Friday, April 25, 2003

More on Jon, prompted by a comment from Tresy:

If Stewart had wanted to venture into politically incorrect territory, he might have asked Zakaria about the theocratic strains lurking just beneath the surface of Republican rhetoric, and what that says about our own democracy. Is it bad for Muslims to want their countries governed according to Islamic doctrine, but not for the Christian Coalition to want it governed according to fundamentalist Christian doctrine?
Jon didn't seem to quite know how to handle him. I don't think he agreed much, but I know that Jon does not generally go hostile on people he disagrees with- he was civil to COULTER, after all- so it's not surprising that he didn't go hardball. It's not his job.

I actually agree with his basic concept. Democratic institutions are as important as actual elections. The problem is with the concept that they should be imposed from without, instead of grown from within. One of the biggest problems with the Russian system and Russian economy is not that the Russians ignored the necessity of political institutions (the Soviet Union was riddled with the things), but that their "helpful" American advisors were compelling them to go with full-on privatization and de-institutionalization. Since the methods of privatization used didn't work properly (mostly due to the failings of market fundamentalists), Russia ended up in the grip of kleptocrats.

With that and countless other examples of screwed-up American-led nationbuilding, Zakaria's thesis deserves a hell of a lot more critical analysis than it seems to be betting.

By the way, I just thought of something: I wonder whether the U.S. should be taking as much credit for nation-building for Japan as they currently are? The jury may still be out on how well that worked. Japan is currently suffering through a rather brutal long-term recession/depression. The seeds of that go back a long ways, to the very beginning of Japanese economic ascendancy. Japan's also a notorious one-party "democracy". Yes, Japan is now far from its WWII-era militarism and pseudo-fascism, but I imagine that had more to do with the imposed nature of the system and the historical inability of fascism to handle military defeat rather than actual nation-building. One might also question whether the powerful nationalism and business/governmental ties that characterized Japan throughout the 80's and 90's don't retain vestiges of the old mode of thinking, even if the military route of expressing it is no longer acceptable.

On the other hand, Germany seemed to turn out ok. Then again, they're part of the "Axis of Weasels" now, so maybe not. (Is it a good thing or a bad thing that a country rebuilt by the U.S. is now powerful enough to defy them? What if Iraq becomes another Germany?)

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