Listening to NPR as I awoke this morning, I heard a report on how the recent elections in Afghanistan had resulted in the rise to power, by democratic means, of a number of "warlords," even people regarded as possible "war criminals" (in my quotes because no trial has occurred), and there could be little doubt that the reporter felt this outcome cast rather a pall on the US effort to bring democracy to the Afghans.
Bret Stephens has a marvellous essay on the relationship of diaspora Jews to the state of Israel, which deconstructs arguments in Tony Judt's famous, or perhaps notorious, essay on the subject of Israel as a possible "binational" state. Well into his argument, Stephens writes:
Curiously, although it is Judt’s ostensible concern for democracy that animates his advocacy of a binational, one-man, one-vote state, he seems to have no regard at all for the democracy that currently operates in Israel. The reason, apparently, is that this is a democracy that has produced unacceptable outcomes: a free-market economy; continued occupation of territories in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; excessive religious interference in political life; a destabilizing regional political presence. And so on.
Yet it seems obvious that if one supports a democracy on the condition that it must produce agreeable results, one does not support democracy at all. The purpose of democracy is not to guarantee outcomes but to set process above outcomes – to respect the wishes of the people whatever those wishes may be. This can often be a bitter pill to swallow, as those wishes may be radically at variance with one’s personal conception of the good. Currently, for instance, Israel’s democratic wish is to withdraw its settlements from the Gaza Strip, an outcome Judt no doubt favors but which the God-fearing irredentist wing of Israel is not at all happy with. And yet on one thing, Judt and even the most extreme right-wing elements of Israel’s body politic agree: The will of the majority must not prevail.
While I am tempted to feel superior to Mr. Judt (I certainly disagree vehemently with his views on Israel), I am not yet sure I am going to stick by my guns if, or when, Iraq's democracy turns in a direction I don't like. I hope I am a better democrat (small d) than that, but time will tell.