The New Theory of "Limited Democracy"

Revolutionary Worker #1199, May 18, 2003, posted at

This U.S. occupation of Iraq has produced a strange and revealing new theory of "democracy."

Thomas Friedman, a notorious cheerleader for war, explained in his influential New York Times column that, "What the smartest experts in the democracy field all seem to agree on is that this interim Iraqi authority should not focus on holding national elections--the hardware of democracy." ("Needed: Iraqi Software," May 7, 2003.)

Friedman quotes Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International : "If a government with limited democracy steadily expands...freedoms, it should not be branded a dictatorship." Friedman explains that such "limited democracy" (without elections) can be more democratic than places "like Venezuela" that actually hold elections.

In an interview with CNN, Fareed Zakaria, said that the lesson of the U.S. founding fathers is that first, you need to get the government to control the governed and second, you need to make sure the government itself is controlled. What Iraq needs, Zakiria and Friedman are arguing is not elections, but so-called precursors of democracy--like opening the country up to free market exploitation, imposing a new legal system, training an elite caste of new rulers in the American Way etc.

It is important to unravel this Orwellian double-think: Supporters of U.S. imperialism can see that if the Iraqi people are allowed to vote, they would choose a government opposed to U.S. plans ("like Venezuela" where the CIA is trying to destabilize the popularly elected presidency of Hugo Chavez). So, in the name of "teaching them democracy" the Iraqi people live under an imposed colonial government--while the imperialist invaders recruit and finance Iraqi political figures they like, reorganize and exploit Iraq's resources, and suppress political forces that don't serve U.S. purposes. And if, one day, they allow Iraq to have elections, it will be because things are set up to guarantee a pro- U.S. outcome.

Welcome to bourgeois democracy, American-style. And, remember, none of this may "be branded a dictatorship." Call this crude colonial rule "limited democracy," please!

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497