Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Lawless Democracy Is No Democracy At All

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers has pointed to what I have long believed was the central folly of Bush's strategy to rebuild Iraq:

I think the folly of introducing "democracy" with the hasty election scheme was disastrous and foreseeable. Any serious student of geopolitics knows that the rule of law is the fundamental precursor to a functioning democracy - institutions, culture, accepted norms... need to be shaped and accepted thoroughly over generations. Our own democracy did not drop out of the sky in 1776, it was a product of centuries of British history. As the already sixty year rise of South Korea, Japan, Singapore, etc. reveal, the transition from rule of law to democracy occurs in different ways in different cultures, and typically takes several decades, not months.
From the beginning, the Bush Administration has pushed the idea that democratic elections are a panacea for all of Iraq's troubles. But the rule of law must always come first. Elections without trust in government, the trust that only comes after years of living under law and impossible under the regime of a dictator like Saddam Hussein or a vindictively partisan parliament like the one we've seen over the last 4+ years, are worth nothing if their result is inevitably to grant authority to leaders who are above the law.

I could have told you that even when I was a conservative Republican, but today's GOP is obviously not the place to look for people who believe themselves accountable to their oaths of office.

Placing democracy before the rule of law in Iraq is yet another example of Bush, whose very presidency hinged on a legal ruling that trumped the majority vote Gore received, showing clearly that he lacks the capacity for self-reflection. If there ever were a President who lived an unexamined life, it was Dubya.

Of course, how could we expect a President, who spent his entire tenure insisting that it was his right to violate whatever law he chose, to understand the central importance of law--thus trust--in a free society?

Cross-Posted at Decline and Fall.