Thursday 18 June 2009

The nature of democracy. Again.

Here, in passing, I mentioned one of the greatest but often overlooked advantages of democracy:

Even if it's true that Bush is only doing what he's doing as part of a secret plot by Big Oil to take over the world, or by a sinister cabal to establish a New World Order, so what? That only actually matters in a tyranny. In a democracy, whatever our would-be leaders' true motivation, they have to get our support to get their way. And it doesn't matter whether they're lying about their motivations, because, when we vote, we're not. So, even if Bush didn't really give a damn about the Iraqi people, it didn't matter, because, for him to do what he was trying to do, he needed the votes of tens of millions of Americans. What matters is whether those Americans cared about the Iraqi people.

And now look what's happening:

Lots of folks argue — including President Obama — that Mousavi isn't that different from Ahmadinejad on issues like Israel and Iran's nuclear program and so why make such a fuss? I think this is an awfully static analysis of the situation. Sure, if the election had gone swimmingly and Mousavi had won, he might have been the dutiful Egon Krenz of the Mullahcracy, with some window dressing reforms to placate the masses. Or he might have done better than that. Who knows? But all of that is academic now.

Moreover, that debate is a little annoying because it tends to support the idea that this was a legitimate election in the first place. Mousavi was a handpicked hack. His leadership of the reform forces is by default or as Michael Ledeen put it, "He is a leader who has been made into a revolutionary by a movement that grew up around him." At this point the question is, do the people of Iran succeed or does the clerical politburo and its henchmen succeed. If the people succeed, the regime is in real trouble. It's amazing how so many observers doubt something the regime itself manifestly knows. If these protests weren't a threat to the regime and the established theocratic order the regime wouldn't be shooting people.

Mousavi didn't intend to be a reformer. But now he's been turned into one by his supporters. Democracy has this power, not just to choose its leaders, but to shape them.

I was one of those people who tended to disagree with Bush over the value of democracy. I thought that you needed freedom and a stable society first, then true democracy could take root. While he called for democracy, I called for liberty. And Iran was always a good example of why mere voting by itself isn't enough.

Or so I thought. We're seeing an evil and brutal regime under serious threat from the results of the sham elections that took place inside its rigged system. The dictatorship rejected hundreds of would-be presidential candidates, allowing only those whose unequivocal loyalty it could rely upon to stand. And it doesn't matter: the people are forcing their views into the system and into the candidate. Mousavi no longer has much choice in the matter: he's a reformer whether he likes it or not.

Looks like Bush was right after all: democracy can lead to liberty.

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