Sunday, August 03, 2003
The War Over the War
In his column The War Over the War in The New York Times, Thomas L.Friedman argues that Bush and Blair were both fully aware that this war was one of choice and opted for it because it was a good choice. To quote him, the cause is good because the regime change would "unleash a process of reform in the Arab-Muslim region that will help it embrace modernity and make it less angry and more at ease with the world."
Basically, his argument is based on the theory of democratic peace, initially propounded by classical liberals like Thomas Paine. For instance, Paine, in Common Sense argues:
"... The republics of Europe are all (and we may say always) in peace. Holland and Switzerland are without wars, foreign or domestic: Monarchical governments, it is true, are never long at rest; the crown itself is a temptation to enterprising ruffians at HOME; and that degree of pride and insolence ever attendant on regal authority, swells into a rupture with foreign powers, in instances, where a republican government, by being formed on more natural principles, would negotiate the mistake."
The underlying logic goes thus (I think it was Paine who described this first): Since in a democracy (or, as Paine calls it, republic), the people decide to go to war knowing fully that ultimately they are going to foot the bill, in terms of money and toil, they will naturally be a hesitation to begin a war. There would be a careful weighing of the effects of not going to war. In monarchical systems (in modern days, this includes dictatorships) since the decider (the monarch/dictator) is going to transfer the pain of the war onto his subjects, wars would be more possible.
Sound logic, indeed. However, there is one tragic flaw in Friedman's logic... in the above argument, the people are assumed to be in the know of the cost of the war, and the disadvantages of not going in for it. However, today, we have two democracies, both claiming to be model ones, decidedly misleading its people, and starting a war of choice. Once this precedent is set, and followed, the logic democratic peace makes no sense at all - whether in the United States or a newly minted democratic Iraq.
Friedman has himself conceded that Bush administration has mislead the public on what the war entails. Thus, Friedman's own argument discredits his logic.
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