Freedom–Not Democracy–for the Arabs in the Middle East

by | Mar 19, 2003

The Pentagon’s plans for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq appear to be freezing out members of the Iraqi National Congress, the lead Iraqi opposition group. A senior Defense Department official yesterday said two or three free Iraqis with special expertise would be brought in to work as advisers in each of Iraq’s ministries–about 100 free Iraqis […]

The Pentagon’s plans for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq appear to be freezing out members of the Iraqi National Congress, the lead Iraqi opposition group.

A senior Defense Department official yesterday said two or three free Iraqis with special expertise would be brought in to work as advisers in each of Iraq’s ministries–about 100 free Iraqis total–because they have experience living in democratic countries.

But when asked if… any of the Iraqis would come from the INC, the official said, “We’re not trying to hire any of them right now.” [New York Sun, 3/12/03]

Unlike the Sun, I am not outraged at the prospect of the US military running Iraq for as long as it takes to make sure it has a stable and free government.

We should not be talking about bringing “democracy” to the Arabs; the proper name for our system of government is not democracy. Our system is not the rule of the majority, or the rule of a minority, or the rule of an individual; it is the rule of law. Representative government is a derivative issue; the fundamental is freedom. Voting is simply an important means of ensuring the government’s accountability, along with checks and balances, a bill of rights, etc.

We have seen cases in the world where people have voted themselves into tyranny. Weimar Germany was a democracy. And we have seen some cases of mostly free societies that were not democracies, such as Hong Kong.

There is no such thing as the “right to collective self-determination”–a formulation implying that the biggest gang has the right to do whatever it wants with the lives of everybody else. Such a “democracy” will inevitably descend into group warfare and anarchy. If we don’t want that to happen in postwar Iraq (or Afghanistan, or Palestine) then we shouldn’t establish such a system in the first place.

If Iraq is not ready for self-government, so be it–as long as we establish conditions of freedom with the aim of handing over the government to the Iraqis at the earliest feasible opportunity.

But there will be no freedom in Iraq if all of Saddam Hussein’s socialist government ministries remain in place. What is desperately needed is for Iraq to have the strictest possible free market economy imposed on it, with ironclad limits on government power. Otherwise we’re just inviting the Islamists to vote themselves into office and take over everything.

All this said, it’s a bad sign that the planners for postwar Iraq seem to be excluding the most pro-freedom Iraqi group in favor of (apparently) supporters of dictatorship of one stripe or another.

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Paul Blair is former editor of The Intellectual Activist.

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