Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Imposing a revolution?

I loved 99% of what Ann Coulter said in her speech last Wednesday. So naturally, I'm going to criticize the 1% that I disagreed with.

Ann endorsed the idea of promoting democracy as a solution to terrorism, and described our efforts as "imposing a revolution" on Iraq. But is democracy really a solution to terrorism? The Islamic terrorist group HAMAS beat the Marxist terrorist group Fatah for control of the Palestinian Authority. Democratic elections have brought militant Islamists to power in Algeria and Turkey, leading to a bloody civil war and several peaceful coups, respectively. The Muslim Brotherhood, another Islamic terrorist group, gained support following the rigged elections in Egypt. And Iran's Islamic revolution clearly had popular support at the time, though it no longer does.

Democracy is the product of cultural factors including belief in basic human rights, willingness to accept defeat and allow opposition, and skepticism of human nature and government power. Such cultural traits come about through generations of gradual change and improvement. They cannot be imposed in few years. In other words, the positive traits that we associate with democracy are its cause, not its result. (More on the problems with Muslim democracy here and here.)

What about "imposing a revolution?" If our government can impose a revolution in Iraq, why can't it impose a revolution in America? Imposing a revolution essentially means using authoritarian government power and government spending to remake the entire society to be better than it was before. But conservatives know that government cannot do this. Overthrowing the existing order of society almost inevitably makes things worse, as happened in the French and Russian revolutions, and elsewhere. Terry Jeffrey, the editor of Human Events, the paper that Coulter works for, understands this, as he writes in a recent column:

"We can and have used democracy as a weapon to destabilize our enemies and we may do so again," said Hyde. "But if we unleash revolutionary forces in the expectation that the result can only be beneficent, I believe we are making a profound and perhaps uncorrectable mistake. History teaches that revolutions are very dangerous things, more often destructive than benign, and uncontrollable by their very nature. Upending established order based on a theory is far more likely to produce chaos than shining uplands."

Imposing a revolution is neoconservative, not conservative. I know from her other writings that Ann wants to eliminate most of our federal government. (See "I'd Burn my Neighbor's House Down" in How to Talk to a Liberal.) Let's hope that she applies her belief in limited government to foreign policy, as well.

1 comment:

Christopher Gast said...

I disagree. We did that very thing in Japan after WWII. A conservative also recognizes basic human nature, and that individuals naturally yearn for some measure of freedom. While revolutions are not a thing to trifle with, if representative govt. exists in Turkey with the same basic culture, if it worked in Japan against bitter enemies, than some fashion of "democracy" can work in Iraq too.