The Liberal Institute: Classical Liberalism and Objectivism
The Liberal Institute

Civilizing the Savages

The next time America invades some poor country like Afghanistan or Iraq in order to "bring it democracy" America should...bring it democracy. The next time the United States conquers some state for the express purpose of diminishing a terrible threat or gaining sweet revenge or liberating some dreadfully suffering nation or some such, the US should then take immense pains to do exactly what it didn't do in southwest Asia in 2002 and 2003: hold elections immediately.

Within 10 days after conquest, and no matter what, America should -- with some local assistance -- preside over a snap election to create an "emergency advisory" government. The United States should listen to and consult with this initial emergency council relatively little -- but at least then the locals will have some legitimate government input and participation.

30 days later America should revisit all these initial mini-leaders and their decisions/advice with a quick election to create a regular advisory government. Anyone from the previous group who fails to get reelected should be instantly tossed out.

60 days later the US should then hold a fairly quick election to create a "temporary" government. With each new cycle the conquered and liberated peoples should be given gradually more power and authority. No doubt they'll want even more government control and at a faster rate than that offered to them by their patron -- like any child. But they probably won't be ready for it and so shouldn't get it.

All discussion and debate of this type -- however bitter and fiery -- is natural and normal, and should be a source of healthy tension between ruler and ruled. It must be borne in mind here that all nations new to freedom and self-responsibility need to "grow up" politically over a certain period of time. This ineluctable maturation process can't be dispensed with nor wildly rushed.

120 days after the above election America should then help run a fairly normal election to create a "short term" government.

365 days later the United States should ever-so-lightly preside over a fully normal election to create a fully normal government. Then America should go home.

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To a small but important extent this whole process and the type of government created needs to be improvised. America should try to stay alert and flexible in these strange foreign countries, observing everything as it happens, and somewhat making it up as it goes along.

But mostly the US should "nation build" and "teach democracy" by modeling the new government on some hybrid version of the local traditional system and the West's historically great, pro-freedom, pro-individual rights, "separation of powers," three-branch political system. And the emphasis should be on the clearly superior Western liberal way. The one major exception to this is that the legislatures should be unicameral and small, conducive to real discussion and debate, and featuring leaders of parliament and committee chairman who are not mini-dictators (as in the US).

The great likelihood, by the way, is that none of these relatively rapid-fire elections will generate boredom or apathy on the part of the local population. On the contrary, for nations new to political liberalism all of this will probably be interesting and exciting -- if not thrilling, wondrous, and one giant ton of fun. As long as America is fairly nimble and perceptive during this transition process the potential for real nation building, and for the successful teaching of democracy, is vast.

* * *

Simultaneous to the 30-day election (i.e. 40 days after liberation) there should probably also be a separate vote for an emergency committee to draft an emergency constitution. They should complete their work no matter what within 60 days and put it to a vote. A majority "yea" would then put the new constitution into effect immediately.

Simultaneous to the 60-day election (i.e. 100 days after liberation) there should be elected a temporary committee to draft a temporary constitution. Anyone not reelected from the previous one gets unceremoniously tossed. The new committee must complete their work no matter what within 120 days. Then both it and the previous document should be put to the vote to see which the people prefer: emergency constitution, temporary constitution, or none-of-the-above. If the last, then the regular (normal) government would take up the matter later and in their own fashion.

All these foreign occupation elections should be simultaneously national and regional and local. They should feature contests for executives, legislators, and judges -- probably with the highest vote total or plurality winning (a la California's recent recall gubernatorial election). National, regional, and local military and police leaders should also be elected (a la much of America in the 1700s and early 1800s).

All people above 16 should be allowed to vote and run (except- madmen, retards, and violent criminals -- sorry guys!). This suffrage should especially include persecuted minorities and women -- no matter how dreadfully bigoted and misogynistic the local tradition. These liberal standards and procedures alone will cause the ideals of individual liberty, social equality, and universal justice to surge in the conquered nation.

And all of the above will teach democracy in the best way possible: thru practice, thru experience, via "the hard way," and at "The School of Hard Knocks." It should also teach consensus, cooperation, and unity -- and even sociability, friendship, and the brotherhood of man.

All the above will also teach freedom -- the sine qua non of politics -- since everyone equally will be allowed and encouraged to run, debate, campaign, organize, vote, etc. And all of this government participation stuff should take place with no free speech inhibitions or other freedom restrictions whatsoever during the campaigns. Anyone with a voice will be allowed to speak. Anyone who can raise the cash will be allowed to stage rallies and buy as many newspaper, magazine, radio, t'v', movie, etc. ads as he wishes. (Altho' at this delicate stage of "democracy" and "nation building" conceivably no foreigners should be allowed to volunteer, donate, campaign, advertise, etc.)

* * *

It's important to observe here that for all these elections to work out fairly well, they need to be relatively cleverly, deftly, and insightfully devised and executed. They should not be a display of locally-obtuse, culturally-ignorant, ham-handed Ugly Americanism. These elections should not be overly "politically correct" or willfully blind to various important indigenous realities.

But so long as there's a bit of intelligence and perspicacity on display from the occupying power, the elections should allow the various mini-nations, tribes, sects, special interest groups, and other assorted groups to have a clear voice and champion in government, and yet not splinter the state. A certain sagacity and delicacy on the part of the US in imposing democracy (not that America has ever shown this) will basically make people cooperate. A fairly slick arrangement will essentially force people to interact and unify intelligently, virtuously, and profitably. The campaigns should yield powerful major coalitions, yet still allow small divergent voices to be well-heard and well-represented.

It should be noted that multiple rapid elections as above avoids "the East European problem." This is the system whereby every important election is many many years apart and thus every contest basically involves a radically different socio-economic and political situation. Under East European semi-democracy and in many other "newly democratic" nations, no-one really knows what's going to happen come election time and everyone is pretty much deathly afraid. Each election is a kind of general emergency and national trauma akin to a new World War or the sudden invasion by Martians. Multiple rapid elections as above also militate heavily against the whole "one man, one vote, one time" phenomenon seen all too often in the elected tyrannies of most of Africa today.

And if five elections of various types in one-and-a-half years -- with guaranteed American-style freedom during the whole process -- still doesn't yield a quasi "Jeffersonian democracy" then the US should conclude that the culture of the conquered and liberated state just can't support, and isn't yet ready for, political liberalism. So America should leave. No doubt the US will be a bit embarrassed and chastised by all this. But the foreigners will be properly disgraced and humiliated as a juvenile or animal nation.

Almost certainly the uncivilized country will then create a new terrible dictatorship and "the people" -- the masses, the peasants, and the vulgate -- will learn a very bitter lesson and suffer a dreadful yet condign punishment. Then maybe 10 years later America will invade, conquer, and try again. Probably both sides will remember back, learn, and get it right this time!