09 October 2006

Social Evolution and Iraq

Social evolution is an oddly overlooked topic. I would argue that the Bush administration's problems in Iraq have less to do with intent, planning, or execution than with Iraq's stage of development. It shows their disregard for the principles of evolution or even development.

Evolution suggests that we can't have animals until we have plants for them to eat and can't have carnivores until we have other animals for the carnivores to eat. Evolution suggests that things develop and emerge as an environment produces a particular species that, in turn, becomes a part of the environment that produces another species (and perhaps renders another extinct). Even development suggests a particular order, a need to put up the framing of the house before hammering in sheet rock.

Bush, who has at best shown a disinterest in evolution, opts for a different model. He simply banishes the tyrant, says, "Let there be Democracy," and rests during August.

He says that it is a kind of prejudice to say that Arabs can't have democracy. Actually, it is a kind of ignorance - various Arab states do have various levels of democracy. But the fact is, certain social constructs have to evolve within communities in order for them to arrive at nation-states instead of tribes, to arrive at democracies instead of theocracies, etc. Iraq demonstrated few, if any, of the predecessors to democracy that Japan and Germany had before the reconstruction efforts after World War 2.

To this day, policy analysts overlook this critical analysis - at what stage of development is Iraq? How do the regions of Iraq differ in their development, their readiness for financial markets, political compromise, secular education? What does that suggest about the type of government needed? Readers of my blog hopefully know that I'm nearly idealistic about the importance and value of giving individuals autonomy. Having said that, at a certain level of social development, fairly autocratic governments actually make sense. The attempt to install democracies prematurely can simply create chaos, as it has in Iraq. It is one thing to say that a person should be free to define his or her own life; it is quite another to force a kindergartener to live on his own.

The question not being asked - the question that is essential to reversing the decline into chaos that defines Iraq - is what type of government is appropriate to their level of development? What does that suggest about the "soft" development that is so overlooked. It is one thing to build churches or banks. It is quite another to have people gather for fellowship or shop for loans. The best governments start with where people are - where their beliefs and customs and social practices have them.

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