There is not a doubt in my mind! Democracy is by far the best political system that can be used to govern a nation. “Of, by and for the people,” is a superior principle. It would be a far fairer, safer world if every nation had that as its organizing objective. The destructive tyranny inherent in other systems is spelled out on almost every page of modern history. Is it not the role of a democracy like ours to fight the brutality of dictatorships anywhere in the world we find them, and to instill a love for participatory democratic rule? It would seem unthinkable to sit back and watch the world around us sink under the weight of tyranny.
So following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush set out to generate a love for democracy in the Middle East. It was to be a new version of the domino theory. We would take one nation at a time, and convince its people to rid themselves of their long-time dictator, and adopt a democratic form of government. Having seen the worth in what we had brought to that nation, an adjacent nation would catch the vision, and democracy in that second land would result. In due time other oppressive governments would fall and a brave new democratic world would emerge. That was the theory Bush articulated and which formed the basis of his project to rid the world of terror and tyrants.
It would begin by taking out Saddam Hussain, and with the celebration that would ensue from our having deposed this ruthless dictator, the people of Iraq would not only welcome what we had kindly brought to them but would also spread the good news to others in the neighborhood. In short order, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, and who knows what other nations would fall like dominos, form a cluster of democracies, and the world would have become a kinder, gentler, more peaceful place. If you think I am making this up, Bush gave a number of speeches outlining this notion.
Herein lies one of the worst, most destructive presidential decisions in American history, backed by an intimidated Congress. Instead of spreading democracy, what our invasion of Iraq and actions which have flowed from that calamity have done is generate a totally unstable, dangerous world. Iraq is in shambles. Hundreds of thousand deaths have resulted. Terror has increased everywhere and we have birthed a serious crop of democracy haters. What is more, the devastation produced in that part of the world has spawned a refugee flood numbering in the millions, which is having a deleterious effect on the stability of Europe.
As desirous as it might be to see democracy flourish in the Middle East, it has not happened and will not happen no matter how many boots on the ground and planes and drones in the air we put into the effort. The blowback from our action has put a hole in the peace of the world that cannot and will not be quickly repaired.
Although it is a bitter pill, and contradicts everything we think about the blessings of democracy, perhaps the nations we sought unsuccessfully to change might have been better led by the strong men we so thoroughly detested, beginning with Saddam Hussein.
If there is any hope for those nations it may only come when they see in the democracies of the world, including the United States, the positive results that accrue from liberal governments. But it will never come when what they see in us is the greatest military force in world history seeking to recast everyone else in its image by using its mammoth destructive power.
This is not a call for a new era of isolationism, but for the use of every peaceful American resource to bless and benefit a world hungry for peace and stability.