Thursday, February 3, 2005

Gwynne Dyer: "It's not God's gift"

I've been reading Democracy - It's not God's gift, by Gwynne Dyer.

I love the way Gwynne Dyer writes. I respect the way he thinks, too, even though I disagree with him from time to time. Dyer is a life-long student of war and man. His writing pops up in unlikely places; this one was published by the New Zealand Herald.

Quoting George W. Bush's Second Inaugural Address, he wrote:
"By our efforts, we have lit a fire in the hearts of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."

Bush speeches are a treasure-trove of innocent fun. His speechwriters took the quote about having "lit a fire in the hearts of men" from Fyodor Dostoevsky, presumably not realising that they were quoting a bunch of terrorists who featured in his novel The Devils, and the "dark corners of the world" phrase pops up in every second Bush speech.
But once past the mandatory [relatively] light moment, he turns quickly to more serious problems...
Bush's belief that Americans basically own the copyright on democracy is widely shared even by Americans who deplore his actions.
It's everywhere. More confident ignorance than you can shake a stick at.
America's democratic revolution had a huge impact on the world, but it was both less, and less indispensable, than most Americans suppose.
Americans are not accustomed to being told that anything American is either less or less indispensible than they suppose. And they don't like hearing it, either. This may be one of the reasons why Gwynne Dyer is published in places like New Zealand.
This notion that the US should "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," as Bush put it in his inaugural speech, is profoundly misleading because it suggests that American support for such transformations is essential.

It isn't even relevant, in most cases. People have to do it for themselves, and the most helpful thing that Washington could do would be to stop supporting the oppressors.
Why is it so easy for everybody to see this except our so-called leaders? OK, I know. That's a rhetorical question. They don't really believe what they tell us, do they? They don't even care anymore, as long as we believe it.

Not only do they hope we will believe their lies, they also hope we will never realize things like this:

Most of the world's countries already are democratic, and the exceptions are mainly in the Middle East and Africa, the two regions of the world where Western military interventions have been most frequent since the end of the colonial era.

Indeed, it's striking that within the Middle East, the primary focus of American anxieties about terrorism, the Islamist terrorists come overwhelmingly from countries that have close links with Washington -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and now Iraq -- and not from places like Syria, Libya and Sudan. This is hardly an argument for further US military interventions.
I should say not!

You can read the entire (short) piece at Information Clearing House or the New Zealand Herald.