“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.