The Revolution That Was Naught

One of the most dangerous causes that conservatives and Leftists alike have aligned themselves with over the past few decades has been that of democracy-promotion abroad. They all fail – usually out of omnipotence – to understand that representative democracy is a byproduct of  a private property rights regime, much like everything that is good in this world.

In Egypt, the newly elected Islamist president has been clamping down hard on opposition movements, an obvious barrier to the democracy that many occupiers of Tahrir Square had called for. The latest target is Egypt’s version of Jon Stewart. I made a bet with Dr. Delacroix in October of 2011 concerning the Arab Spring. I wrote:

Time will tell, of course, which one of our predictions comes true. In two years time, Tunisia, which did not get any help from the West, will be a functioning democracy with a ruling coalition of moderate Islamists in power.

The Egyptian military will be promising the public that elections are just around the corner, and Libya will be in worse shape than it is today. Two years from today, Dr. J, you will be issuing an apology to me and making a donation to the charity of my choice.

Since you are very good at avoiding the facts on the ground in the name of democratic progress, I think we should establish a measurement rubric by which to measure the progress of Libya. How about GDP (PPP) per capita as measured by the IMF?

He declined to accept my challenge. As of today, I have only been wrong about the Egyptian military, but with Morsi (a former engineering professor at Cal State-Northridge) turning the screws on non-Islamist opposition as fiercely as he has, I wonder how much longer the secular military will tolerate his already shaky rule.

Liberty is the mother of democracy, not vice-versa. Hawks like Dr. Delacroix and Nancy Pelosi would do well to remember this (but they won’t; they believe themselves to be omnipotent).

11 thoughts on “The Revolution That Was Naught

  1. When the leader of a regime uses the military to suppress opposition voices, not only does that suppress the possibility of Democracy, it tells me the potential does not exist for it; not even conceptually. Opposition is as much a part of Democracy as the elevation of personal liberty. To deny that, even for the”good” of the nation, poisons the very baby you are trying to birth. You win the bet. Collecting may be another matter.

    • Good point! I will never be able to collect the bet, alas, because Dr Delacroix chickened out (it’s a good thing, too!). He believes that his moral intuition is superior to that of billions of others, and therefore that the ends justify the means.

  2. Brandon: You are not serious. You admit that you are wrong on one out of three of the examples you chose. By the metric you yourself chose, you are also wrong about the second case, Tunisia.

    I did not take the bet for a simple reason: I thought you might be right (I thought you would be righter than your turned out to be.) I did not take the bet because I think it’s irrelevant. I still think so. I have not varied: The alternative to supporting revolutionary movements in the Arab world is to be an accomplice to the continued oppression of old tyrants. That’s what we see in Syria now. Our non-intervention (with a dozen fighter planes) has caused the deaths of 60,000 to 100, 000 Syrians. The French-British intervention in Libya shortened the conflict and limited the casualties, I think.

    My difference with Brandon and orthodox libertarians is not one of rational judgments or of fact, it’s a moral difference. I think they are uncivilized.

    • The bet was made in October. Assad and, by extension, French imperialism are responsible for the deaths of thousands, not the American people (speaking of uncivilized!).

      Tunisia is doing just fine, especially when one considers Egypt and Libya, the two states who were on the receiving end of Western military intervention.

      Supporting the revolutions does not mean blindly supporting the actions of one’s own country, Dr Delacroix. You do know the forces of reaction were the fiercest proponents of toppling the Qaddafi regime, don’t you?

    • Dr. Delacroix, with respect, why is it our responsibility to intervene ? The treaty of Versailles makes as much sense as anything else in these senseless times; let France handle Syria, just as they are handling Mali, their former colony.

  3. Liberty and democracy are not only not the same, they are not necessarily even related. Citizens in a benevolent autocracy might have more “liberty” than many of the citizens in our democracy, particularly those who suffer from the deToqueville concept of “the tyranny of the majority.” deToqueville was concerned about this a long time ago. Unfortunately, his concerns seem to be bearing fruit. In our highly polarized political environment, we have legislators who are more concerned with winning-losing than with the good of society as a whole.

    It is instructive to remember that it was more than a century from the inception of this country (as a republic, remember, not as a democracy) before any true power came to be associated with the popular vote. One of the reasons it’s very dangerous to try to enforce democracy is that an intelligent democracy relies on a well-educated, informed citizenry with adequate communications. It is also instructive to consider that even when democracy is successfully implemented, there is no guarantee that the citizenry will remain either well-informed or well-educated.

  4. Brandon, Brandon:! About Tunisia: Did you not propose GDP /capita as a measure of success? Is it higher today than it was before the revolution? If the answers are Yes and No, you were wrong on that second case also. That’s two out of three.

    The logic of non -intervention is clear enough. You keep avoiding simple moral questions: Again: Was the US policy toward Rwanda in the nineties what you wished?

    “French imperialism” Wow, that hurts1 But really the fault lies with Roman imperialism and before that with those effing Babylonians. And that poor guy, the nice eye-doctore Assad has nothing to do with the killings. His hands are tied by historical determinism, There is no reason why he should retire to one of the nice parts of Iran.

  5. Blind support? I raised early on my blog, Facts Matter, the issue of the Obama program of assassinations. I raised my voice against the Obama abandonment of Iraq. I am completely against the US leaving Afghanistan. (I think the US should garrison it for thirty years.) I have said so repeatedly. How is this “blind support”?

    • Did you not propose GDP /capita as a measure of success? Is it higher today than it was before the revolution?

      That wasn’t the bet, Dr J. Would you like to take the bet now, with the benefit of some hindsight? You still have a few months left, you know.

      Again: Was the US policy toward Rwanda in the nineties what you wished?

      Yes, especially after reviewing the facts about the situation in Rwanda (see my piece “Foreign Policy and Human Ignorance…“) and observing all of the other failures of the US government abroad (Somalia, Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Lebanon, etc.). Sending military troops into Rwanda would have made things much, much worse.

      French imperialism is less than 100 years old in Syria. The particular government programs implemented by Paris – in the name of civilizing Syria – have had horrendous repercussions not only for the Syrian people, but for all of the people forced to live under French cruelty. There is no state, anywhere in the world, that can claim to have benefited from French rule. That’s why the French were kicked out of their imperial domains by the people they lorded over after World War 2.

      Our non-intervention (with a dozen fighter planes) has caused the deaths of 60,000 to 100, 000 Syrians.

      Do you think Assad is responsible for murdering Syrians, or do you think the American people are responsible for murdering Syrians?

      The “blind support” charge is a legitimate one. For instance, you have failed – over and over again – to acknowledge the painful costs borne by the American people politically, economically and socially for government programs that you wholeheartedly support. Yet the utter (and predictable) failures of the US government in both Iraq and Afghanistan have only strengthened your commitment to these programs. No amount of evidence will ever cause you to change your mind because you refuse to look at any evidence.

      You also claim to be on the side of the revolutions of the Arab world – for fear of being an accomplice to oppressive governments – but you somehow have failed to acknowledge that the oppressive governments of the Gulf states were and are the major proponents of toppling both the Qaddafi and the Assad regimes. How is it that the US could be on the side of the revolutions while simultaneously working with the reactionary governments of Riyadh and Manama? The complexity of Middle Eastern politics is, again, something imperialists refuse to even look at.

      Remember: conservatives and Leftists told everybody that invading and occupying Iraq would be a cakewalk, and that the Iraqi people would greet us as liberators. This overly simplistic account was both misleading and condescending. Government programs dreamed up by the intellectual class and designed for their inferiors are always based upon the foundations of disinformation and condescension. That’s why these programs fail over and over again, much to the chagrin of people who have to labor on in spite of them.

Please keep it civil

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