One of the interesting features about political debates is that often there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. The march of events can create new coalitions and end old alliances. Case in point: Andrew Bacevich. A retired military officer he was long a favorite of the Left during the Bush administration due to his strong criticism of our interventions in the Middle East. I doubt if the Left is singing his praises now:
Politics is always fraught with hypocrisy. Yet the hypocrisy on daily display in London and Washington of late has become difficult to stomach. This is especially so when it emanates from quarters that otherwise do not hesitate to chastise other governments for failing to honor democratic principles.
In a recent op-ed denouncing Brexit, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote, “A democracy that cannot change its mind is not a democracy.” Let’s unpack that. What Cohen really means is this: when a democracy comes to a decision of which I disapprove, there’s always room for a do-over, yet when decisions win my approval, they become permanent and irreversible. So just because Americans elected a president who promised to withdraw from NATO and overturn Roe v. Wade doesn’t mean that such possibilities qualify as worthy of consideration. NATO membership is forever. So, too, are abortion rights.
It is no doubt true that the United Kingdom and the United States are democracies, with the people allowed some say. But to be more precise, they are curated democracies, with members of an unelected elite policing the boundaries of acceptable opinion and excluding heretics. Members of this elite are, by their own estimation, guardians of truth and good sense. They know what is best.
But what if the elites get things wrong? What if the policies they promulgate produce grotesque inequality or lead to permanent war? Who then has the authority to disregard the guardians, if not the people themselves? How else will the elites come to recognize their folly and change course?
Go here to read the rest. It brings to mind the poem of Brecht: