Sunday, September 30, 2007

Democracy is Messy and Under Attack

Democracy is surely messy. But the answer as so many newly minted Left foreign policy neo-realists assert is not to abandon democracy.

Three examples are in the news today.

The Afghan government is seeking the surrender of the Taliban who are tired of losing and not as commited to the jihad:

[President] Karzai said Saturday he would be willing to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and give militants a position in government in exchange for peace. Karzai spokesman Humayun Hamidzada on Sunday stressed that the militants would have to accept Afghanistan's constitution.

There is obviously danger to bringing in some Taiban. But remember that this is how we overthrew the Taliban--we gained the cooperation of the less committed Taliban allies in 2003.

If we can keep the institutions strong, the proto-thugs can be marginalized within the government where they will not try to bomb their way to power. And the Islamo-fascists from around the world will be denied a theater where they think they can bomb their way into creating a province in the caliphate they dream about creating.

In Ukraine, which is voting today, the people who managed the Orange Revolution are disappointed with the man, Yushchenko, they put in power. The deposed proto-thug, Yanukovych, still has the support of ethnic Russians who Moscow hopes will deliver Ukraine back to the motherland. And he softened his image to appear less threatening to ethnic Ukrainians:

Polls predict Yanukovych's Party of Regions will receive the most votes, with Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko in second place. Yushchenko's Our Ukraine-People's Self-defense, hampered by voter disappointment with his failure to fulfill reformist promises that brought him to power in 2005, is expected to wind up third. Ukraine has 37.5 million registered voters.

Yanukovych, an earthy 57-year-old former metal worker, has undergone a dramatic transformation since his humiliating defeat in the 2004 presidential race, when Ukrainians took to the streets in massive protests against election fraud dubbed the Orange Revolution, paving the way for Yushchenko's victory in a court-ordered rerun. ...

Yanukovych, who draws his support from Ukraine's Russian-speaking east and south, fiercely resisted Yushchenko's April decision to dissolve parliament and call new elections after the president accused him of seeking to usurp power. Yanukovych grudgingly agreed to the Sunday vote, but has hinted he would accept only one outcome: his victory.

He has accused Yushchenko and Tymoshenko's parties of preparing widespread falsifications, and warned he could organize protests similar to those during the Orange Revolution. His supporters warned they would erect a giant stage and tent camp on the same central Kiev square that was the epicenter of the protests three years ago.

Raisa Bohatyryova, a leading member of Yanukovych's party, said Friday that if it judges the vote fraudulent, Ukraine could end up with dueling parliaments and Cabinets and a campaign for early presidential elections.

Yushchenko, 53, has struggled with voter disillusionment and a loss of support among many voters now backing Tymoshenko, the telegenic Orange Revolution heroine known here simply as Yulia.

Reformers still can manage a majority with the two reform groups allied. This is good. But like any proto-thug, Yanukovych reserves the right to judge whether the vote is true. And his only criteria for truth is his victory. Democracy, in the end, requires people willing to defend it at the polls. And as long as Ukraine's ethnic Russians look to Moscow and not Kiev, democracy will remain a tool for despots to regain control. Ukraine must use the tools and power of democracy to pull the ethnic Russians away from loyalty to Moscow and gain a stake in a free and democratic Ukraine.

Counting on Russia to voluntarily renounce the possibility of reabsorbing Ukraine isn't going to happen under Putin and his people pining for the glory of the former Soviet Union. Russia will hover like a vulture and only the Ukrainians can prevent their politics from dying and becoming a corpse that Moscow will feed on.

And in Taiwan, democracy yearns for the international recognition it deserves. The governing Democratic Progressive Party passed a resolution urging a break with China:

The resolution for a "normal country" — passed after heated debate at a boisterous party congress — calls for general use of "Taiwan" as the island's name, without specifically abolishing its current formal name, the Republic of China. It also calls for the enactment of a new constitution, but gives no specific deadline for either that or the referendum.

The resolution, which passed 250-73, could rile China, which has repeatedly threatened war if Taiwan formalizes its de facto independence.

But the international community, as embodied by the UN, does not value democracy. And China would crush Taiwan if it could, to end democracy and absorb the island. I'd feel better if Taiwan could match their words with military power to defend their ideals. Unfortunately, too many on Taiwan would rather Taiwan be a Chinese province even at the price of democracy. So they have not bolstered their military power to match China's arms build up, and rely on us to keep China at bay.

The solution to protecting democracy from thugs who would exploit democracy in order to seize power is not to discard democracy and trust friendly despots to hold the people in line. I am amazed that so many who call themselves liberal are so ready to embrace authoritarian regimes that will work with us. The hard Left, of course, loves any thug despot who hates America (Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, etc.). But that's another story altogether.

The solution to the messiness of democracy is to strengthen rule of law and civic institututions that bolster rule of law so that proto-despots are marginalized and foreign threats nullified. (And as an aside, don't these examples of local dissidents willingly working with foreigners to seize power prove the lie of our Left that American government support of dissidents in Iran, or anywhere, only "taints" the dissidents? This is not how the world works, people.)

The solution to the problem of democracy being used by thugs to gain power (as was done in Gaza) requires us to keep foreign enemies of democracy at bay so that voting can't be manipulated by local thugs exploiting foreign help (direct financial support and violence to undemine the government) or simply nullified with foreign military power directly applied to the democracy.

It is a strange world where people like me favor democracy in the face of "progressives" who feel more comfortable with despots who keep their suffering people quiet and thus out of the news.