Phi Beta Cons

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Inappropriate Comparisons Regarding Democracy


Condoleezza Rice recently addressed the Women’s Foreign Policy Group.  Why women need a separate foregn policy is not clear, but it is a sign of how even so-called moderate feminism has advanced toward making women’s issues separate from the larger whole.  Rice was asked for some parting words and she said that we must support democratization in areas of the world that have never had it, and also that we must believe in it.  Presumably if we believe in it, we will be good people making it happen, and if we don’t believe in it, or have reservations, we will be bad people preventing it from happening.  She added that we needed to have humility and patience about the new Iraqi state and we need humbly to remember that at the founding of our own country, Rice’s own people were seen as only three fifths human.  

It is unfortunate that our leaders, even in a Republican administration, continue to promulgate this falsehood.  The 3/5 compromise was for the purpose of reducing the power of the slave states.  The slave-owners wanted to count the slaves as full persons so that the population of the slaveowning states would be greater and they would therefore have greater representation in the congress.  Making the slaves count for the purposes of the census as 3/5 reduced the power and representation of the slave states.  This was a compromise that enabled the union to be formed and the country to move forward.  Slavery was a terrible evil, and should never ever have been practiced in modern times, but it was the reality at that time that no one had the power to end, and if there was to be a new independent United States, this compromise was necessary.   And in due time, it broke down and there was conflict, and slavery had to come to an end, but not before the experiment in self-government and natural rights had been launched and proved enduring enough to survive the upheaval.  And eventually the rights of citizenship were granted to more and more people.     

Actually, we might only wish that the different segments of Iraqi society, Shiite and Sunni and Kurd, especially Shiite and Sunni, could arrive at a compromise for sharing power that might permit their country to advance.  But in any event, there is no comparison between our founding and theirs.  For example, today, Iraqi women are being forced to wear the veil again, as at Basra University, where even Christian women are being threatened with death if they don’t cover up.  The veil had been dispensed with under Saddam.  In other words, Iraq is going backward on human rights.  The comparison to us would be if the slaves had already been freed, then were re-enslaved in order to satisfy the southern states and form the union.  

Likewise, when the U.S. acceded to Arab demands and prohibited Israelis from using the same entrance as the Arabs at the recent Annapolis meeting, this was going backward on human rights.  And once again, evidently taking her own history as her only guide, Rice inappropriately compared the Palestinian plight to her childhood under segregation.  But as columnist Pamela Geller remarks, the Palestinians are not the blacks of the Civil Rights movement or era.  

BTW, did Rice give an example of how believing in democracy works?  Yes, she was asked by the moderator what would happen with Hamas–which has been elected to power by the Palestinian people–if an agreement for a Palestinian state is struck only with Fatah.  Rice said, well, when the Palestinians see that they will have a state and how good that will be, she believed it would work out.  This is reminiscent of when Bush insisted that Hamas be included in the elections, because he believed that the Palestinians would elect people who could provide services and get the garbage collected instead of blowing things up. 


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