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mattbrowne's avatar

How many people think we can force democracy down someone's throat?

Asked by mattbrowne (31633points) May 22nd, 2009

To me it’s like pushing a knight from his horse shoving him into a BMW telling him to hit the road. What road? Where are the highways? Not built yet. Too bad. No driver’s licenses either. Oh, you haven’t thought about that, Mr. Bush. Hello? Hello? Oh, he just hung up on me. Boarding Air Force One spreading democracy around the world. Have a safe trip!

Well, spreading democracy around is an honorable thing to do, no doubt. The intentions are good. It’s the implementation that concerns me. People need to be ready. There are cultural issues. Should we really push knights from their horses shoving them into BMWs? How about inventing the steam engine first?

Now the story is completely different if a knight sold his horse, got electricity installed in his castle, went online using a broadband connection and asked: “Where do I buy a BMW and how much is a driver’s license?”

What is your opinion? Can we bring democracy to Iraq or Afghanistan? To all countries in the world? If yes, what is the best approach? Will Barack Obama find a good approach?

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36 Answers

dynamicduo's avatar

America should not be forcing democracy on others as it has been doing. Personally I don’t consider such to be democracy, but fauxmocracy. America should try to be a shining star and lead by example, but other countries should be left on their own to enact whatever policy they want to. It’s a shame how much money was wasted in Iraq, America could have fixed up its country so well with that money, and now look what’s happened as a result.

oratio's avatar

Democracy is not only a system, it’s a culture. People has to be democrats before democracy can work. It grows from the root of society and stretches it’s fingers through everything. It begins in the home, and it must be present in every part of society in the way people think. That people don’t understand why the Mohamed sketches in Denmark wouldn’t be censored and condemned, just shows a lack of understanding of democratic values.

►Democracy is not a natural system for us humans. It’s little more than 200 years old, and we struggled a long time with it. Through our human history we have always had some form of despotism. That is more of a system that comes easy to us. Democracy and democratic thinking is something we need to learn, and no democracy looks the same. It has to adjust as much to culture as culture adjusts to democracy.

►It is easy to think that if they just look at what we do and do the same they will have democracy. But it’s not easy to make something work, if they don’t understand it and don’t feel and live by the values of democracy.

►It takes time. Russia has it’s problems. Iraq as well. Iran is a pseudo-democracy, and most of the democracies of Africa is that by name only. But even we have problems. Look at the US. Father and son being president. First Clinton and then later his wife runs. Maybe there are people don’t think that is a democratic embarrassment, but I do.

We have similar problems in many western countries with a political aristocracy. It is quite evident in Great Britain, but we all do. Democracy is always a work in progress. I believe Thomas Jefferson said that “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”.

But what matters is that it works well enough. Sarkozy might be an Napoleonic ass, but he is a 2nd generation immigrant. Obama is a good result.

I don’t count the “democracy” of ancient Athens as a real democracy as it’s democratic values don’t really hold up to scrutiny, but it was an interesting experiment and certainly inspired democratic thinking, as in the early Roman republic and later thinkers like Montesquieu

■I believe that democracy will grow and mature as the only viable option world wide, and that all nations in the end will become and work by it’s values. But, it’s gonna take several generations. It cannot be forced or given. We have to oppose totalitarian regimes but cannot create a democracy for other people. We can only support it, when the opportunity arise.

ragingloli's avatar

Democracy, above all, must come from within. the people must want and accept it. If they don’t, democracy will fail.
For example, the Weimar Republic failed because the the majority of the population rejected the system and instead longed for the past German Empire. Coupled with the global economic crisis (that, incidentally, originated in the US) the result was the 3rd Reich under Hitler and WW2.

oratio's avatar

@ragingloli Yes, the depression started in the US, but Kreuger was a swede. I think the blame goes around.
If he only knew of the repercussions.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

It is undemocratic to force people into democracy.

I agree, those who the US tried to force into democracy were about 1000 years off being ready for it.

PapaLeo's avatar

The simple fact that your question says “we” says a lot. Who is “we”? I find the positioning of your question very ethnocentric.

Secondly, I find a great many presumptions in your question:
<Well, spreading democracy around is an honorable thing to do, no doubt. The intentions are good. >
Is it? Are they? I agree with @oratio: even though democracy is not a culture in and of itself, the culture strongly supports democracy.

Spreading democracy is neither honorable nor well intentioned: America attempts to spread democracy to other countries not because it’s good for them. It does so because it’s good for America.

susanc's avatar

I also think that “spreading democracy around the world” was code for “developing new markets/establishing additional oil-pipeline territory”.

mattbrowne's avatar

@ragingloli – Another reason was the Treaty of Versailles. Lessons learned after WWII: the Marshall Plan.

@PapaLeo: Point taken. The use of ‘we’ is too vague. Let’s replace it for the sake of the argument with the findings of

and consider ‘we’ as the free countries listed here:

To me finding strategies to increase the number of free countries an honorable thing to do. The question is about ‘what are the best strategies’.

GAMBIT's avatar

No form of government or ideology should be forced down any ones throat. When using the term force it implies the use of the military against every day citizens.

PapaLeo's avatar

Let me be more specific, @mattbrowne. When you say “spreading democracy,” you refer to the imposition of a form of government. Many people go even further when saying “spreading democracy” to mean “the American way of life.” These are not the same things as “freedom.”

I’ve been around enough to have seen for myself that democracy and the American way of life are fine for America, but cannot, and should not, be forced on any other people.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

You’re talking about the Neocons. A cornerstone of their foreign policy objective has always been to isolate and punish, or, if necessary, topple regimes like Saddam’s Iraq, in order to get governments that are more aligned with U.S. interests. I think the American people are starting to catch up with the rest of the world on the futility of this approach. And I think Obama is keenly aware of it.

Look at China. In 1967, they were seen as the greatest threat on the face of the earth. Today, we have vigorous trade with them. Furthermore, economic interdependence blunts the threat of military confrontation. Yes, they suck on human rights, and yes, their trade policies are underhanded, but it’s better than having a nuclear-armed state with a huge standing army isolated and pissed off at us. As much as I detest Nixon, we do have him to thank for that piece of diplomacy.

Take the same look at Cuba. We should have started talking to them decades ago. In spite of the trash talk from Castro, it has never been in America’s interests to keep them isolated. The Cold War ended in 1989 for crap’s sake. Time to bury the hatchet.

mattbrowne's avatar

@PapaLeo – You said:

‘say “spreading democracy,” you refer to the imposition of a form of government’

Not necessarily. It can also be achieved, as @dynamicduo pointed out, by ‘being a shining star and lead by example’.

The imposition part comes from my reference to the ‘forcing it down someone’s throat’ part.

justwannaknow's avatar

you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. You can put a dress on a pig but it is still a pig (or an ex). You can try to turn a dictatorship into a democracy but will it ever really be one?

GoPhillies's avatar

@PapaLeo I do not think that Barack Obama is strong as Bush was to get freedom for these citizens. These countries have been attacked and corrupted by terrorist groups, and there is not diplomatic way to reason with these people. George W. Bush understood this conflict and knew that he had to fight for those people. He is a Hero of Freedom. Im sure you would feel a lot different if you where a citizen of one of these countries begging for these terrorist to be eliminated. So far Obama talks much more then acts in the current foreign issuses. Other countries such as England feel that Obama has made the United States look weak in his efforts to spread peaceful relations. Bush acted swiftly. An agreement may be made that he acts too quickly, but no matter he got things accomplished.

justwannaknow's avatar

Bring all of our troops home, protect ourselves, care for our own and let the rest of the world destroy themselves.

ragingloli's avatar

“there is not diplomatic way to reason with these people. ”

@GoPhillies that is a nice assumption, care to back it up with facts?
Bush didn’t “understand this fact”, he , just like you, assumed that based on his black and white worldview and took no effort to even try to be diplomatic.
How about increasing the living standard for “these people”, fight poverty and disease, provide “these people” with better opportunites, and by that deprive the terrorists of people to recruit and reasons to fight?
When you want to kill a tree, it is more effective to deprive the tree of nutrients, than to cut off one leaf at a time. The leaves will regrow faster than you can cut them off.
He knew he had to fight for these people? That is bullshit not true. The fate of these people can merely be considered as an afterthought. His only thought, and it stands to argue if it even was his own and not his puppet master Cheney’s, was to pursue the interests of the US, political and economical. Political to take revenge for the terrorist attack that he let happen, to install more pro US governments in the invaded countries, for the economical goal of securing oil reserves in iraq.
He couldn’t have cared less about “these people”. I didn’t see him invading north korea, somalia, any of the african despotic countries, all countries whose inhabitants are arguably worse off than their iraqi counterparts were under Saddam.

Bush got things accomplished? You jest. Afghanistan is still occupied. Iraq is still occupied. Terrorism has increased during his reign. Osama is still on the run. the economy is in peril. Unless these were his goals, he accomplished little.

mattbrowne's avatar

@GoPhillies You said:

‘So far Obama talks much more then acts in the current foreign issues.’

I would add one thing: Obama talks and listens to what other countries have to say about current foreign issues.

It’s a step George W. Bush preferred to skip. Because he thought he had all the answers already allowing him to act.

PapaLeo's avatar

@GoPhillies I’m going to take your response at face value and will assume you haven’t written this to flamebait us. I’ve not been on this site long enough to know if you’re a troll or not, so I’ll assume you’re not. A second assumption I’ll make is, judging by your rather awkward syntax, is that your views are based either on being very young or very ignorant.

There’s a saying, “Act in haste, repent in leisure.” Most rational, well informed people (not including, obviously, Dick Cheney or Rush Limbaugh, who are neither) agree that President Bush acted both hastily and on a misinterpretation of the facts in his invasion of Iraq. It is debatable whether Afghanistan is a “just war,” but what disturbs me most about your commment, other than your wholesale swallowing of the Bush Doctrine (ask Sarah Palin what that is – she’s had time to look it up by now), is your attitude that the US automatically knows what’s best for other countries and has the right to force it upon them.

The world is a complex place, full of different perspectives and points of view. If you truly believe that “might makes right,” as you imply with your statement that being “strong” is necessarily a good thing, then perhaps the Taliban is a political group that you could identify with. I understand they’re looking for recruits. Good luck.

GoPhillies's avatar

I completely agree with some of the statments of the past three posts. However in each of your comments you fail to recognize the fact the United States was directly attacked. @ ragingloli “When you want to kill a tree, it is more effective to deprive the tree of nutrients, than to cut off one leaf at a time. The leaves will regrow faster than you can cut them off.” My response to that statement is that you dismantle that tree altogether, and pour bleach into its roots. @ PapaLeo I also understand your statement when you say that the world is a very complex place, which is true when it comes to non-war related issuses. I would say that you have displayed extremely disrespect to all the soldiers fighting for the spread of freedom and safety to all. Please note, torture is everywhere, and the only reason nations use torture is because it works. @ ragingloli I agree with you also when you state that you observed that fact that Obama “Listens” and Bush does not. I believe that there is true in your statement. George W. Bush did not listen to the spineless interest of other countries, who don’t support America’s right to freedom and safety. I feel that all your comments are notable, and if we could turn back the clock, I’m sure George W. Bush himself would have went about things a little differently. However you people need to realize a nation/group attacked us directly, and when I am personal attacked I will fight back, and I expect my nation to do the same. Most people state that Bush was wrong for the war and how long it has been, but if he was not to go to War with this nation he would have been considered a coward. Also George W. Bush forewarned all Americans time and time again that this war will not be short, and we will have to move in the direction of rebuilding that nation after we swiftly and forcefully remove the problem. I don’t promote violence by any means, but all of you again fail to realize this was just a counter action of defense. George W. Bush kept Americans safe, in respond to the 9/11 attacks. All of you people should be grateful for what he has done for his Country, because it was selfless and brave. Seeing as you all so diplomatic you would still be crying for peace even when Americans are dying.

mammal's avatar

the Romans were proud of their Democracy too… unfortunately the majority of the conquered and the enslaved weren’t invited to the Toga party.

galileogirl's avatar

Isn’t that a form of waterboarding? (shoving things down people’s throats)

oratio's avatar

@galileogirl Yep, at Guantanamo university . The whole thing is a misunderstanding. It’s just Ivy League.~

susanc's avatar


“George W. Bush forewarned all Americans time and time again that this war will not be short”. No, he did not. He (through Donald Rumsfeld) told us it would be “a piece of cake” and that our forces would have flowers thrown at them by the Iraqi people. Not, it was not; no, they did not.

” ...and we will have to move in the direction of rebuilding that nation after we swiftly and forcefully remove the problem.” No, he specifically said he was not in the business of nation-building.

“I don’t promote violence by any means”. Yes, you do: “when I am personal attacked I will fight back, and I expect my nation to do the same.”

“Spineless interest of other countries, who don’t support America’s right to freedom and safety”. Good lord, baby, no one has a “right” to freedom and safety; we have to struggle for these things; everyone does. One way we do that is to work together with allies. GWB thought he was too tough to need allies and lost every vestige of support from every country that initially supported us.

Also, “you have displayed extremely disrespect to all the soldiers fighting for the spread of freedom and safety to all”. Could you please explain this? I don’t want to jump to the conclusion that because some of us are willing to say the Iraq war was foolish and murderous, we blame our countrymen and loved ones who have been put at deadly risk because of it.

ragingloli's avatar

“My response to that statement is that you dismantle that tree altogether, and pour bleach into its roots.”
That simply was never an option for America, it didn’t and doesn’t have the capability to do so. All they ever tried was in fact, cutting each leaf off separately. Which is why the Problem of Terrorism has increased.

“which is true when it comes to non-war related issuses”
It is true in ALL issues, including war. Contrary to what you seem to believe, war isn’t some “go in, kill everyone, celebrate” affair.

“George W. Bush did not listen to the spineless interest of other countries,”
Spineless? I think the word more appropriate would be “knowing the foolishness of waging a war that btw violated international law against an opponent that can not be defeated with conventional military means with no willingness to employ other measures.”

“who don’t support America’s right to freedom and safety.”
No. The correct phrase would be “who don’t support the method America’s chose to pursue its political and economic interests.”

“a nation/group attacked us directly”
Which one is it? The fact you can’t even decide that shows your lack of understanding.
A nation did not attack you. Iraq certainly did not attack you. Afghanistan did not attack you. A terrorist group attacked you and even that is debatable, one that operates in many different states independent of their respective governments. Iraq wasn’t one of these countries, as Saddam was an enemy of the Taliban. Thanks George for giving the terrorists another home.

“but if he was not to go to War with this nation he would have been considered a coward. ”
Only by the extreme rightwing warmongers and fools Granted, his base supporters.
By the rest of the world, he would have been considered a levelheaded leader showing restraint and using reason to achieve his agenda.
Now he is widely considered a blithering idiot, a warmonger, and a leader, who has the blood of thousands on his hands. And the fact that he waged two wars in violation of international law, makes him a war criminal, though no one in the media dares to speak that out. Power does seem to protect from justice.

“Seeing as you all so diplomatic you would still be crying for peace even when Americans are dying.”
Well of course, by cause diplomacy is usually the modus operandi that leads to the least amount of death, destruction, and suffering. War invariably causes these three effects.

PapaLeo's avatar

What makes me the most sad about @GoPhillies comments isn’t so much that he believes them, but that they’re representative of what a lot of people in America believe. They are horribly misinformed, don’t really think for themselves, and are usually the sorry dupes of rabid right-wing news outlets like Fox News. These types of people often resort to name-calling and the worst kinds of accusations whenever someone states their opinion.

No, I’m not a hippy, whatever that’s supposed to mean, and I have a great deal of respect for the military. My first wife was an officer in the US Army, a helicopter pilot, and I spent close to 20 years working with and for the military. Our men and women are doing a hell of a job, especially considering their onerous mission and their scant resources. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the military, but I do question the mission, which is anything but the “spread of freedom and safety for all” (ask the Iraqi and Afghan civilians who have been caught in this crossfire how that’s going). You’ve got to learn to separate the two, and that if one expresses their opinion it doesn’t automatically make them a traitor.

Jack_Haas's avatar

First, Iraqis didn’t choose to live in a dictatorship. Saddam’s rule was shoved down their throats by Western powers. They were no strangers to self-determination.

Second, it’s not like they were living a peaceful and prosperous life and the Evil George Bush decided to attack them for no reason. They spent 13 years in abject poverty, oppressed by Saddam and his goons while he and his Euro/Russian accomplices were milking the oil-for-food scam for all it was worth. Did Iraqi culture make these innocents more suited to that kind of life? It didn’t seem to bother Europeans, with the noble exception of the UK, as long as the blood money kept flowing their way.

The big problem with your analogy, at least as far as Iraq is concerned, is that the innocent Iraqis are not the knight. They’re the poor peasants, the commoners who live to serve an evil knight. A US-led coalition knocked this knight down twice, only to help him back on his horse and instead make his servants pay the price of his insanity for him. The third time around, a man named George Bush assembled a coalition and decided that they might as well knock him down for good and give the commoners the chance to run their own lives, which could set an example for every other dark knights in nearby kingdoms and improve world stability in the long run.

oratio's avatar

@Jack_Haas By the time of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq was a country at the level of standard as a European country. That war wrecked the whole country and economy to begin with. And you are right, Saddam had the support of western powers who fought socialism everywhere, in the spirit of the cold war.

Saddam Hussein was a power hungry madman. No question about it. He doesn’t need to be white washed, and few people are sad to see him gone. He was not particularly liked in the muslim world. However, you can’t attack a dictator without attacking the people. Especially if it has a conscript army.

knocked this knight down twice… ... The third time around
This I don’t really understood. Are you including the Iran-Iraq war here? The war where the US supported Iraq?

Jack_Haas's avatar

@oratio No, I’m referring to the first gulf war under G.H. Bush and the second intervention under Clinton.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Jack_Haas – I would not have had a problem if the US had gone to the UN so that we could have argued whether we stop Saddam from murdering and torturing his own people. There would have still been the issue of weighing the benefits and the risks. Let’s remove Saddam because his people are not free! If the UN had mandated this, it would have been clearly a legal war. But the issue was about the threat to the United States, a country far away compared to France and Germany. The issue was about WMDs and how imminent a threat would be. The US went to war on shaky legal grounds (I wouldn’t call it completely illegal because there had been some resolutions that left room for various semantic interpretation). Shaky legal grounds and strong reservations voiced by US allies. When the WDMs didn’t materialize the Bush gang stressed the point of bringing democracy to the Middle East freeing the people. I think many of the Shiites in Iraq, especially their religious leaders are not knights who will come down their horses and ask for a BMW. Look at Iran. The religious leaders are so backward, so far away from being ready for democracy. I think the analogy is not far off.

oratio's avatar

@Jack_Haas I guess you can count that too. Four days of air strikes is a declaration of war.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@mattbrowne The US went to the UN but you know what a charade the whole thing turned into. There is no such thing as international law because there is no credible institution to uphold it. The US and the UK went to war based on several factors, the most pressing, at the time, being as you said the WMDs that all intelligence agencies believed Saddam had. However, freeing the Iraqis had always been a stated goal, just not the pressing issue of the day. As for Iran, I don’t know what part of their backwardness is real and what part is pure thuggery to keep their people from being free. However, I think democracy is a bit like marriage: as long as you haven’t made the jump you’ll never be ready.

I believe Iraq was a bold experiment, a welcome change from the statu quo and after all that’s been done, Obama should keep doing what he’s been doing: making sure to keep enough troops to ensure Iraq’s stability but also push for drastic reform of the UN (kick france and Russia out of the SC, create a seat for India, maybe Pakistan) or let it crumble and assemble a coalition of countries to assist in the peacekeeping effort.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is no such thing as international law because there is no credible institution to uphold it? There is the UN. It’s what we got. It was extremely arrogant by the Bush administration to make fun of it and declare it’s not relevant. Bush said “I am the international law”, well to me this sounds like the French Sun King i.e. Louis XIV of France: L’etat_c’est_moi

ragingloli's avatar

@Jack_Haas “drastic reform of the UN (kick france and Russia out of the SC”
yeah that’s right. remove anyone who does not agree with the mighty USA’s opinion.

“assemble a coalition of countries to assist in the peacekeeping effort.”
more like “assemble a herd of obedient lapdogs for the US”
sounds to me like all you want is a free hand for the US in whatever action the mighty mcdonalds country sees fit. Like what hitler did with the soviet union. make an alliance and then ignore it. after all, the Führer knows best.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@mattbrowne Matt you can’t be serious. It’s France’s desperate protection of Saddam along with Bush 41 and Clinton’s willingness to go along that made the UN a big joke. Among other factors contributing to the UN’s disgrace are things like having Lybia head a human rights commission along with Iran and Venezuela, the oil-for-food scam, or the cap ‘n’ trade scam, that Kyoto aberration and so many more it would take the day to list everything… The UN is a crime syndicate and a circus, nothing more. Ask the people in Darfur if they’d rather have the UN or the US taking care of their problem.

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