It’s not a new idea to attack a land to liberate it. Napoleon was famous for it. But this isn’t President Bush’s primary reason. His primary reason is to provide safety and security for his country and the world. But will a war against Iraq make the world a safer place? And do the aims warrant the means?
The development of a democracy takes time. One only need examine the historical experience of the development of many countries. Different countries require differing amounts of time and often phases of liberalism are replaced by phases of dictatorship before they reach a democracy. This is the history of our own democracies.
If we regard the development of a nation towards democracy as a maturing process—and much speaks for this—then the question is whether repression from outside can speed up the process. Seen from this point of view the question is how sustainable is the argument that pressure from outside produces stability within? Modern theories of upbringing work on the principle of example and conviction as the most successful and sustainable means of rearing, of course within limits.
Will the USA be providing an example if it attacks Iraq without having exhausted all means of achieving a peaceful solution? Unlike in Hitler’s time we have a global community with effective legislative, judicial and executive means of setting limits and ensuring their adherence. A large majority of countries are prepared to invest energy to apply such means. A global community also necessarily requires compromise. No country can act supposedly autonomously without endangering the community. And proclamations without prior agreement are problematic.
Authoritarian regimes are characterised by a strong leader who makes swift and efficient decisions of their own and whose subjects are willing to follow these. A modern leader consults with heads of staff, who in turn are in contact with further levels of staff. Decisions are based on a continual process of agreement, the modern leader requires staff who think for themselves and don’t just blindly follow. The same process applies to a league of nations: agreement and coordination. Processes that require time but whose advantages are significant: united action, a much greater chance of avoiding deeper conflict that could lead to aggression. A peaceful result.
It is not just an investment in time that is required to reach a common position but also the readiness to listen to others, to understand the position of others. Authoritarian regimes don’t need this. They know what they want and feel powerful as a result. Democratic leaders use understanding to reach optimal results. Authoritarian leaders believe they know what is best without listening to the position or opinion of others. It is part of the role they play.
Authoritarian leaders act largely according to stereotypes, images or visions of how they should act in particular situations and how others will react according to their stereotypes. Of course democratic leaders too are, like anyone, influenced by stereotypes but they are motivated by their aims.
The world is made up of a mixture of authoritarian and democratic-led countries and regimes. All the more necessary to define common aims and ensure their adherence. Internationally. Countries can longer exist independently of others.
The USA regards itself as the cornerstone of democracy. What example will the USA give if it attacks the Iraq without having followed the path of international law? Without legally definitive proof, without trial? And must an entire country endure an attack when their leader unlawfully holds onto power? Is it not down to the global community to find more appropriate measures that can be applied in unison?
Will the USA convince the world when they act in their own authority? Is this what they want to achieve—to convince the world of their position? If so, then the world expects sustained and continual convincing without extortion. This too takes time. Convincing others takes time.
How are we going to end terrorism when those who have political, legislative and/or legal power do not play according to the common rules? When they do not demonstrate their understanding for those who are subject to or must endure rule by others?
In a time of globalisation and interdependency, the internal rules, the family, siblings and nations have to subordinate themselves to a peaceful co-existence, mutual understanding and the search for common, agreed progress. Why, might one ask? Wars could otherwise be lead much more effectively. Quick and painless. See Afghanistan. Yes, in comparison to the world wars, the war against El Kaida was quick. But not painless. Each death is one too many. The pain of those who survive is not only lifelong but continues from generation to generation. And not without repercussions. This is where the responsibility and understanding of a modern democratic leader begins: taking responsibility for each and every life. Not only those of their own family, siblings or nation but also those of other nations, all nations, the global community.
Of course it is necessary that terrorists are penalised with the full strength of the law. However a democracy requires that they be handled fairly by those who have power over them. Not only to reduce the hate and violence. Those in power have a responsibility to show what a democracy means, in order to convince others.
Fairness for murderers? Yes, each and every murderer is still entitled to a trial. He or she must have the chance to explain their position, to reconsider what they have done as part of the process. In a constitutional state democracy must apply to everyone. Who is to decide for whom it applies and who it doesn’t? How can such a differentiation be fair?
Each and every one of us know the value of fairness, from the family, from sport, school etc. We know the satisfaction felt when fairness prevails over authority. We are all people. We should leave the time of condemnation to the middle-ages. This applies most of all for those who carry political responsibility.