Day By Day

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Michael Ledeen Loses It

Peter Ackerman and Michael Ledeen, writing in the LA Times, argue that global democratic revolution is not inevitable. They write:

"[P]eople power" is not an unstoppable tidal wave, and it would be wrong and naive to conclude that we need only step back and let it happen.
Well..., duh!

Now it starts getting scary.... They write:

A successful people's revolution is the outcome of careful planning and mass discipline, but it requires political and economic support from outside the country — and maybe some from within. [emphasis mine]
Gee, I'm glad that they are "maybe" willing to allow the "people" within a country some role, albeit marginal, in creating their own future.

They continue:

There are three indispensable requirements: first, a unified opposition that can put aside internal disagreements over the details of what will follow the downfall of the tyrannical regime; second, a disciplined democratic movement that rigorously applies the rules of nonviolent conflict; and finally, careful preparation of the battlefield — which means that members of the armed forces must be persuaded to make individual decisions rather than act as part of a collective organization.

Where have we heard this sort of stuff before? The need for a revolutionary vanguard to mobilize the masses who are incapable of acting on their own; the need for absolute discipline; "careful preparation of the battlefield,"etc. That's right! It sounds suspiciously like Bolshevism -- Marxism as reinterpreted [some might say "perverted] by Lenin and perhaps even by Trotsky [they are, after all, talking about global revolution].

Oh yes, there are caveats -- the movement must be nonviolent; the armed forces must be decomposed by individualism, not class consciousness; the movement "must include workers, shopkeepers, and others who, unlike students, have their livelihoods at risk;" and "indigenous forces" must be the "prime movers" of the revolution. But these conditions are likely to be met only in cloud cuckoo land. What happens when revolutionary ideals run headlong into the real world?

Inevitably violence or the threat of it will emerge out of protests; what do we do then? Armed forces will react in a variety of ways; should they be countered by military means? Workers, shopkeepers, and others will respond differentially to democratic appeals; should they be forced into the movement for their own good? Some indigenous forces will be committed to other than democratic reform; should their interests and desires be ignored? Ledeen and Ackerman give us no guidance. They simply assume that outside support will solve all problems.

In a perfect world the people would rise up as one, overthrow the tyrants, and peacefully establish well-functioning democratic polities. But this world is far from perfect. We have already seen democratic reform movements quashed in places as disparate as China, Haiti, Belorus, and Zimbabwe. We have seen them perverted in Venezuela and Kyrgyzstan. The history of the past few centuries is replete with examples of revolutionary enthusiasms being used to justify injustices perpetrated in the service of "the greater good." The conditions outlined by Ledeen and Ackerman are unlikely to be met in many places. Are we then to simply accept the defeat or perversion of democracy, or should outside forces intervene massively to carry the revolution through to completion? I suspect, from their rhetoric, that Ledeen and Ackerman would favor the latter course.

I have read enough of Michael Excitable's work to know that he is no conservative -- nothing of the sort. He is a revolutionary ideologue, and he scares the hell out of me. His singleminded pursuit of global democratic reform blinds him to the complexity of the social and political movements he would instigate and control, as well as to the variety of human conditions and interests. He exhibits a mindset reminiscent of utopian revolutionaries from Robespierre to Pol Pot. He might not like to hear it, but a strong dose of much reviled "realism" is much in order here.

Read the article here.


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