Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Debate

On January 27th, the Cambridge (U.K.) Union Society debated "This house believes in the spread of Western liberal democracy, by force where necessary." Writer/blogger Norm Geras -- a Marxist who I've quoted and concurred with often before -- was among those speaking in favor of the proposition.

Geras reprints his text here. I recommend its sanity and syllogism, even though his approach is narrower than I've often endorsed.

Unsurprisingly, the motion was defeated by a ratio of about two to one.


Geoffrey Britain said...

"This house believes in the spread of Western liberal democracy, by force where necessary."

Using force to spread western liberal democracy is problematic at best.

A large majority of oppressed people have to want it.

As Egypt demonstrates, a desire for liberation from a dictator like Mubarak can simultaneously exist with an 84% approval rating for the death penalty for a Muslim apostate.

Carl said...

GB: Yes, of course the people have to want Western democracy. But there are times where they do, but are oppressed by their governments. As Geras argues, this doesn't authorize force everywhere, but it does when conditions are right--essentially, where the "Just War" criteria are met.

MaxedOutMama said...

"the people have to want Western democracy" Well, who decides?

I can't say that the thesis is all wrong, but I think that in practice it will be impossible to figure out when it's workable and when it's not, which will mean that the decision is really made on other factors.

When thinking of this I often run up against history. Contemporary sources clearly prove that western societies were fully aware of the potential malignity of Hitler's rise to power in Germany. A war to remove him was discussed.

With the benefit of hindsight we can agree that such a war would not only have been just but profoundly merciful, but it was not clear then.

There are limits to human reason and even more limits to human resources.

OBloodyHell said...

MoM, one of the key issues you're failing to place in context was that there is substantial argument in favor of the notion that Hitler was allowed/encouraged to rise to power as a natural enemy of Stalin and Communism.

That is, they were attempting to set a tiger free to go after the bear.

Unfortunately, the tiger and the bear made a pact and said, "My, YOU GUYS look really, really tasty!!"

Eventually, the tiger DID turn on the bear, and that was its "scorpion & frog" moment.

If you look at some of the money flows that set up both Communist Russia and, later, helped Hitler rise to power, it gets really, really interesting as to who was doing what to whom and why.

OBloodyHell said...

I recall seeing a car parked in a neighborhood I walked through to get to work about 2005. It had a bumper sticker that said, in essence if not verbatim:

To the world:
We tried
-- Half of America.

I wrote a nice little polemic of my own and printed it out and stuck it under their wiper:

To the Iraqi people:
We're sorry it took us so long to stop Saddam and his sons and goons from preying on you. We apologize for the fact that half of America cared so little about your plight -- about Saddam's rape rooms, human-fed industrial meat grinders, gassing of the Kurds, and assorted other tortures and evils.
We realize it took far too long for us to overcome the total selfishness and evil-supporting narcissists who were in control in America for so long.
-- The other half of America

Carl said...

M_O_M: I agree that there are limits to human reason. But that flaw can't be an excuse for perpetual inaction. I urge readers again to surf to Josh Chafetz's "In My Name," written just after the Iraq invasion--it has some similarities to OBH's polemic.

OBloodyHell said...

> I urge readers again to surf to Josh Chafetz's "In My Name," written just after the Iraq invasion

Excellent piece.

Yes, it's far, far too "nuanced" a position for the postmodern Left's sensibilities to look at both what's been done and what hasn't been done all around, rather than only the "bad" that's been done and the "bad" left undone (only by *us*, of course)