This I Believe

CHRISTOPHER - Grafton, Massachusetts
Entered on January 26, 2007

I believe you can’t bestow Democracy on a country from the top down. It doesn’t happen by raising a flag or passing the orb.

The Magna Carta in 1215 led to the Scots and the Declaration of Arbroath in 1620 (the same year as Plymouth Rock).

It was 156 years from Plymouth Rock to Declaration of Independence. Democracy emerged in America gradually from small town meetings to the Second Continental Congress. From this distance we often lose sight of the time gap. It might help to keep in mind that when Paul Revere bought his house in Boston it was already 90 years old. Washington DC remained a vineyard and swamp until 12 years after the end of the Revolutionary War.

We have now tried several times with varying success to nation-build Democracy (Japan after WWII, Korea, Viet Nam and now Iraq). If you think about those cases it is clear that peace and commerce are the water and fertilizer of Democracy.

Bagdad is the last place in Iraq we should be pacifying and rebuilding. It has the worst insurgency simply because we (the green zone and the press) are there. If we could move all that to the moon Baghdad would be a peaceful place.

Democracy is a virus that takes hold at the edges and moves toward the center. It succeeds because it is in the best interest of the majority. Until it can be seen as such chaos will reign.

In 1066 Saxon England was conquered by the foreigners called Normans. We tend to think of this as a non-event that changed little. In fact we are the descendants of that very event and might find an alternate twenty-first century universe where the Saxon King Harold won, quite a strange place indeed.

Not all Saxons were killed. The serfs were necessary and you never have enough blacksmiths. There was an insurrection but the conquerors dispersed (rather than consolidated) their centers of influence to increase contact. The only evidence of insurrection we now see is the English class-based society and the uniform insistence on mispronouncing French words. There has been extensive intermarrying of Saxons and Normans, just as Sunni and Shi’a intermarried under the despotic, Saddam Hussein.

Eventually time and the relative lack of outside interference caused the Saxon and Norman cultures to merge. This is not to say that the result remotely matched what either the Norman invaders or the Saxon defenders would have desired. While English, not French, survived as the spoken language, there is no doubt that the English we speak was significantly altered by this 300 year event.

I would like to believe with Paul Wolfowitz, Condeleeza Rice and Dick Chaney that once Iraq is “Fully Democratic” that Democracy would spread to the rest of the Arab states and terrorism would fall from the earth like scales from our eyes.

In the first place our definition of “Democracy” would never evolve by itself there and half a million troops couldn’t make that happen. In the second place even if it somehow magically did, surely it would not spread across the rest of the Arab or Muslim countries the way we would like.

It appears that George Santiana had it backwards; in this case, those who have not learned history are doomed to not to repeat it. By the fall of 2003 we had changed the course of history in Iraq and three years later it is time to step back and see what strange things come out of it.

This I believe.