Democracy vs Freedom

I was looking at Neil’s blog and he references a blog entry on coxandforkum.com (hey, now I get it) that discusses Colin Powell’s response to the question of whether Iraqis should be allowed to vote in a theocratic government if that proved to be the will of the people. The answer was a resounded NO (as was the Sicilian’s) which would appear to run counter to the ideal of self determination but it must be understood that for the Rational Objectivist the overriding ideal is that individual freedom must not be allowed to be voted away by a simple majority vote.

In a pure democracy (or even in a representative democracy without a constitution), 51% of the population could vote to enslave the other 49%. This certainly runs counter to the ideal of personal freedom. Democracy recognizes the will of the herd (even if that herd happens to consist of slack-jawed yokels) wheras Freedom respects the rights of the individual. These two apparently opposite ideals are hammered together in this country by means of the Constitution which overrides majority vote.

The consititution of the United States was worked out among the Founding Fathers to include the ideals and values of that community in that time. But getting back to Iraq, what if the Iraqis don’t want to put in a seperation of church and state clause? What if they don’t want a bi-cameral system and a balance of powers like we have? Can we really enforce liberty at the tip of a sword? Give them liberty and give them death??? Is that the new American ideal?

On re-reading Neil’s blog, I note that his objection to Iraqi self-determination is not personal Iraqi freedom, it’s Iraqi threat to America:

The possibility of an Islamic theocracy being established in Iraq should be absolutely out of the question, regardless of what the majority of Iraqi people want. The primary reason for our soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq was to eliminate a threat to America, not to give the Iraqi people a chance to democratically vote themselves into an Islamist dictatorship that would be yet another threat to America.

My only question is this: If the overriding principle is to keep out an Islamist dictatorship, why didn’t we just leave Sadaam in? Sure he was evil but he was about as anti-Islamist as you can get. Plus, whereas Bin Laden was not afraid to incite the wrath of the US, I don’t think Hussein was going sponsor an attack against the US that would certainly mean his downfall. He simply miscalculated about the Kuwait thing and after 9-11 he had to take the fall because Dubya was hell bent on getting him out of there regardless of whether or not he actually posed an imminent threat.

If you ask me, Bin Laden is probably laughing his turban off because he never liked Sadaam in the first place, the US is no safer for having invaded Iraq, and the current polls are eerily reminiscent of the demise of the first President Bush in a post-war, low approval rating loss to a Democratic candidate in a time of a stalling economy. I’m puzzled, and I have been ever since Bush first started talking about Iraq when the twin towers were still burning and all arrows were pointing at Bin Laden. But I’m no expert in these matters. Maybe there’s some other reason that Bush finds it easier to displace an Iraqi dictator than it is to find a 6’5″ Saudi national and a one-eyed mullah.

20 Responses to “Democracy vs Freedom”

  1. THE "D" says:

    One theory on this topic that an Army Sgt told me is:

    The itch to get Saddam out was personal. There was talk that Saddam had put a price tag on the first Bush’s head. I just want to know what the board thinks about this also.

  2. Neil says:

    Thanks for the acknowledgement. By the way, to be fair though, that quote that you listed from my blog originated on the Cox & Forkum website. I’ll get straight to the point and address the two main questions that nearly everyone in the World is asking right now: Why are we in Iraq? And, should we be in Iraq? The answer to the first question is a matter of much speculation, and indeed that topic is being discussed right now on blogs around the globe. People want to understand why our president decided that a war with Iraq was necessary. Common answers include: He’s trying to finish what his father started; he holds a grudge against Iraq because of the assassination that Saddam supposedly plotted on his father; he somehow views Iraq as an easier target than al-Qaeda; he’s trying to divert attention; and the traditional “it’s all about oil.” I personally can’t say that I know the true motivation for our president, but I can answer the second question. Should we be in Iraq? Yes, though not for any of the reasons listed above. We should be in Iraq because: (1) Iraq was a hostile nation that funded terrorism (though not al-Qaeda specifically). (2) Iraq could have potentially passed chemical or biological weapons to terrorists or other hostile nations (I say potentially because, at the start of the war, the true status of Iraq’s WMDs was unknown – and to some degree still is). And, (3) because Iraq was in obvious violation of the terms of its surrender at the end of the Gulf War. Regardless, of why our troops went to Iraq, they should have gone to Iraq to deal with those issues. That also relates to your question, Mexigogue (i.e., “If the overriding principle is to keep out an Islamist dictatorship, why didn’t we just leave Saddam in?”). The answer is: Because our motivation should not be to just keep out an Islamist dictatorship or theocracy, but to keep out any form of government that would just become a similar threat. But should we have gone into Iraq when we did? Probably not — mainly for logistical reasons. In many ways, the war in Afghanistan is still going on. Bin Laden and Emir Mullah Mohammed Omar are still at large. Al-Qaeda is still a potent force. Even if the status of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons programs were completely unknown at the start of the Iraq war, was Iraq enough of an immediate threat to warrant not finishing the war in Afghanistan? I say the answer is “No.” (Synopsis: War in Iraq – Good. Timing – Bad.)

  3. Mexigogue says:

    Hey Neil I may have jumped the gun on saying Rational Objectivist standpoint because I tend to associate you and the Sicilian in my mind. But perhaps I am wrong about that? Interesting to know where people are coming from, especially since Ayn Rand was about non-aggression except in self defense, I always wondered if she would have supported a pre-emptive war. I can only speculate. Nice post by the way and that 3 day old coffee didn’t kill me but perhaps gave me super powers!

  4. Phelps says:

    Presumably pre-emption is OK, because the threat of force is the same as the use of force. Therefore it is appropriate to respond to the threat of force (like an ultimatum) with force itself. That’s been part of our nuclear doctrine from the start. (If someone tells us, “Do A or we will nuke you” then we nuke them before they have a chance to do it.)

    As for the overriding issue, they can’t put in a theocracy because religeous freedom is a self-evident right. You can’t vote away someone else’s rights. I think that a bicameral legislature would be perfect for Iraq because it is the only good way we have found to manage a federal system, and Iraq needs a federal system because of the ethnic divisions. That way, the shiite majority get to control part, and the other minorities get to control the other half. (Just like the division between the large and small states in America.) The rest of it us up for grabs.

  5. The Sicilian says:

    It’s okay to associate us. Neil and I have been best friends for 10 years and hold many, if not all, of the same views. I’m just the more violent of the two. And I can kick his ass.

  6. Neil says:

    Once again, I’m going to agree with Phelps – a preemptive military action is okay since the threat of force carries the same weight ethically as the actual use of force. That’s why police can justly arrest people for conspiracy to commit murder, even though the actual physical act of murder wasn’t carried out. Also, since you’re curious, I would say that I argue from a rational Objectivist standpoint, just like the Sicilian. By the way, congratulations on your new super powers.

  7. Neil says:

    What’s that?!? You can kick my “what”? Damn you woman!

  8. Mexigogue says:

    Oh, I kind of jumped the gun on that too. The only super powers I gained from drinking 3 day old coffee was the ability to go to the bathroom really loud.

    Actually, I just made that up as I had nothing better to say. Hehe! The Sicilian and Neil are too busy kicking each others asses to fight Iraqis!

  9. The Sicilian says:

    Mexi,
    I have deep pity for your intestines. You should have taken Neil up on that stomach pump.

    Neil is just angry that he can get stomped by a chica. That’s besides the point, though.

  10. Mexigogue says:

    Phelps, Neil, Sicilian. . . . You guys are all right. LET’S GO BEAT UP SOME MEXICANS!!!!!

    (oh wait. . . move to strike!)

  11. The Sicilian says:

    What the hell? How about some French?

  12. Mexigogue says:

    Yes, the French. . .. But I’m not carrying the Giant Squid all by myself.
    (oh and PHelps brings the Sea Monkeys, they are are first line of defense.)

  13. The French says:

    LeBooooooo!!! LeHissssssss!!!!

  14. The Sicilian says:

    Sea Monkeys and Giant Squid. This army will be the army to rule them all.Muahhahaha.

  15. THE "D" says:

    You guys are funny!

  16. Phelps says:

    We don’t have French people in Texas. We’ve got Mexicans to beat up, but invading Mexico got old about a hundred years ago. We could beat up wetbacks, but then they might go home and we wouldn’t have anyone to clean the hotels, cut the grass or build the houses.

    Beating up Oklahomans is fun, especially if you can find some Indians. Aren’t you guys mostly in Michigan? Go beat up some Canadians and steal thier Health Care IDs and beer.

  17. Phelps says:

    Actually, come to think of it, we have the Mexicans to thank for running the French back to France. (Then we ran the Mexicans back to Mexico. What we let them keep of Mexico, at least.)

    Thanks Mexicans!

  18. The Sicilian says:

    Dammit, I’m stuck in Florida, the only thing to beat up here is old folks and really hardcore hillbillies.

  19. Neil says:

    (sound of a banjo playing)