Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Front Lines of Freedom

Towards the end of his address to the nation, President Bush said that all American troops are fighting on the front lines of freedom. I don’t think he understands what freedom is. Sure, the Iraqi people are more free than they were two years ago, but we are less. The Iraqi people may have elections one day, maybe even soon. But it is doubtful they will have liberty. Democracy isn’t as important as liberty, or at least democracy without liberty should not be our aim in Iraq or Afghanistan or even here in the US. The outcomes of President Bush’s polices in Iraq and in the US will have a profound impact on the outcome of the 2004 presidential elections.

Yesterday, Lisa Rein posted a Dateline piece on the PATRIOT Act. It clearly lays out how legislation sponsored by the Bush Administration is undermining our rights and liberties. If that is the Bush Administration's view of liberal democracy I fear for the future of Iraq.

However, I also have hope that, despite the efforts of President Bush, Iraq will become a free, democratic and liberal state. There are two possible paths for Iraq, one is that of the Balkans, the other that of America and other diverse democratic societies. Iraq's population is disparate, the people of different regions have fundamentally different characters. In addition, no one group holds a majority within the country. This condition is ripe for a strong liberal society to develop. No one group will be able to establish a tyranny of the majority. No one group will be able to force their will and their way of life on the other groups. This will mean that all groups will have to accept the differences of the other groups in order to ensure the survival of their own freedoms and way of life.

The other path for Iraq is for these groups to split up, going to war with one another in an effort to eradicate the other groups. We have seen this time and again in the Balkans and in Africa. This too is still a strong possibility. However, there are encouraging signs that this might not happen. So far, the various groups within Iraq have not gone to war with one another. Instead, they seem to be minding issues at home, rebuilding and getting on with important work. Only in the center of the country is this not the case, and still it is not other Iraqis that are being attacked, it is only Americans and other westerners (UN and Iraqi helpers included) that are the targets.

In any case, it is still too early to tell what will happen. Against my worst fears and best guesses, Iraq does seem like it might become a stable, liberal democracy. But there is a long ways between here and there. I think the Bush Administration is on the right track, it is doing what needs to be done before either liberty or democracy can be secured in Iraq. Yet I worry about the Administrations future actions. I worry about their view of what freedom means, they don't seem to show much respect for it when it come to domestic policy, so I worry that they won't show it due respect in Iraq either. However, the Bush Administration has expressed a desire to have a national health care system in Iraq, something he opposes in the US. Also he wants to have fully funded public school in Iraq, something that he opposes in the US. So it is conceivable that President Bush will support liberty in Iraq while destroying it in America.

Depending on which road Iraq starts on over the next 14 months this could play a huge role in the next presidential election. If war breaks out between the different sections of Iraq's population President Bush will be seen as a failure. No matter how well the US economy is doing, he will be kicked out of office. However, if things pick up in Iraq, if the number of attacks and the casualties from those attacks are down, people will be more lenient on the economy. The biggest threat to the Bush Administration is if they spend billions of dollars in Iraq and make no progress while the US economy languishes. People will feel that the money spent on Iraq could have been better used to boost America's economy. If that happens President Bush will surely be ousted.

Posted by Grant at September 8, 2003 7:46 AM