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Messy Democracy


Reluctant to blame the American troops for the failure to win the peace in Iraq, Democrats, when they’re not attacking the Bush Administration, will often point the finger at the Iraqi government: “If the Iraqis don’t get their act together, then we should pull out,” they’ll say.

But if we Americans all looked in the mirror, we’d see that our own government doesn’t look so effective. And our political factions are as vitriolic as the Sunnis and Shiites, minus the blowing-things-up, of course.

A recent survey of Iraqis found that the Iraqi people are losing faith in the democratic process and its ability to get things done. It’s, admittedly, not one of the regime’s strong points. As they said, Mussolini, a fascist, got the trains to run on time! Iraqis are by and large pessimistic about the availability of electricity, clean water, schools, medical services, police protection and so on.

While most Iraqis think things will get better in the future, they’re evenly split when it comes to their confidence in the central government. One thing most all can agree on – 94% at least – is that separation along sectarian lines is a bad thing.

Looking at the United States, however, I have to say that, when it comes to building infrastructure and getting things done, we’re not much better off than the Iraqis. The only difference is we’re not shooting each other. Government inaction and delay is a problem at every level.

When was the last time Congress passed a bill which the President signed? It’s been more than three months…and the last bill another two months before that! Despite promises to pass a whole agenda of bills within the first 100 working hours of the new Congress, nearly one hundred days in not one bill has hit the President’s desk and some Senators have the gall to say that the Al Maliki government can’t get its act together!

Ask the people of New Orleans how well the reconstruction is coming along after Hurricane Katrina – I’d imagine they’d be as optimistic as the Iraqis if not less so!

Oh, and just try building critical infrastructure in the United States. Twenty-seven years after Los Angeles voters chose to tax themselves to invest in a public transit system, only 30% of what was promised has been delivered.

Think your company wants to build a landfill to take waste from the nation’s second-largest city? Only if you go through a decade or more of contentious public hearings… In Los Angeles, BFI has been trying to get permits for the Sunshine Canyon landfill since the 1990′s

Want to build an off-shore facility to import natural gas to meet California’s growing need? Prepare for the ire of Hollywood who not only thinks it owns the beach in Malibu, but also the ocean!

My point is that, well, Democracy is messy. If you want to get things done – here or in Iraq – then choose another for of government. But if you believe that the people are sovereign and government derives its power from them, then you’ve got to be ready to get dirty as things work themselves out.
Given Americans’ rapidly-declining confidence in our own Congress, maybe we should bolster Iraqi confidence by showing them that we’re just as frustrated here in the States.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 9:23 AM | Permalink

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