile and retract their claws and join just for a moment in celebration of an amazing and thrilling human drama in a land that has seen more than its share of thrilling human drama over the past 5,000 years.

But you just couldn't do it, could you?

Aside from our fears that the election was less about bringing functional and fair democracy to Iraq then serving primarily as a tool to lend legitimacy to the Bush Doctrine (fears, I must admit, that are confirmed by declarations such as “this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication … It's a big fat gigantic winning vindication”), Lefties may not be celebrating quite as heartily as our friends on the Right because (oh the ugly nuance of it all) elections mean very little in a democracy if there is no structured rule of law to support and sustain the population thereafter. Clearly, this is of less concern to not a few conservatives, who are busily trying to subvert the secular rule of law at home as often and as egregiously as possible, but it a concern of liberals, who believe that the rule of law is an integral component of a flourishing democracy.

I was especially concerned today as I read this article, which seems to suggest that at least some of our senior troops have little consideration for comporting themselves lawfully within the countries they are an essential part of democratizing:
The commandant of the Marine Corps said Thursday he has counseled a senior subordinate for saying publicly, "It's fun to shoot some people."

Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, an infantry officer who has commanded Marines in both Afghanistan and Iraq, made the comments Tuesday while speaking to a forum in San Diego about strategies for the war on terror. Mattis is the commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Va.

According to an audio recording of Mattis' remarks, he said, "Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling."

He added, "You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis continued. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
I am the last person you’ll find defending perpetrators of spousal abuse, but I hardly believe that being shot by occupying troops without the benefit of judge, jury, or trial is appropriate justice for the behavior. It is of deep concern to me that we laud elections while ignoring the growing frequency of incidents of such misconduct. (See formerly: Abu Ghraib; Guantanamo.) I don’t intend to blame the troops; I believe there is a pervasive problem with disinterest in helping to establish, and a general disrespect for, the rule of law in both Afghanistan and Iraq, that starts at the top and works its way down.

Obviously, there is difficulty in initiating and sustaining a democratic-supportive rule of law during a time of war which reflects the freedoms we are ostensibly gifting to Iraqis; my contention is, however, is that perhaps those of us who believe the two are too inextricably linked to celebrate one without the other aren’t really losers, as Podhoretz suggests, but instead the carriers of the authentic definitions of democracy and freedom.

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