by Austin Bay
July 2, 2003celebrate the birth of our own this Fourth of July weekend, it's worth
remembering that a functioning democracy isn't simply a creature of law --
though the rule of democratic law is crucial. Creating and maintaining a
democracy takes political maturity, for example, knowing the difference
between personal liberty and selfish license. The difference can be a zone
of shady gray, like the zone separating responsible police action and police
repression. Tempering license and thwarting repression, while protecting
liberty and promoting public security, require experience, judgment and a
broad societal confidence.
But it takes time, hard work and sacrifice to gain that
experience, sharpen that judgment and create that societal confidence.
Remember what the pundits called the "era of emerging
democracies"? In the welcome meltdown of the Cold War, Eastern European
dictatorships disappeared. In Asia, economic liberalism fed political
liberalization. In Africa and South America, multi-party politics slowly
supplanted one-party regimes.
It was a time of great expectations. Road maps to peace, justice
and prosperity directed nations through John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and the
Federalist Papers, with Adam Smith paying the transport costs. Why, after
Desert Storm put Saddam in a U.N.-sanctioned box, even the Middle East's
feudal autocracies showed signs of slouching toward democratic politics.
Beltway Ph.D.s suggested history was over; democratic capitalism had won.
Then, something happened. Grim reality foiled great
expectations. Eastern Europe discovered it was an ecological disaster as
well as a social and economic mess. In the mid-1990s, a crisis of confidence
even struck the plucky little Czech Republic, when economic reform didn't
quickly produce capitalist bonanza. In Moscow, gangsters superseded the
nomenklatura -- mafiya in lieu of Marx. Among the "Asian tigers," economic
collapse -- due in large part to cronyism and corruption -- punctured hopes.
Then Venezuela's Hugo Chavez -- a man who prefers paratroopers to
parliaments -- resurrected jack-boot populism.
The year 2000 saw Yasser Arafat reject Ehud Barak's
Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and opt for intifada.
It certainly appeared as if we'd entered a long era of
No doubt the "era of emergence" was oversold. In 1989, as
Eastern Europe's dictatorships shriveled, China's government slaughtered
2,000 pro-democracy demonstrators in Tianamen Square -- a reminder of how
quickly "emerging" can submerge in blood.
Saddam's broken statues, however, suggest that dictators are
history's losers. The student-led political revolt inside the mullahs' Iran
damns tyranny in religious robes.
Are people disappointed and complaining in Iraq? Of course --
but complaints are a mark of emerging confidence. It's a relief to complain
about lack of electricity in Baghdad. It's simply a relief to complain.
Nothing is more disappointing than tyranny, but you have to kick the tyrants
out before that truth is taught again.
Still -- after the initial joyous shock of freedom -- the task
of building a democracy is daunting.
Eastern Europeans say they knew Western democracy was no utopia.
They didn't want a utopia -- they'd had it with Communism's utopian lies.
However, rebuilding after the commissars' depredations is a multi-decade
job. The Russians point out they aren't rebuilding, they're creating
institutions that never existed. Russians fear resurgent fascism if
democratic reform flounders.
Russian democracy is a work in progress. The truth is, America's
democracy is a work-in-progress, a never-perfected experiment in
self-government and self-administered justice. Arguably, a healthy democracy
is always in a state of "emergence."
However, post 9-11 we are in another era. It isn't an era of
democratic emergence, it's an era of democratic emergency. This is a time
when democratic change must be encouraged, accelerated and directly aided.
America can't sit and wait. Building democratic nations does build world
peace. Fostering democracy in Iraq is a massive undertaking, one that takes
times, money, sacrifice and confidence.
Eastern Europe's euphoria of 1989 faded. Fourteen years later,
however, Poland is sending aid to Iraq.