Thursday, August 14, 2008

Liberal Democracy and the Western Way of War


Liberal Democracy isn’t an ideology. It is better described as the governments/societies that have grown up in the West without benefit of ideological paradigm. The ancestors of our Liberal Democracies resisted tyrannies revolted against them and finally took control of their governments – not direct control to be sure, but representative control. They all have representatives that in some form have to be elected. So, fair elections are part of Liberal Democracy. Since the people’s vote is of major importance, they have over the years been able to demand a variety of things – the freedoms and rights which we are all familiar with.

A successful economy is also vital to our Liberal-Democratic well-being. Various nations and governments have tinkered with economic controls, but Free Economies have been demonstrated to work best. Socialistic influences have caused a variety of nations in Europe to create combinations of Free Economies and State Controls, but Free Economies are far more efficient. Socialistic control of economies, or various parts of economies continue to exist (the U.S. Post Office, for example) but they are in retreat.

As I have said elsewhere, but probably not recently, the Liberal-Democratic State has been created out of the Church, but it has taken a secular turn and the Church has withdrawn into itself. The Church, I believe (in contradistinction to Gauchet who finds the Church largely moribund) needs to reassert itself to provide the Spiritual and moral elements presently missing from it.

Many terms from earlier forms of government don’t apply to Liberal-Democracies: “Imperialism” for one. Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain was Imperialistic and its control of India is an example of its Imperialism. Modern Liberal Democracies are not imperialistic. They don’t conquer a nation and exploit it imperialistically. The element of Liberal-Democracy that may smack of Imperialism is in the Free-Market efforts of swashbuckling entrepreneurs. One of the things we Liberal-Democracies have had to learn is that our Capitalists are not to be trusted to be fair, honest, or moral. So we must exert enough state control to keep them that way. Nevertheless like a recalcitrant dog, they find new ways of slipping their leashes, sometimes with the abetting of State leaders who are in cahoots with them. We don’t want to stop entrepreneurs entirely, for then we will suffer loss of jobs, loss of income, loss of a thriving economy. On the other hand we don’t want them to engage in unfair, dishonest, or immoral practices; so we create laws to control them and when they cross the line, we prosecute. This system seems to be about as good it can get at present. The introduction of a moral element in the state through the Church certainly couldn’t hurt.

If someone criticizes America for unfair, dishonest, immoral economic practices in the third world, well I wouldn’t be surprised if he was right. This is not the same thing as Imperialism, however, and if we can catch the slimy capitalist with his nefarious hands in the third world cookie jar, we shall force him to make amends and may even incarcerate him. However, it would be better for the third-world nation making the complaint to look to itself, start instituting the programs that will turn his nation into a Liberal Democracy and then it won’t have to worry about our Capitalists. It can start worrying about its own – but that’s a much better worry than the one it has now.

I’m not sure what you mean about no nation going to war over an ideology. The Islamists are going to war over the Islamist ideology right now. The idea of “the nation” is foreign to Islamist history and ideology. There are only the Umah, the people. Nations were created when Colonial (Imperialistic) powers conquered various parts of the Umah and created national boundaries for their own purposes (see David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace, the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Middle East). The eschatology of the Islamist ideology advocates the continuation of Mohammad’s progress. He died and though there were the seven blessed leaders who carried on in his footsteps, subsequent leaders abandoned his project. The Islamists are in the process of revitalizing it. This project is nothing less than the conquering of the world in the name of Allah, and any means, especially violence is justified if it furthers this cause.

It is true that we Liberal-Democrats will do all most anything to avoid a fight. We love to appease. If Hitler wants a few countries – sure go ahead and take them; just don’t start a war. If the Islamists in Spain don’t like America, no big deal. We are very slow to violence, slow to war. Everyone seems able to surprise us.

On the other hand, once we get going, no one does war as well as we in the West do. For that I refer to that historian of war, Victor Davis Hanson in his The Western Way of War, Infantry Battle in Classical Greece; An Autumn of War; and Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. Some have quibbled with Hanson’s thesis, but aside from some temporary setbacks (Japan’s initial successes against the U.S. in WWII), some going into battle against impossible odds (Custer at the Little Big Horn), no Western nation has lost against a non-Western nation in a war. Hanson has his theories about why this is so, but it demonstrably is so. Thus, if the Islamists, with the connivance of Leftist misinformation and misdirection, build up a head of steam and start having some dramatic successes in pursuit of their ideological eschatology and we actually do go to war on a substantial scale, we in the West shall undoubtedly win.

In the meantime we agonize, soul-search, finger-point, reexamine our constitutions and charters, place blame, examine motives and, in a word, dither. That too is something we in the West do better than anyone else.

Lawrence Helm

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