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  1. #1
    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    W has talked a lot lately about his answering the "call of history" and providing "God's gift of democracy" to the Middle East.

    Aside from the obvious benefits of bringing rogue nations under the watchful eye of Uncle Sam, when was it unequivocally decided that democracy was the best system for everyone and it was up to the US to decide who should be using what system?

    It seems to me that both the British Empire and Roman Empires did pretty well economically as pseudo-dictatorships (under their Monarch and Caesar's respectively), and in fact, Rome's troubles started when the Senate began to take a more active role essentially democratizing the country. Even in recent history, the collapse of communism in favor of democracy in the former USSR has almost eradicated the middle class, turning the country into two classes of rich and poor with crime and corruption now rampant.

    Russia is a particularly relevant example because there's no proof that introducing democracy has made the country any less of a threat in terms of a potential nuclear holocaust. If anything, the country's precarious economic situation could be exacerbating the potential of WMDs falling into the wrong hands purely for economic motives.

    Just curious as to what you think? Obviously democracy has worked well throughout history, but so have other political and ruling systems. Where exactly is it written that democracy is "God's gift to the world." The last time I checked, the omniscient creator of us all wasn't asking for our votes before formulating any of his decisions.

    Should the Bush Administration be exporting this particular product? What's the alternative?
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    Iraq was a dictatorship, are you saying that they should go back to the way they were?

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    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by guitar08man
    Iraq was a dictatorship, are you saying that they should go back to the way they were?
    No, I would say the question I'm more posing is where's the proof that exporting democracy will work as an overall approach to US foreign policy and where and when will it end, if it even should?

    Whether you support the US decision to invade Iraq or not, it's fairly tough to argue that something shouldn't have been done eventually to stop the human rights violations under Hussein, much as it's difficult to justify the current administration's decision to drag their heels on intervening in Darfur.
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    Good Enough ebmm_axis's Avatar
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    It won't. You can't give democracy. The people need to want it. Fight for it. Die for it. Otherwise, it's just a pseudonym.
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  5. #5
    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebmm_axis
    It won't. You can't give democracy. The people need to want it. Fight for it. Die for it. Otherwise, it's just a pseudonym.
    That's interesting. I would tend to agree with that, but why do you think that is? Bush uses democracy as a synonym for freedom and surely everyone wants and appreciates freedom?

    Even if democracy isn't actually freedom per se, if it is in fact the best political system, why wouldn't everyone want it? Maybe some non-democratic countries look at a place like China with the world's fastest growing economy and think communism seems to be working pretty well over there?
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    Good Enough ebmm_axis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Heineken
    That's interesting. I would tend to agree with that, but why do you think that is? Bush uses democracy as a synonym for freedom and surely everyone wants and appreciates freedom?

    Even if democracy isn't actually freedom per se, if it is in fact the best political system, why wouldn't everyone want it? Maybe some non-democratic countries look at a place like China with the world's fastest growing economy and think communism seems to be working pretty well over there?
    Democracy has flourished here in the US because of the origin of it. I'm not going to go through history, but suffice to say that the people/leaders that made up the American Colonies were a very unique group with a vision that the world had never seen...

    To duplicate that scenario is almost impossible. Much less "give it away."

    Yeah, China is growing economically because we're letting them. Look at the Taiwan/China thread for some interesting discussion.
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  7. #7
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    Russia is a basket case because they just dropped their old governmnet cold-turkey without much, in any transition. They went from a country where the government controlled everything to almost no control. Throw in the fact that they had no economic plan and worse, no economic structure, it's easy to see why they're where they're at under Putin.

    China has done the opposite, changed their economic structure to a free market model but within a Communist centrally controlled environment.

    The reason that Democracy worked in the U.S. was the framework of economic and social structure that organized the country in a class-free society (something that is often overlooked when trying to install Democracy in other countries that have lived under a cast-system from day one). The orginaization of banking, printing money and communication via the Postal Service (thank you, Ben Franklin!) provided a sound foundation to grow our Democracy. The Constitution was central in laying out a framework for a successful government that is remarkable flexable and - believe it or not -efficiant. Most people think of the Bill Of Rights when they think of the Constitution and rightly so, it is probably second only to the Holy Bible in it's importence and it's profundity.

    The best way to export Democracy, IMO, is to let the peoples of other countries choose what eliments of our Democracy they want and then institute it in their country. Then let their Democracy evolve over time.

    What Bush and the men behind him are trying to do is cut the head off the Islamic Fundamentalist dragon by removing the primary motivation of their growing power - corrupt dicatorial governments. Most countries in the Middle East are run by Monarchies, most of which are corrupt and almost all are ruthlessly controlled. Everyone knows what suck-holes the Saudis are but even Jordan, Egypt and Morracco can be rough on their own people, if not outright hostile. Living in a police-state fuels the anger that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists of the Salafist movement feed off of to fill their ranks. By freeing up those countries by intituting even basic Democratic freedoms will help put the fire of the Islamic Crusade out more quickly. People are less likey to throw away their lives when they actually have something to live for.
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  8. #8
    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axxman300
    What Bush and the men behind him are trying to do is cut the head off the Islamic Fundamentalist dragon by removing the primary motivation of their growing power - corrupt dicatorial governments. Most countries in the Middle East are run by Monarchies, most of which are corrupt and almost all are ruthlessly controlled. Everyone knows what suck-holes the Saudis are but even Jordan, Egypt and Morracco can be rough on their own people, if not outright hostile. Living in a police-state fuels the anger that Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists of the Salafist movement feed off of to fill their ranks. By freeing up those countries by intituting even basic Democratic freedoms will help put the fire of the Islamic Crusade out more quickly. People are less likey to throw away their lives when they actually have something to live for.
    Ok, now we're getting somewhere. Assuming we buy into the basic assumption that democracy is the best system to give them something to live for (although I've yet to see any proof of that offered in this thread as hoped), would you not agree that Bush's premise is fundamentally flawed because whatever system you implement, the corruption will remain because the power brokers are fundamentally corrupt and not the system they employ?

    As you've said, American democracy worked so well as a template primarily because of the vision of the founding fathers. If that same vision and ethics is missing with the Middle Eastern leaders the US "gives" democracy too, isn't it bound to fail?

    Backtracking to Russia for a second, was it really the lack of a transition plan or is was it more a case that the communist system was so ingrained in the collective psyche that most of the populace was fundamentally unprepared to become the "meat eaters" they need to be in a capitalist society. I'm somewhat of the opinion that the generation reared under communism will need to die off before democracy can succeed there. Apparently, many Russians these days are lamenting the good old days of the Soviet state. One argument you can make for the totalitarian system is it does provide for the wolves and sheep alike.
    Last edited by Van Heineken; 04.21.05 at 06:40 PM.
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  9. #9
    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebmm_axis
    Yeah, China is growing economically because we're letting them. Look at the Taiwan/China thread for some interesting discussion.
    We're letting them? I think the fact that the country with the world's largest population is rapidly becoming one of the most productive workforces has more than a little to do with the fact that their GNP and economic prosperity is increasing by leaps and bounds. I did read through the other thread and for all the rhetoric about trade deficits and such, the crux of any economic success story is supply and demand. Yes, the good old US of A is still the world's number one consumer nation and will thus play a key role in determining the fate of other country's exports, but the gap is narrowing. There are more consumers every day around the world, all of them willing to buy Chinese goods that take full advantage of the economy of scale that their system is bringing to bear. The bottom line is that American companies are not winning all the wars on the global stage like they used to.

    This is where the Bush Administration is truly falling off the rails. They're so busy defining targets to export democracy to that a false sense of security has crept in regarding the economic competitiveness of the nation. Now, not only is the US not the world's most robust economy, they're significantly lagging behind others in several core growth factors. Outsourcing is a major problem to the American economy and is truly the skeleton in the closet that no one wants to talk about.

    The fatal flaw in any superpower is what happens when the populace reaches a certain standard of living and is unwilling to settle for less for the common good. America's leaders are going to have to address the fact that spiralling labor costs are going to impede their ability to compete in a global, free market economy. Unfortunately, companies like Wal-mart with their draconian labor relations will become the rule of thumb because they will be the only ones that can compete on the world stage.
    Last edited by Van Heineken; 04.21.05 at 07:21 PM.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Heineken
    Ok, now we're getting somewhere. Assuming we buy into the basic assumption that democracy is the best system to give them something to live for (although I've yet to see any proof of that offered in this thread as hoped), would you not agree that Bush's premise is fundamentally flawed because whatever system you implement, the corruption will remain because the power brokers are fundamentally corrupt and not the system they employ?

    As you've said, American democracy worked so well as a template primarily because of the vision of the founding fathers. If that same vision and ethics is missing with the Middle Eastern leaders the US "gives" democracy too, isn't it bound to fail?

    Backtracking to Russia for a second, was it really the lack of a transition plan or is was it more a case that the communist system was so ingrained in the collective psyche that most of the populace was fundamentally unprepared to become the "meat eaters" they need to be in a capitalist society. I'm somewhat of the opinion that the generation reared under communism will need to die off before democracy can succeed there. Apparently, many Russians these days are lamenting the good old days of the Soviet state. One argument you can make for the totalitarian system is it does provide for the wolves and sheep alike.

    What we're going to get in Iraq isn't going to look anything like American Democracy. It's going to much like the last Iraqi government in the way it deals with it's more extreme social eliments (i.e. Secret Police, torture and unmarked graves in the desert), and it's going to be a Shiite Theocracy behind the scenes. That's no big deal though, we already have this in South America where the Catholic Church quietly runs much of the show in many countries. In Colombia, for example, nobody get's elected without the church's blessing. Hopefully Iraq will be a little different because although the Kurds, Shiites and Sunis have their differences they tend to think of themselves as Iraqis first. I think that they want to give it a go as much as we want them to.

    Ironically, our objectives are much the same as the Salayfists (Al Qaeda et al). We want to do away with the corrupt governments of the Middle East and give the people more power in their own self-determination. The problem is that corruption goes all the way back to the cradle of civilization and the Arabs have made it a fine art. The other problem is that corruption isn't always a bad thing in that part of the world, if you want to get something done then wheels must be greased. You can grease them honestley so that the local people bennifit from your mission, whatever that might be. Usama bin Laden brought medical aid and built roads and schools in both the Sudan and Afghanistan. This is why those people are still fiercely loyal to him and his people and are more than happy to help hide him from us. The Iraqi people understand that we are trying to help them rebuild their country, the problem is that they understand better than we do that we suck at this job these days. This is the best fighting military in the history of mankind but the glory days of Amry engineers and Navy SeaBees building roads and sewer systems and phone lines in a matter of weeks is gone, trimmed by Cheany when he was SecDef and futher gutted under Clinton. Hell, the Army doesn't even feed itself anymore, Halibuton does that.
    I think that as we pull our guys out and hand over police and military responsability to Iraqis you will see the man on the street there take more of a direct part in rebuilding his own country. This is what they're starting to tell us - "Thanks for everything, Yankee, now get the hell out".

    As for our founding Fathers, it was their RADICAL vision for the nation that set the standard for what being an American is and why Democracy works inspite of the growing contemporary nincompoopary: The idea that all men are created eaqual. In 1776, that concept went over like giving your dog the right to vote would go over today. In 1776, in much of the world and particularly Europe, it was just accepted that some people are born as royalty, to be above to others, and that the rest were born to serve. They were called "Commoners", they had few if any rights, little money and no hope. The society was rigged so that there was no upward movement whatsoever, a commoner had no chance to improve his lot in life, the only hopes and dreams he had were that the Baron would let him and his family stay on working the baron's land.
    The idea that Prince so-and-so and Joe Sixpack are considered equal both in the eyes of the Creator and in the eyes of the law was insane. But it worked, it worked because it is true. Our history has proven it to be so, just look at the greatest Americans, they came from average backrounds. Because America does nothing to impead them, in fact incourages them, someone can come here with nothing and become great (Swartzenegger, the Van Halen brothers come to mind), rich and powerful. The irony is that the founding Fathers set up the banking system in such a way as to grow business, it's survived because it is simple and new businesses (even today) continue to spring up across the country.

    The Russians, on the other hand, have always been a clusterfuck. The Czars couldn't get that country's act together, Lennin and Stalin were idiots too and Gorbichev just quit. The problem with Communisim is that it does not allow for individual achievement or innovation. If the government doesn't need it, it won't be made. If your farm or factory produced more product than other factories you were publically rewarded with a medal and then the KGB came to your door in the dead of night and hauled you away because you embarassed friends of the Party leadership.
    From this environment you have a people that are used to doing just enough to get by. In a capitalist society the early bird get's the worm. You show up early and stay late. That's just the way it is. After almost a century of being provided for (I should point out that you got the bare minimum, few Americans would willingly live like the Russians did under Communisim.) all of a sudden they have to fend for themselves. Russians are good at this though, what they bitch about is that in the old days they knew the system and how to get around it via the black market. Today the mob that ran the black market is now the market and they make the rules and the rules change almost on a weekly basis. There is much chaos in Russia today, Putin has seen this and has taken full advantage to cement himself in power. The Russian like him because of what he represents - order - it's hard to say if they'll let him become a dictator or not. Russians are just damned sneaky, every time you think that you've got them pegged they head off in another direction.
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    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Axxman300
    The problem with Communisim is that it does not allow for individual achievement or innovation.
    Wow. Too much ground in that one post to cover at all once, but I feel compelled to address this one at least. Baryshnikov, Spasky, Comaneci. The USSR did allow for individual achievement, albeit as long as they could use that achievement for propaganda purposes. The Soviet Union gave the US a good run in the space race and in terms of advanced technology were a pretty innovative society, but obviously that was a collective effort and not one that resulted in individual glory. Name a famous Russian rocket scientist. Anyone?

    The fact that the system does not promote individual achievement is simultaneously communism's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. When the government can cherry pick people based on aptitude rather than free will, you end up with a lot of people doing what they are best at and the society as a whole can benefit. As well, by promoting the collective (i.e. the welfare state), you also ensure that no one gets left behind.

    I agree. What you lose with the prolateriat however is the relative happiness and fulfillment that goes with accomplishing your own vision and the incredible Van Halen and Swarzenegger success stories.

    You're right about the Russian clusterfuck as well, which is why I think China is proving to be a far more interesting test of the actual validity of the collective ideal as espoused by Lenin.

    After the tsunami, a senior UN aid official said the US is the least charitable nation per capita with an average annual charitable contribution of less than 0.1% per citizen. This is the dark underbelly of the capitalist system. Great for the haves; not so great for the have nots. Personally, capitalism works great for me and I wouldn't want to live under any other system, but there has to be a component that could be introduced to essentially force charity towards those who truly need it and it needs to be proportionate to the wealth of the individual. It makes me sick to hear the media declaring how Bill Gates' latest endowment to his foundation is the largest charitable contribution in history, when the reality of the matter is it's nothing more than his annual dividend from Microsoft and is essentially the same as you or I putting our Christmas bonus in the unicef box.

    Hopefully the Iraq's and future ME democracies (Syria, Iran?) will introduce humanistic programs to mitigate the inherent disparities that arise from the 'American Dream' or those countries could be headed down the same road as Russia is.
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    Good Enough ebmm_axis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Heineken
    Ok, now we're getting somewhere. Assuming we buy into the basic assumption that democracy is the best system to give them something to live for (although I've yet to see any proof of that offered in this thread as hoped), would you not agree that Bush's premise is fundamentally flawed because whatever system you implement, the corruption will remain because the power brokers are fundamentally corrupt and not the system they employ?

    As you've said, American democracy worked so well as a template primarily because of the vision of the founding fathers. If that same vision and ethics is missing with the Middle Eastern leaders the US "gives" democracy too, isn't it bound to fail?
    I've thought that all along. What leaders are they going to elect in Iraq? We know that Iraq is a Shiite nation. And it's no coincidence that their neighbors, the Great Mullahs of Iran are right there in the middle of things...

    So they have democracy. Great. Now they get to elect corrupt leaders instead of those leaders assuming their roles...

    The Bill Of Rights and the Constitution really protect the American people as it provides many checks and balances between parties, organizations, and politicians. (Although it's extreme now as you have the fringe left and the fringe right.)

    I think that we could say that the checks and balances are the opportunity to let people still be ethical and moral, as subjective as those terms are, in government...

    Isn't that what it ultimately comes down to? Ethics, honesty, justice? Without those, everything fails.
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    Good Enough ebmm_axis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Heineken
    We're letting them? I think the fact that the country with the world's largest population is rapidly becoming one of the most productive workforces has more than a little to do with the fact that their GNP and economic prosperity is increasing by leaps and bounds. I did read through the other thread and for all the rhetoric about trade deficits and such, the crux of any economic success story is supply and demand. Yes, the good old US of A is still the world's number one consumer nation and will thus play a key role in determining the fate of other country's exports, but the gap is narrowing. There are more consumers every day around the world, all of them willing to buy Chinese goods that take full advantage of the economy of scale that their system is bringing to bear. The bottom line is that American companies are not winning all the wars on the global stage like they used to.

    This is where the Bush Administration is truly falling off the rails. They're so busy defining targets to export democracy to that a false sense of security has crept in regarding the economic competitiveness of the nation. Now, not only is the US not the world's most robust economy, they're significantly lagging behind others in several core growth factors. Outsourcing is a major problem to the American economy and is truly the skeleton in the closet that no one wants to talk about.

    The fatal flaw in any superpower is what happens when the populace reaches a certain standard of living and is unwilling to settle for less for the common good. America's leaders are going to have to address the fact that spiralling labor costs are going to impede their ability to compete in a global, free market economy. Unfortunately, companies like Wal-mart with their draconian labor relations will become the rule of thumb because they will be the only ones that can compete on the world stage.
    Good points. Your last paragraph is what I meant when I said "We're letting them." The American people are accustomed to our high standard of living. Send the labor to China. Let'em work in their sweat shops. We'll only pay'em .10 an hour, but we'll still have our white picket fence and two car garage.

    You have a billion people working like that and a govt. that will strain them for their labor and there you have it. Unrecoverabe Deficit.
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    On Fire Van Heineken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ebmm_axis
    Good points. Your last paragraph is what I meant when I said "We're letting them." The American people are accustomed to our high standard of living. Send the labor to China. Let'em work in their sweat shops. We'll only pay'em .10 an hour, but we'll still have our white picket fence and two car garage.

    You have a billion people working like that and a govt. that will strain them for their labor and there you have it. Unrecoverabe Deficit.
    Ok, so what's the conclusion? Is it fair to say that both democracy and communism are viable systems and it literally just boils down to the capabilities and the ethics of the people at the top?

    Unfortunately, the US does not have a strong track record as a king maker and choosing the wrong people to support has really come back to bite them in the ass (i.e. armed Saddam in the war against Iran, CIA trained Bin Laden, etc.). Most importantly, they only have so much input into the selection process that will determine the leaders of these nascent democracies.

    I think you summed up the bottom line well saying that democracy does not work unless the key stakeholders arrive at that solution themselves. In Iraq especially, there are so many divergent agendas religiously and culturally, that some chunks of the populace will always feel disenfranchised at some point or another which creates foment which creates extremism which creates terrorism, etc.

    To use the analogy of the USA again as a benchmark for the promise of democracy, the country still had to go through critical events such as the Civil War and the civil rights movement before that promise was fully realized. Unfortunately, I think the same will hold true for Iraq and many of the other countries in the region which is why the initial returns will not be kind to the Bush Administration. Fortunately, history may be kinder to current US foreign policy if the right people do rise to the top as leaders of these democracies, although separation of church and state is never going to work over there. Actually, it's not really working that well in the States right now either.
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    Excellent Posts everyone.

    It's silly to assume that everyone wants democracy, in fact it's more like naive. Iraq really isn't even a country in the first place. We should just break the beaatcch up. Sunniville, Western Iran, and Kurdistan. Boom, problem solved, oh yeah, and by the way, we'll keep an oil base or two. This President really should have taken a Middle East History class before galloping in on his white horse looking to save people from tyranny so that they could have liberty. Now we really have a problem on our hands and don't have the resources to fix other problems that really could be big, ie. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran etc.

    I appreciate the open minds on this forum.
    You know the best tone I ever had was with that little bandmaster cranked to 10. Edward Van Halen, 1980, Guitar Player Magazine.

 

 

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