Is it undemocratic for the US to stay in Iraq?

The American people no longer support the war, but the leadership does. The most oft-heard battle cry of the those who continue to suppor it is that we’re bringing democracy to the Iraqi people. But it isn’t undemocratic to continue the occupation if the American people no longer want it?

I humbly request this does not become another debate on whether the war/occupation is just. I just want to get your thoughts on the democracy issue. Of course I’d like to hear from all you informed Forumosans, but I’d especially like to get the opinions our illustrious fred smith and TC.



In the leadup to the war in 2003, it was estimated that 80% of Australians were opposed to the war and opposed to Aust troops being sent, yet the Aust govt sent troops anyway. They are still there. Australia actually saw some of the biggest protests ever opposing the war. I believe the UK had similar figures. Just adding this for extra discussion points.

I too would be interested in discussion as to GBH’s question.

I think more American people don’t want to pay taxes.

AFAIK, the public influences foreign policy, but doesn’t direct it. Maybe they would be able to direct it more if they weren’t armchair angry and mobilised themselves. But wasn’t that part of the conspiracy? Start an unpopular war with an oil rich nation, then jack UP the price of oil so people couldn’t get to Washington DC to protest? Ingenious!

I for one would like to see a full scale occupation of the Darfur region.

ANyway, my answer is “No.”

Well, 1st time anyone ever referred to me as “ilustrious”…and I doubt my response will be as eloquent or as well formed as Mr. Smith…but thanks.

The US military is under the command of civilians. It is not an autonomous entity that can make and implement its own foreign policy. Checks & balances and all that.
As long as the CiC, Commander in Chief issues mission orders, the DoD, Department of Defense, is required to carry out those orders.
Until such time as the US public, through their elected representatives garner the political efforts of these representatives to change the mandate for the US military, this current war in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to be pressed in its current fashion.
Previously, US military efforts have been curtailed by an opposition Congress via withholding or cutting off funding. This is one method of changing the mandate.
However this funding cut-off can also reverberate in the districts of the Congress-critters as job losses. And that doesn’t win votes.
To directly answer your question, IMO, no…it is not “undemocratic” for the USA to stay in Iraq. Quite the contrary, it is a clear expression of how the ‘democratic’ principles of the USA function.
Keep in mind a military axiom - “Amateurs plan tactics - Professionals plan logistics.”

Logistics takes funding.

My $.02.

Trade-offs inevitably have to be made between “the will of the people,” and what is practical or desirable. This is a principle much broader than the issue of Iraq and the American occupation there.

Obviously, most people would vote “yes” to lower taxes. Very likely, many of the same people would also vote “yes” to greater government services, at least for themselves. Is democracy thereby thwarted? In the classic sense, probably yes (of course, ancient Athens wouldn’t today be recognized as a democracy given the issue of slaves, women, etc.), although I admit my ignorance of Swiss politics and if anybody could manage it, it would be them.

The occupation raises another issue: is it "democratic’ for major decisions about our lives to be imposed upon us, by people we have no control over? The U.S. president is elected by Americans, but affects the world. Is that fair? For that matter, we could say the same about Microsoft. (Is Socialism necessary for democracy, or would this do irreparable harm to language?)

A major issue of democracies is that of demarcating the boundaries of the electorate. For example, consider the Tibet issue. If Jesus comes back and decides to resolve the Tibet issue democratically, who gets to vote? Only Tibetans? Tibetans plus Chinese living in Tibet? All Chinese? Other interested parties? Everybody? I don’t see how Jesus could possibly decide the issue on principle. Is it “democratic” for a less populous group to be forcibly absorbed by a more populous one which can always outvote them? Or would it be better to entrench minority rights, even if that results in a “dictatorship” by privileged minorities? Not infrequently, political entities frame political boundaries with the intention of producing the result they desire. In Iraq, for example, various political parties want the country to be a unitary state; divided into three multi-province regions; divided into five multi-province regions; or partitioned outright.

Democracies are not run by opinion polls. We have elections for our Congress every two years (for representatives), every four for presidents and governors and every six for Senators. These are the opportunities when people can weigh in on major issues. Policies should never be subjected to the day-to-day fluctuations of how people “feel” about a major issue or initiative. Ultimately, what I am saying is that NO it is not undemocratic to continue to fight this war because it has become unpopular.

I think the thing to look at is whether there’s anything procedurally undemocratic going on here. By that I would look at such things as rigged elections/legislative votes, unbalanced redistricting plans, bribery of key persons, etc. There have of course, been allegations of such things, but I don’t think any of the things alleged are responsible for us being in Iraq. Being subject to the will of the people is a strong point of democracy, but reacting quickly to said will…not so much.

I agree on all those points and note as you have said that despite the many allegations nothing has come of any of them.

Oh, that’s another one. Is it “undemocratic” for a politician to get his way by lying or exaggerating?

(That’s a bit like asking if it counts as rape if a man lies about whether he is married, or how much money he makes.)


Thanks for the informed replies. I agree with fred’s comments that countries should not be run by opinion polls, but personally I take a bit more of a “delegate” rather than “trustee” approach to how I think elected leaders should act. That’s not an absolute and I think there should be a balance, but in general I want elected leaders to respond to the will of the people. In the case of Iraq, the polls have shown a steady and growing opposition to the occupation. But I’m going to contradict myself here because I think it would be a complete disaster if we ever leave Iraq, regardless of the anti-war feelings of the American people. All they know if they don’t want our guys getting injured or killed, and they don’t want to spend any more money in Iraq. But they don’t understand that by leaving it is very possible an Iranian style Islamist state could arise, and that would be horrible for the region, horrible for Israel, and horrible for the world. But the cost of staying means billions of dollars, a couple hundred American GIs killed a month plus several hundred injuries. They can’t see past that.

Screaming Jesus,

You made some very interesting points as usual. It’s good to have you back.


Thanks Gao, you too.

I haven’t seen anything democratic about the war. It was undemocratic to begine with so why would it be any different now? We, and I mean the U.K.S.A havent seen a proper working democracy for some time.

At what point would you say democracy broke down? And what would we have to do to become democratic again? (Have free and fair elections? Stop politicians from lying? What?)

A democratic govment is representative of the people. So if the people are numbnuts, then…well, you get the picture.

It’s been a hell of a ride.

A democratic govment is representative of the people. So if the people are numbnuts, then…well, you get the picture.

It’s been a hell of a ride.[/quote]

I think this is partially true, but if the people are dumb enough to fail to recognize the falling of democracy, then all is lost. Lies, propaganda, a failing education system have pretty much robbed the U.S of democracy from what I can tell and the U.K? I have no idea what people are thinking. At least in the U.K. there was little support for the war in the first place, but they seemed to simply let it go on anyway. I think in this extreme case civil disobedience is a must, but people have become so accustomed to being told that disobedience is only a bad thing that they fail to respond in the appropriate manner. Perhaps the sheeple are too afraid these days as stability is the only way to maintain the impossible burden of debt that sheeple have put themselves in. People are scared these days of big brother bankers and government policies, it’s no wonder that they so quickly bow their heads, suck it up and carry on.

I think it’s interesting how in Australia and apparently the UK, most citizens were against the war from the beginning, and yet their leaders pressed on anyways. When the war began, 70% of Americans were in favor of it.

If 80% of Australians were really against the invasion, then I’d say there was a serious breakdown of democracy there. Even if there was no technical corruption of procedural democracy as redandy mentioned, I think that is a serious disconnect.

I wonder if there are situations where a democratic government has the right to blatantly act against the wishes of the people. Even if the government is doing the right thing (in whatever instance), I don’t think that government can really say it holds legitimacy from a democratic point of view any longer.

I wonder if perhaps people give less of a damn about the very place they live in as it has become very convenient for many to save up, pack up and be off to somewhere sunny. It’s perhaps not quite so much like days of old when we were a little more xenophobic and proud, also with a pinch of unrest after years of oppression from church and state. Indeed we have had it easy for some time now and through the Game Boy years, through the Saturn years and now well into the 360 generation, reality sucks more and more and has almost become an irritable albeit acceptable norm much the same as Taiwan traffic. With too many distractions to list, politics takes a back seat in most people’s minds unless stuck for conversation and a bit of a steam off at the bar, in which case we luster in our arm chairs all knowingly spouting our mind’s worth for deaf ears and careless minds to care less. Some of us take things half a step forward with marches and banner waving sessions to prove our half intentions to make things better, but more so to allow ourselves the comfort of thinking “Oh well, at least I tried.” Meanwhile the suits in Whitehall sip lemonade and snort cocaine, behind their soundproof, bulletproof windows whilst putting the finishing touches to their shiny new voting machines …

There is only one way to make a wake up call if you ask me, but don’t include me 'cos I’m not willing to pay the price.

Even though 80% of Australians were opposed to the war, they still went and re-elected the govt a year or so later.

If the U.S. were a democracy we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I think most people have so little understanding of the concept of self-government that they fear the very notion and prefer the comfort of self-delusion instead – the collective delusion that we actually control our national destiny rather than preferring to leave it to the ‘experts’ to handle. So what if they fuck it up royally? At least it’s not as bad as we’d do if we were running things ourselves.

In the former Workers’ Paradise, its inmates at least had the sense to clearly realize their predicament which they immortalized with the words: ‘we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.’

If Americans had any sense they’d insist the following be emblazoned over every public building until further notice: “They pretend to represent us and we pretend to be represented.”

That’s just the way it is.