The election joy—what it means

Typical of reactions to the election was this, from Best of the Web:

Happy Days Are Here Again
Yesterday was a great day to be an American, and an even better day to be an Iraqi.

Or how about this, by John Podhoretz in the New York Post:

When you heard about the stunning success of the Iraqi elections, were you thrilled? Did you see it as a triumph for democracy and for the armed forces of the United States that have sacrificed and suffered and fought so valiantly over the past 18 months to get Iraq to this moment?

I’m repeating myself, but what is a “successful” election? I presume it means that people go to voting places and cast votes. And this is the promised land? Did anyone doubt that an election would take place? The only questions were how many people would turn out, and how many people would be killed in the process. So, since lots of people turned out, and not “too many” got killed and maimed, that makes it a “successful” election. In fact, 35 people were killed by terrorists during this “successful” election, and scores more wounded and maimed. Is that really what we mean by success? Is that a model for the future? Would we think that we had had a successful election in the U.S. if 420 people across the country (the U.S. equivalent of 35 Iraqis) had gotten blown up on the way to the polls, and several thousand wounded and dismembered?

Furthermore, if daily terrorist murders are seen as a normal and acceptable part of Iraqi “democracy,” why shouldn’t they be seen as normal and acceptable here as well? After all, we’re constructing a single global democratic order, aren’t we, with the same standards for all, aren’t we? Our standards must inevitably conform themselves to those of the people we are helping to “assimilate” into the democratic world system. After all, assimilation (especially now that we are multicultural society and a multicultural world) is always a two-way street, isn’t it?

All this ecstasy and self-congratulation are consistent with the central fallacy of our Iraq policy. We have substituted the ideological goal of the establishment of “democracy” for the real-world goal of defeating our enemies, and so have turned an election into the equivalent of heaven on earth.

I’m not against the Iraqis having an election, mind you, but I am bemused and alienated by Americans’ wildly excessive joy about it. To me, it suggests that we as a people are believing more and more in ideologized substitutes for reality.

As evidence for what I just said, consider this. It used to be a truism, at least among conservatives, that any country could hold an election, but that a single election does not a democracy make. The making of a democracy is only proved by the sustained practice of democratic procedures over a period of time and through various challenges. But now this single election, held under armed guard, with the entire country being kept under a massive, U.S.-provided security blanket for several days, yet with terrorist attacks still going on all over the country, is being hailed as a “triumph of democracy,” a “vindication for Bush,” as though this were the end of the road, as though Bush’s policy in Iraq were now certified as a success.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 31, 2005 07:42 PM | Send

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