Jonah Goldberg

When looting beset Baghdad in 2003, then-Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld shrugged "freedom is untidy," as if rioting is part and parcel of democracy (a view shared by some on the hard left in America, by the way). That was the height of nonsense and sent exactly the wrong message. Rioting and looting scares those democracy needs most: the hard-working entrepreneurial middle class. Historically, democracy arrives when the bourgeoisie gets big and strong enough to demand honest government. The very poor often like demagogues (just look at Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez), and the very rich don't care much about fighting against corruption or for accountable government because in unfree societies they tend to profit from both.

It's the small businessman, the shopkeeper or tradesman, who wants to feel secure in his property and contracts. He wants to know, as Lindsey Graham says, that he can get a fair shake from a judge. If, down the road, he gets to vote for his preferred politician, that's wonderful. But it's not the first priority.

In Iraq, security isn't merely the most important thing, it's the only thing. Without security, nothing else is possible. "The good society is marked by a high degree of order, justice and freedom," Russell Kirk wrote in The Roots of American Order. "Among these, order has primacy: For justice cannot be enforced until a tolerable civil social order is attained, nor can freedom be anything better than violence until order gives us laws."

Which is why Democratic talk about how "political solutions" are more necessary than military ones and President Bush's ornate rhetoric about the "universality of freedom" are so irrelevant, even counterproductive. The Arab world doesn't have a great grasp of what democracy is, but it does have a keen sense of justice and order. One significant reason we're having such trouble selling Iraqis on the former is that they were really in the market for the latter.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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