Sunday, April 25, 2004

More from Jerry Pournelle

As long as I am thinking about Dr. Pournelle, this recent essay "Republic, Empire, Iraq, and Democracy" I found compelling and spot-on in most of its analysis. There is much here to contemplate about the changed nature of our country and how we wish to change other countries.

The reason we can't plant democracy in Iraq is that the country isn't suitable for democracy. As Rousseau observed, following Aristotle and most of the classic scholars, democracy is suitable only for fairly small and uniform states. The Cantons of Switzerland come to mind.

Iraq is a "nation" in name only, created by the British as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. It is not small, it is not uniform, and its people have far more local loyalty than they have to any ruling class in Baghdad. Worse, there is so much oil revenue at stake that desperate measures will be taken by those who seek to control it. The game is very much worth the candle. And when the stakes are high, the unscrupulous often trump those with scruples. So it goes.

Our efforts in Iraq are more likely to bring about Algeria in its early days, rather than the picture we have of Iraq as a democracy like Switzerland or the United States.


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Iraq could have become a Federal Republic with rather weak central power but strong state powers, which is, you may recall, what I advocated a year ago; but the problem is that the United States doesn't understand what a Federal Republic is. We have been too busy converting the USA into an Imperial state, winner take all in one big national election, strip real power from the States. The States retain power only so long as the ruling elites of the US allow it.


Read the entire essay here.