The New Burkeian

Reflections on the Revolution in Conservatism

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Democracy, Freedom, Justice and Liberty

In a recent post from Iraqi blogger Ibn al-Rafidain, he struggles over the meaning of Justice. In fact, the New Burkeian also struggles over the meaning of Justice. For that matter, Democracy, Freedom and Liberty are also complex ideas. As I told Son of Two Rivers, I know what they mean in my heart. I have faith in the truth of these concepts.

These ideas generate all sorts of thoughts in different people. We struggle to understand them, but we know they exist. We know it is for these ideas we are fighting the War on Terror. No civil society based on these concepts would support our enemies in the WoT. And therein is the focus. We must help to create civil societies within this world. It is our duty as Americans to continue the quest our forefathers set us upon. Perhaps one day Ibn al-Rafidain will be considered a forefather to Iraq's civil society.

Immanuel Kant suggests that the creation of civil societies comes from Man's natural state of war. We yearn for peace in order to pursue our lives in civility. Justice comes into being for the disruption of that civil society. Freedom could be our ability to pursue a peaceful life. Liberty is our desire to select a government in order to secure Freedom and Justice. And Democracy has become the best medium for all of these concepts. I have not really defined these terms, but I think I've put them in context. I think we all know what we want. And we understand the moral limitations of our wants. These concepts are simply incarnations of civil society.

Well, some would suggest that civil societies, and more specifically Western civil society, or Democracy, has its own problems. Consider Arthur Chrenkoff:

Western societies are not perfect, their citizens are not all angels, and there are always people capable of committing crimes and human rights violations. But by contrast to other, non-free or less-free societies around the world, our Western societies possess powerful self-correcting mechanisms, such as the democratic system of government with a vigorous political opposition, free debate and free media, independent judiciary, and constitutional checks and balances, which mean that such aberrations from the generally high standard we all aspire to live up to are quickly identified, isolated and punished and the wrongs redressed and compensated by the authorities, the citizens or both. This doesn't happen in every single case, and not necessarily as speedily and thoroughly as some would want, but it holds well enough as a general rule.

I think this passage speaks for itself on the positive attributes of civil society.

So how is the WoT our issue. As I stated before, there is a moral component to civil society. In coming to understand the concepts of Democracy, Freedom, Justice and Liberty, we understand their universal nature. Every person yearns for these ideas in their own way. That is human nature. As American's have come to a better understanding of these concepts through the conflicts of our ancestors, we have a moral duty, through our ability to act, to promote them.

Consider Brendan Miniter's article from OpinionJournal. He discusses an officer that suggested, "We're just doing the Lord's work" in regards to his mission in Iraq to reconstruct and rebuild hospitals and universities in Iraq. Forget the religious connotations, and understand there is a moral stance behind our mission for Democracy. Brendan Miniter goes on to state, "After all there is a moral component to a policy that frees a people from a dictatorship, restores civil order and protects against a violent group of insurgents."

In other words, we need to focus on the general goals of our policy in the world. Focusing on the details is a luxury afforded an established civil society such as our own. We have the infrastructure to combat aberrations in Justice and Liberty. Every society should have the luxury to take into acount the details of civil society, but they must achieve that civil society first.

The New Burkeian's faith in the aforementioned concepts, and the Actionaries quest to promote these concepts within the world, is the drive behind the WoT. Will you join the quest?


Blogger "A Brown" said...

The problem, is that it is not necessarily true that all people aspire to Western-style socio-political systems. I would not dispute the superiority of individual rights or liberal-democracy. Fukuyama may be right that liberal-democracy has triumphed, but this only holds in the developed world (and I am not so sure that our institutions are as secure as he thinks). In much of the world, the debate over socio-political organization is still an open question. In parts of the Muslim world, political-Islam has not been discredited (except in the one state that has already tried it). I am a firm believer that one can use politics to help build positive social-capital/civil-society. The Iraq war represents such a project on a grand scale. However, such policies are doomed to failure without legitimacy. This is why totalitarian systems inevitably destroy social-capital, they have no independent basis for their rule. One need only turn to the whole host of trust and social-capital literature to find cases studies of this process in action. Even Machiavelli knew this. The Prince counseled us that it is easier to rule a society by fear, rather than love but The Discourses reminded us that only the Republic has the legitimacy to endure. Despite our professed good intentions, the neo-conservatives where wrong, the US occupation lacks true legitimacy. The great debate for American policy makers is not the nature of our goals but our means and strategies for instituting our interests. Even if one assumes that Bush’s heart is in the right place, his policies have been almost nothing but measurable failures. Through the Iraq war and occupation he has set back the cause of Arab democracy, made it easer for terrorists to operate, strengthen the political power of the perpetuators of political-Islam, squandered our soft power, and diminished our potential military strength (just as its is needed in Iran, North Korea, and Sudan).

December 27, 2004 at 3:03 AM  

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