Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Idealism and Big Plans

Russell clarifies his position on the recent Iranian elections.

I would say it's a bit too early to judge whether or not the neocon's grand plan is working or not, but then I would say that. (I have to admit that in the case of Sharon there has not been much of a domino effect. One strand of the neocon argument was that by removing Hussein Israel would feel more secure and so would be more likely to be more magnanimous towards the Palestinians). Anyway, there's a severe problem with defending the war on the grounds of any progress towards democracy in the region - it may have happened anyway.

Russell's criticism of the neocon position has been based on a distrust of Idealism - roads, good intentions etc, which I think is a far more accurate critique than the Machiavellian one common on the Left - Bush and co. truely believe that democracy would be a good thing in the Middle East.

The theme that imposing democracy is risky is taken up by this recent Guardian article -Our most dangerous export .

One quote reads:

"Since 1989, the US has been pressing developing countries (with the glaring exception of the Middle East) to implement immediate elections with universal suffrage."

In case you didn't notice this is meant to be a criticism. Which is a somewhat odd position for a liberal to hold. Let's hold off giving woman the vote until things settle down a bit. Imagine if Bush advocated democracy but not votes for women.

Its a difficult one, when does caution become paralysis.

The risks of Big Plans is taken up in this review: Book Review of Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James Scott .


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