May 2008

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Democracy is a lure. Your only power is to put an X on a ballot. You don't have control on the choices offered on that ballot. You don't have control on what happens after that vote. You don't have control on the information given to you by your government. You don't have control on the media that carry this information. Some warlords are taking care of all that for you. You accept this because after all this system works fine for you, you have food, security and some fun living your life in peace. As long as warlords can make themselves wealthier each day with this system while keeping you happy, it will stay this way..


At 7:52 a.m. (first post) William Smith made a good point about unions. Like the just about every facet of our great nation we must admit that at times there have been flaws with them, but generally, I agree with Mr. Smith, that unions improved things for more people than wars and that a renewed union sense of community would serve our democratic republic far better than anything called 'homeland security' or billionaire bailouts.


One more point, Scott: the "democracy" US preaches and the one US practicies are quite different things. In all cases, democracy requires a demos - wealthy citizen, and an ochlos - deprived mass. Ochlos is relatively small in the US and its voting power is neutralized by leviathanic media.

Jesus Maria Witkenstein

Saddam was a war lord, and he was well on his way to finding truce both between the internal tribes in his country, and between his own country and his neighbours. Iran, etc.

Now, with the US intervention, Iraq has been pushed back a hundred years, both in terms of sorting out it's internal power balance, and in terms of sorting out the power balance between itself and it's neighbours.

Put bluntly, the US intervention has been a scandal from A to Z... and not of any help to Iraq when it comes to finding internal balance. There was some sort of balance when the US attacked. Now there is close to none.


Well, you might have a point if we talk about the democracy US tries to impose on the rest of the world. But I do hope that here in Russia we will eventually jail most of them criminal billionaires and take back our wealth and our own way of life. US advisors can then shove that democracy they brought to us in the 80ies-90ies back in their neoliberal arses.


I'm really amazed by the myopia of the people referring patronisingly to the Indian democracy in this thread. One Ladysatel surmises that the British sucessfully planted and nurtured demnocracy in India by standing on our throats for more than 100 years. Notwithstanding the fact that she's rather less than literate in Indian history and inadvertantly correct about standing on the throat bit, she is downright oblivious to the weirdness of her statement. Do you bring power to the demos by standing on their throats? Wow.

Bringing democracy to India was never the goal of Britain. They looted us, tried to convert to Christainity, set up govermental and educational insitutions to facilitate the loot and then lost steam and went away. Of course, a sizeable British minority were really nice and they were nice in so many ways that India still honours them. But that's it.

Cut to 2008, India is a functional democracy trying to solve problems which no other country in the world faces. It has an extremely heterogenous electorate and was bogged by resource cruch for the first 50 years of independence because of a misguided dalliance with leftist ideology. And now that too is on the wane.

As for robber barons and union mafia, India has alwyas had them, but they could never dictate the result of a whole election. Locally, yes. But nationally, never.

We simply jumped headlong in democracy some 60 years ago and have been trying to better the existing systems. We haven't been completely successful, but we haven't given up either.

So Scott, no warlordism for us. A lot many other problems, yes, but no foreign political system. Direct democracy was practised in India some 2500 years ago, but then India wasn't a nation. Now it is, thanks to the British people.

Also, Indian democracy flourished after decades of patience exercised by the British government. Meanwhile, they were successful in creating an educated intelligentsia capable enough of handling the challenges of democracy although the primary objective for creating this intellegentsia, according to T. B. Macaulay, was to retain the empire. Tough luck for Iraq. Uncle Sam prefers wham, bam, where do you keep ur oil ma'am?


"Examining Iraq, Sadam was a popular ruler, he was strong and secular. He didn't put up with crap from local tribes of bandits or the theocratic. He was progressive and favored education and infrastructure.

I'm not saying that he was a saint, that would be dumb. But he was not without merit. The people recognized his strength and life was better with running water and reliable electricity. The violence in the streets sharply declined and the country was becoming, slowly but surely, a safer place."

It's astonishing anyone with access to a computer could believe this.

First off, Saddam was NOT popular. He was hated by about 80% of the country (Kurds and Shia). The other 20%, the Sunni, controlled the armed forces and Saddam;s infamously brutal secret police.

Saddam's regime was a nightmare of constant war; he invaded Iran and Kuwait and had civil wars with the Shia and Kurds. Some 2 million people were killed, an average of 7,000 per month, far higher than any month of the occuption.

Infrastructure? The electrical grid steadily deteriorated while Saddam spent billions on palaces. Sewage ran in the streets of Baghdad. Education? Literacy dropped to 33%.

No free elections. No free press. Speaking against the regime could get your children raped in front of you.

And Saddam was only secular compared to the Taliban or the Iranian ayatollahs. He had a Koran written in his own blood, built hundreds of mosques, and broadcast the call to prayer on state TV (we can't even have a voluntary prayer in a public school).

Today, there is twice as much electricity generated, mostly because Iraqis are now allowed to buy electricity privately, from small generators. While state electric production is only 10% higher than prewar, overall electric production is about twice as high.

Iraq has a lot of problems, but it is much better off than under Saddam. But don't take my word for it: in recent polling, some 62% of Iraqis say removing Saddam was the right decision.



Before the Magna Carta, the king had already expropriated the "land baron's" land as his own. They were just taking it back. Russia had a built-in kleptocracy that ascended to the status of "businessmen" from party hacks. Your understanding of US "robber barons" is correct only insofar as you credit their success to their abuse of government power to get what they wanted.

The only connecting thread is the abuse of government power to get what they want. It is not a sine qua non of an effectively functioning society. It is the antithesis.

The Other Guy

A good example for you Scott would be the unification of China from the Waring States to the First Dynasty. Where one strong warlord, through strength of arms, overcame several warlords and unified the country. This brought an end to constant war, and began an age of prosperity for the nation.

For democracy to happen, and liberal freedoms to be enjoyed by everyone, the precursor is stability. Without stability you don't have anything, something that China is acutely aware.

Change, especially turbulent change, creates opportunity. Some people will be better placed to exploit this than others. Only through stability and the rule of law can some semblance of justice be achieved.

Examining Iraq, Sadam was a popular ruler, he was strong and secular. He didn't put up with crap from local tribes of bandits or the theocratic. He was progressive and favored education and infrastructure.

I'm not saying that he was a saint, that would be dumb. But he was not without merit. The people recognized his strength and life was better with running water and reliable electricity. The violence in the streets sharply declined and the country was becoming, slowly but surely, a safer place.

Yes there were secret police. Yes there was torture. This is the middle east, not New England. Compared to Saudi Arabia, it was (in later years) fairly restrained.

For a vast majority of the Iraqi people, life was much better under Sadam than under the occupation of the USA.

So, to sum up, I agree. Centralized strength of authority is first brought about by force of arms. This leads to stability, and only with stability can anything improve.

Unfortunately the USA has no interest in stability in the region of the Middle East. One of the major benefits, from the Pro War faction's point of view, is that the region has been destabilized.


You have a surprisingly optimistic view on our (American) progression!

Personally I think that in a country where hardly any of the millions of poor (Whites) vote, one can hardly say that enfranchisement is universal.

Oh, not to mention that fact that wealthy people and companies basically run the government in such a way as benefits them to the awesome detriment of anyone else (such as advertising to kids, endless boner commercials, implying that skepticism of Capitalism is somehow "unpatriotic", etc.).



it's stupid. Remember vietnam war


History tells, the path to democracy needs more than blood and sacrifice.

It needs determination. It needs leadership. It needs hope. It needs a dream.

If in Iraq any of the required ingredients are missing, no matter how much blood and sacrifice happens. Democracy would remain unattainable. The UN, US and other countries need to get right mix of factors in Iraq.


As sure as we are all on the only realistic path to anything.


Iraq will definately turn into a paraidise for Big Oil thats for sure. A democracy, I don't know, fascist states puppetered by the U.S should be more conducive to U.S strategic and economic goals as well as for Big Business.

Dave A

Sorry Scott, I believe there's a typo in your original post.

...we HAD the robber barons...

should be

....we HAVE the robber barons....

Now which country was it that may be on the path to democracy?


Once the warlords need to borrow money to fight other warlords, Central Banking will take over Iraq.


Oh, and China and Russia have just gotten to the "robber baron" stage. Most countries go through it. However, to evolve past it they will transparency and better rule of law.

As long as GDP per capita rises, people keep demanding more rights and less corruption.


Yes. They would never have gotten out from under Saddam, at least not in most people's lifetimes.

You are incorrect, though, that Iraq's gov't gains power through taxation. Their power comes from oil. They generally don't bother to tax much (except punitively), because they are so poor the oil industry there is a very large fraction of GDP, as much as 90%.

BTW, Iraq's Presidential Council just approved the provincial elections, which by law must be held by Oct. This is a very big deal because the Sunnis, who had benefitted from Saddam and were 90% of the insurgents, will finally get representation after having boycotted the last elections (something Sunnis almost unanimously concede was a mistake).

Besides an average of 7,000 people a month dying, Iraqis lived in a horribly oppressive information bubble under Saddam. When we got there, they really thought we were going to steal all the oil for ourselves. It's only recently they've realized that not only are we not stealing their oil, because of our liberal democratic capitalist system we're so incredibly wealthy compared to them that stealing their oil makes no sense.

Some are starting to realize they can be wealthy without violence.


No, you definitely aren't a historian.


As a recently ex-Zimbabwean I have a pretty immediate perspective on this whole democracy-through-dictatorship thing. Someone else has posted that the growing middle-class is a big factor in creating a democracy and I can happily vouch for that. In Zimbabwe the government has deliberately and vindictively destroyed the middle class. There are now only the rich elite, who number in the thousands, and the poor who number in the millions. By the use of food-as-a-weapon, the current ruler (Robert Mugabe) will win and 'democratic election' hands-down. The vast majority of people are so close to the point of starvation that offering them a bag of potatoes would clinch their allegiance. (remember, this starvation is a purely political situation. It is entirely man-made).

I've got no personal experience with Iraq, but I can't think that the situation there is significantly any different... just more reported on because of America's involvement (and probably a bit more explosive, but certainly no less violent).

Without a strong middle-class desiring stability and predictability on a daily basis you can't have any kind of rational leadership. The temptation, as a ruler, to exploit is too high and the capability of your subjects to resist is minimal.

As for RavenBlack's flippant comment, consider this: Whatever the political reality - by which I mean, "whoever actually makes the decisions"- in your country, does your government actively seek out ways to disable, control and/or kill you for absolutely no reason other than that you disagree with its political agenda? I'm sure you can take an academic stance and argue that it does in subtle ways, but please pay attention to what I'm saying: The Zimbabwean government (and most likely all de facto dictatorships) is actively degrading, torturing, murdering and starving its people purely because they disagree with the politicians.


You really missed on this topic. Only 13 comments!?


iraq is not vaguely heading for democracy. Eventually, saddam would have died, and in the aftermath, its possible true democracy may have evolved. the country used to be secular, with a strong army and strong rule of law, despite a maniac as a leader.
Now there is no security, no safety, no rule of law, and the political process has become a joke. The people with power are now religious nutjobs.
If we had kept the iraqi army, government and ministers, and just killed saddam, then the country might have been able to hold together. blowing the whole government to bits and then expecting it to naturally reform did NOT work.
There will be no working iraqi democracy for at least 20 years.


"In the United States we had the robber barons, media barons, unions, and organized crime who effectively controlled the government."

These groups, with the exception of organized crime, which is rightly placed outside the limits of government, are known constitutionally as competing interests. Remember the founding fathers were trying to create “a more perfect union” NOT a perfect union. Competing interests pit factions against one another for the government’s attention. The fact that each groups’ power waxed and waned (robber barons, media barons, unions…) without bloody warfare (and do not bring up organized crime, its outside the limits of government, remember?) demonstrates that our form of democracy fundamentally works.

Want a perfect union where everyone’s voice is heard equally? Want to abolish competing interests so that everyone’s voice could be heard individually? Are you willing to part with your first amendment right to freedom of assembly? The first amendment protects your right to be a member of the NRA, PTA, or NAACP. These organizations aggregate many small utterances into a large enough voice to be heard against other competing interests.

Competing interests vie for the attention of governments. A particular interest may even control the mechanisms of government for a while. However, “success breeds envy” meaning another competing interest will eventually out-compete the first in a working democracy. Competing interest are not a bug of the system, they are a feature.


You forgot a few other warlords that have controlled the government: lobbyists, oil companies, Halliburton...

I would go into a serious thesis on our views of democracy and the necessary parameters for such a government to exist, but this is just a comment on a cartoonist's blog.


Why would they want democracy? True democracy and real freedom are mutally exclusive. A true democracy is oppression by the majority.

Look at the US. If a person chose to behave in such a way as is deemed dangerous for them, it's not allowed. If anyone wants to grow marijuana, or a 17 year old wants to buy tobacco, or a 20 year old wants to buy alcohol... too bad. They don't have that freedom. Why? The majority made that choice for them.

That's democracy, not freedom.

What we want for Iraq is not freedom. We want Iraq to have a government that oppresses its people in a way similar to the way we oppress our own. Nothing more.

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