Sunday, October 31, 2004

Spreading Democracy, By Eric J. Hobsbawm: "The United States has been ready with the necessary combination of megalomania and messianism, derived from its revolutionary origins. Today’s United States is unchallengeable in its techno-military supremacy, convinced of the superiority of its social system, and, since 1989, no longer reminded—as even the greatest conquering empires always had been—that its material power has limits....The effort to spread democracy is also dangerous in a more indirect way: It conveys to those who do not enjoy this form of government the illusion that it actually governs those who do. But does it? We now know something about how the actual decisions to go to war in Iraq were taken in at least two states of unquestionable democratic bona fides: the United States and the United Kingdom. Other than creating complex problems of deceit and concealment, electoral democracy and representative assemblies had little to do with that process. Decisions were taken among small groups of people in private, not very different from the way they would have been taken in nondemocratic countries. Fortunately, media independence could not be so easily circumvented in the United Kingdom. But it is not electoral democracy that necessarily ensures effective freedom of the press, citizen rights, and an independent judiciary. "