Thursday, October 18, 2007

BEYOND DEMOCRACY. Umpteen-Star General Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters tells us Pakistan proves that most military coups are A-OK, especially as compared to the vile alternative, democracy.

Aficionados of the General's prose will appreciate his opening:
WE simplify the problems of others. It's bad enough when we do it to family and friends, but it can be fatal when we simplify the problems of the developing world.
"Bad enough" to simplify the problems of family and friends! We're in for some very tough love.
The generally accepted line is that all civilian leaders are good, while military coups are always bad. Like most such generalities, it's often wrong.

Our prejudice is on display again as Benazir Bhutto, a feudal landlord posing as a democrat, returns to Pakistan.
In the West, Bhutto is popular because she's a civilian - and that's about it. Her champions merrily overlook the pestilential corruption, social polarization and pandering to extremists that marked her two terms as prime minister.
We and the General have come a long way since he likened the newly-democratized citizens of Iraq to a "kid" who had to "ride the damned bike" of democracy "and fall down a couple of times" without too much U.S. interference, lest we become an "overly protective parent." Now the citizens of Pakistan, who saw a great deal more of the bike before Musharraf put it away than have the Iraqis, cannot even be allowed the presence in their government of a former elected leader. For one thing, she has too much "charisma":
Charisma will always be with us. It's human nature to be drawn to a dramatic speaker who struts artfully upon the political stage, telling us that all of our problems are the fault of others and that, if he receives our vote, we'll all soon live in paradise.
To be fair, the General is prepared to let politicians strut, if not caper nor gambol, in the U.S., where "checks and balances... restrain the worst men who reach the White House." And he is willing to admit that "Most coup-makers then botch the job of governing," but adds, "just as the civilians they overthrew failed before them," in case we were warming toward the idea of elective representation.

Feeling his point made, the General ends with a grand speculative leap:
Given the inability of non-Western societies to build effective government institutions, it may be time to rethink our faith in the state itself as the answer to their needs.
I can't wait for the follow-up. What will replace the state? Surely not the United Nations. Maybe Blackwater, but the General hates them. I guess that leaves space aliens or, more likely, an international brotherhood of military dictators who will erase all meaningless boundaries and continent-hop with arms and instruments of torture, ready to do the business of pacification that feeble politicians messed up in that poorly-remembered age when democracy was thought to be on the march.

I do hope the General will revisit the subject now that Bhutto's return has inspired a deadly public attack. Amateurs! he must be thinking. A few well-trained snipers could have done the job much better.


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