23 July 2007

Brooks, Bush, and Blind Faith in God

A professor of astronomy mentioned to a hall full of students that the sun would likely die out in about 3 billion years.
“How long before the sun dies out,” asked a worried student.
“3 billion years,” repeated the professor.
“Oh,” said the relieved undergrad. “I thought you said 3 million years.”

David Brooks rather timidly defends Bush from his critics this week, talking about Bush’s confidence in his plan for Iraq and his continued excitement about his job as president.

Rather, his [Bush’s] self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources.
The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is
convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said
Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an
Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will
tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t
Second, Bush remains energized by the power of the presidency. Some
presidents complain about the limits of the office. But Bush, despite all the
setbacks, retains a capacious view of the job and its possibilities.

Even granting that Bush is right about the direction of progress – that all nations will become democratic – he has confused the inevitable with the immediate. If God wants citizens to have the freedom to vote, he hasn’t demonstrated much urgency about this goal. Assuming that man has been on the earth only 6,000 years, the first 5,800 were spent democracy-free (save for a few anomalous experiments along the way). Assuming that man has been here closer to 100,000 years, the lead time to achieving democracy has been even more alarmingly slow. Even now, a minority of countries are democratic: roughly 60-some of the more than 200 countries registered with the UN.

The question is not whether Iraqis are capable of achieving democracy. They are. The question is whether they’re capable of achieving democracy as they are currently organized (within one state and with their current constitution) and in something less than half a century. One of the few predictions one can safely make about Iraq is that the American people will not support the loss of 1,000 lives and $100 billion a year for 30 to 100 years. Even if the Iraqis are able to cut that time in half, drawing lessons from our own experience, this ignores a flaw in Bush's logic.

Bush and his supporters fail to admit that the Iraqis are hesitant to find in our experience relevant examples of adopting democracy. It is one thing for different kinds of protestants to see how to separate church and state; it is quite another for Muslims to accept a relationship between church and state first pioneered by Protestant Christians.

Bush’s remains a blind optimism rooted in faith and not fact. The philosopher Karl Popper argued that a proposition is not scientific if it does not have the capability of being proven false. To say that democracy is God’s will or is inevitable is not a scientific assertion, as there is no way to prove or disprove this claim. By remaining in the domain of flat assertion rather than testable proposition, Bush, strangely, evades accountability and this country, sadly, evades resolution.

What is even sadder is that bloggers (e.g., All Spin Zone) are left to make these obvious points instead of a columnist like Brooks. It is as though NBA professionals have become caught up in exhibitions of dribbling expertise at half court and have left the fans to do the work of taking lay ups to the hoops. It is not that Brooks cannot see this very argument - it is that he looks away. If he and other columnists were doctors, they would be liable for malpractice.


Anonymous said...

I don't think GWB gives a rat's ass about "democracy." Maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen any big push towards freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, right to petition for redress of grievances, or any of that sort of thing.

What GWB wants is unrestrained, unregulated capitalism, a return to the pre-income tax pre-labor union pre-OSHA days of the 1920s.

Allen said...

It feels like we're all experiencing the reality of what Bill Murray experienced in the movie "Groundhog Day", where we relive the same day every morning we wake up. True to movie form, what was first seen as comical ended up being touching and meaningful as we watch Murray progress from thoughtless, indifferent shmuck to caring, kind nice guy. For us, we wake up every day to GWB telling us what a threat Al Quida is, how we're going to catch Bin Laden (though I haven't heard much lately about us capturing him), how we need to support our troops and give them both the resources and time, how we are winning the war on terror but must remain vigilant, and one of the best ones: the Iraqi people want democracy and we need to help them achieve it.

Our "Groundhog Day" movie will be running AT LEAST until January 20th, 2009.

Life Hiker said...

I'm with ThomasLB - if the way Bush tries to run our country is "democracy", that is not what we or the Iraqis need.

The closest parallel I can find for Bush is the "king who had no clothes". The man is either oblivious or totally sold out to his backers.

When Tony Snow called today's contempt vote by the judiciary committee "pathetic", I knew for certain that Bush has no concept of what democracy really means. He's the pathetic one.

Dave said...

Always insist on defining terms. GWB has different definitions of theology and democracy than I do.