Teddy Roosevelt spoke softly and carried a big stick.
Woodrow Wilson was louder, and used the stick to make the world safe for democracy.
But enabling democracy was not enough for us. Now we find it necessary to take failed states and engage in “nation-building”. We attempt to create civil society, forge a plurality of institutions, establish the rule of law, and then engineer democracy, all in just a few short years.
It took thirteen hundred years of Anglo-Saxon tradition, more than a millennium of Christian culture, and five centuries of English Common law to establish the English parliamentary democracy that gave birth to the American constitutional republic.
But because we’re can-do Americans, we can do the same thing in Afghanistan in seven years. Seven years!
So how’s it all working out? Let’s take a look at the fruits of our labors.
This is what democracy in Afghanistan means:
Afghan cleric defends contentious marriage law
KABUL — A key backer of an Afghan law that critics say legalizes marital rape and rolls back women’s rights rejected an international outcry as foreign meddling on Saturday and insisted the law offers women many protections.
The law, passed last month, says a husband can demand sex with his wife every four days unless she is ill or would be harmed by intercourse, and regulates when and for what reasons a wife may leave her home alone.
“It is essential for the woman to submit to the man’s sexual desire,” the law says.
Mohammad Asif Mohseni, a top Afghan cleric and one of the law’s main drafters, said the legislation cannot be revoked or changed because it was enacted through a legislative process — passed by both houses of parliament and signed by Karzai.
“The Westerners claim that they have brought democracy to Afghanistan. What does democracy mean? It means government by the people for the people. They should let the people use these democratic rights,” Mohseni told reporters in the capital, Kabul. [emphasis added]
Unfortunately, he’s right. This is what democracy means.
They got their ballot boxes and their purple fingers, and this is what they voted for. It’s democracy at work.
Luckily for the women of Afghanistan, the law has been nullified — but not by democratic means:
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Following an international uproar over the new law, which President Barack Obama called “abhorrent,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai put it under review. The move puts enforcement on hold.
That’s right: the law was overturned by non-democratic means, by ignoring the expressed will of the Afghan people.
The United States is not an empire. America invaded Afghanistan, removed the Taliban, installed democracy, and then invited the Afghan people to control their own destiny.
Yet this week the President of the United States looked up from his desk, scowled, and said, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome law?”
By some mysterious means, the law in question — a piece of fully constitutional legislation enacted by a democratically-elected parliament in a sovereign nation — was immediately put on hold.
What a strange coincidence.
Hat tip: TB.