March 8, 2005

WE put it to the test...

Publius writes:

...For Fukuyama, who is firmly in the Hegel camp, legitimacy is intricately connected to this idea of “recognition.” Liberal democracy is successful because the idea of individual rights and one-person/one-vote recognizes all people as equal. Because it recognizes everyone’s inherent dignity, it is eminently legitimate.....

...But for now, let’s say that Fukuyama is right – let's say that legitimacy is important because of this idea of recognition. If he is right, then the neocons’ unilateral march into Iraq may trigger a new wave of History so to speak. That’s because, regardless of how Iraq turns out or what you think of the war, it was essentially an illegitimate operation in the most literal sense of the word. I suppose you could try to squeeze the invasion into some hazy language from a past UN resolution. But everyone knows that the US withdrew the final resolution that actually would have authorized force because it couldn’t get enough votes.

Whether the invasion was right or wrong, the world views the American action as illegitimate. And to be honest, I don’t see any way to justify the war’s legitimacy, which is a different question from whether the war was "good." America ignored the wishes of the world. And in doing so, it failed to “recognize” the world’s common humanity. We trampled on the people of the world’s dignity because we did what we wanted to do because we could, despite what they wanted. That is how Hegelian History gets moving – those who feel wronged align against the force that wronged them. In failing to get UN approval, or the approval of any legitimacy-conferring coalition or international body, the neocons forgot one of their most basic principles – legitimacy matters...

The analogy he's making here is entirely bogus. I certainly agree that liberal democracy confers legitimacy. But then Publius, like a gazillion other people, extends this concept to the sphere of nations, and equates votes of the UN with democracy. The UN is somehow supposed to represent "the wishes of the world." This is utter malarky. To take an extreme example, Syria or China could take a turn on the Security Council, veto our invasion of Bormenia, and "The World" has spoken! Liberating Bormenia is now "illegitimate." (Of course in practice this is applied only to the US and Israel. When France sends troops somewhere no one gives a damn if it is "legitimated" by the UN.) The poor people of Bormenia get no vote--they don't matter, they're not "The People Of The World."

Yes, legitimacy matters! That's why OUR actions such as Iraq or Afghanistan, always end in ELECTIONS. We act, and then we put things to a VOTE. That's why what the United States of America and our coalitions-of-the-willing do IS legitimate, and why what the UN does is NOT legitimate.

We (and Great Britain and many brave people in Poland, etc.) were instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Was this "illegitimate?" Well, WE put it to the test. We've been pushing elections and democracy there ever since. So the people could confer or deny legitimacy, instead of a few "international" bureaucrats and diplomats. And time and time again our actions have been validated by the way the people enthusiastically embrace the freedoms and democracy we have helped provide. Where, pray tell, are the votes of the common people legitimating the actions of the UN???

It's not the US that "tramples on the people of the world’s dignity." That job is handled by the UN. It is an utterly corrupt and evil organization, dedicated to preserving the comfortable status quo for luxuriant elites. There's nothing accidental about the repeated scandals of trafficking in sex slaves and forcing children to barter sex for food. There's nothing accidental about the prodigious thievery and corruption, compared to which Global Crossing or Enron are small beans. They are the very essence of the institution, and the bloated old regimes it defends. It is EVIL. And those who repeatedly use the UN to work against the forces of freedom are participants in this evil.

I won't go so far as to say that Publius is participating in evil, but he is certainly "de-legitimizing" our language and public debate by claiming the "The World" says this and that without knowing or caring what ordinary people might say if they were allowed a vote.

There is NO way to legitimize something like the Iraq Campaign in advance. Publius writes of "the approval of any legitimacy-conferring coalition or international body." So what or who decides if a coalition is "legitimacy-conferring?" How does an "international body" gain its own legitimacy? They certainly don't get elected. (People like Publius usually seem to think that legitimacy and "multi-lateralism" are conferred by France, though they don't put it so baldly in public.) If the people of Iraq could have secretly voted in advance to either keep the Saddam/sanctions/UN status quo, or to be liberated by our coalition, does anybody have any doubt how the vote would have gone? That's LEGITIMACY, pure Fukuyama/neocon legitimacy, and no amount of fancy talk by theorists can wish it away.

Posted by John Weidner at March 8, 2005 9:19 PM
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