Saturday, April 22, 2006

U.S. Policy: Dictating Democracy?

Shadowland: The Mechanics of Democracy
Despite America's electoral debacle of 2000, Bush still passes judgment on everyone else's vote. Isn't it time to lead by example?

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I get e-mails all the time telling me “those Arabs” or “those Muslims” or just “those people” are somehow incapable of having democratic governments. Probably I’ll get a few saying the same thing about Italians. I don’t believe that for a second. But I do believe, as a practical matter, that we Americans need to have a better understanding of how democracy works anywhere before we go prescribing it as a panacea everywhere.

Voters in most places are motivated by questions of jobs, security, pride; promises made and promises kept (or not); perhaps the personalities of the candidates. But the fundamental truth about all more-or-less free elections is that it’s not the best man (or woman) who wins, it’s the best machine. It raises the money, manages the issues and images, exploits patronage, turns out its voters in large numbers at the right times and in the right places to be most effective and imposes discipline. Effective party machinery is all about discipline. And, hey, nobody knows that better than George Bush and his mentor Karl Rove when it comes to American politics. You’d think they’d understand the rule applies elsewhere....


Some letters published on Newsweek's site:

In his April 13 Web-exclusive commentary, ‘The Mechanics of Democracy,’ Christopher Dickey takes a look at this century's disappointing attempts at democracy in the world, and how the Bush administration has passed judgment on them. “Unhappy democracies, like Leo Tolstoy’s unhappy families, are all unhappy in their own way,” Dickey writes. “Washington can’t make them better by trying to dictate the results of elections after the fact, and it makes a mistake thinking it can export freedom by force of arms or impose it by force of will.” Readers respond:

“I think a good old-fashioned sit-down between our insane president and Iran's newest incarnation of evil-doer would produce a true meeting of the minds (mindless),” writes Fran, from Brooklyn, N.Y. “They could both clarify their respective warped visions of their religious obligations to ensure their 'end of times' fantasies come to fruition. Maybe you could put it in print and CDs could be distributed world-wide so all could see what we (the sane) are up against.”

Harold, from Yuba City, Calif. comments: “I think we should stay out of other people’s business and take care of our problems at home. We don’t have a perfect system, I doubt there is one.”

“You surely can't mean what you wrote,” writes Frank, from Mocksville, N.C. “If you’re ashamed of how [the United States] tells people the truth about what they've elected then it's too bad … After 90 years of trying to help defend other countries from tyranny and oppression, I guess it's OK for you to slap this country in the face. What if we hadn’t defeated Japan or Germany? What if we still had the Cold War? … You should be thankful there are still people not afraid to say and do what is right in the world.”

But Basavaraj, from Karnataka, India, disagrees. He says the article shows Dickey “at his best.”...

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