Preparing for democracy's nasty surprises

Supplanting democracy in place of dictatorship appears to be one of the cornerstones of current US/UK foreign policy. But, argues Geoffrey Wheatcroft, if you do that you must be ready for a few nasty surprises. He cites the collapse of the ‘moderate middle’ in Northern Ireland, and the victory of the extremes.

  • Everything Ulster (formerly Beano)

    Congratulations Northern Ireland, you’re an example to the world on how not to do it.

  • smcgiff

    Yeah, Beano,

    But there’s nothing in there you didn’t know already! 😉

  • vespasian

    The question in Northern Ireland is why people have been driven to the extremes?

    Could it be because they were lied to by Blair and friends and both sides thought they were getting something that they weren’t

    E.g. Unionists thought there were getting an end to terrorism and Nationalists thought they were getting a United Ireland.

    Terrorism/gangsterism has remained and after the last census it became obvious that a United Ireland was not anywhere close and may never happen.

    That is the problem with a document with lots of grey areas, after a time those grey areas become either solid black or solid white as they have done in the case of the GFA.

    Ambiguity is no friend of democracy it has polarised Northern Ireland even more than before.

    So don’t blame the people, blame the politicians who have cheated on them for the last 8 years.

  • lámh dearg

    “blame the politicians who have cheated on them for the last 8 years.”

    8 years?

    80 more like.

  • mickhall

    Supplanting democracy in place of dictatorship appears to be one of the cornerstones of current US/UK foreign policy.

    Posted by Mick fealty.


    I hate to be rude, but what you have written above is absolute nonsense, far from the actual introduction of democracy being the cornerstone of US foreign policy, (forget the Brits they are no more than a poodle of Bush on this issue) what they have been doing is introducing the sham appearance of democracy for the benefit of us poor saps, the world wide TV audience. Remember the TV pictures of the mass crowds pulling down the statue of Saddam in Baghdad’s main Square, it was only when a photo of this event was published weeks later, we saw that it was a US PsyOps unit fix and the mass crowd was less than 100 souls, who were surrounded and protected by an equal number of US armed troops.

    If you doubt this is all a sham democracy, why is there still no government in Iraq, the Shia parties won the election by a large margin yet the US occupation forces are insisting upon a government to their liking, democracy in action George Bush style. How anyone can believe a man such as George Bush and his cronies had good intentions should remember this bunch were prepared to fix a US presidential election and thus would not give a fig about doing the same to an over seas election. Indeed some of these people have spent a lifetime doing just that, Mr Negroponte springs to mind who has a long track record in south Vietnam, Central America and the middle east of doing just this.

    The fact is all those so called democratic revolutions we have seen on our TV screens took as their template the over throw of the RUMANIAN DICTATOR NICOLAE CEAUSESCU. Far from the will of the people being the main instrument it was a conspiracy between US intelligence plus the German/UK and Russian services and the local intellegence service/political elites. All these coups/democratic revolutions all have common threads, the economic system remains in place after the event, thus the people with power have little to fear and more often than not, bar the tiny top elite remain in power. The Geo politics of the region are rarely altered without prior approval by the great powers, when this has been attempted it either ends in failure or chaos, Iraq/Lebonon are examples. Plus of course an abundance of national flags on display, more often than not being waved by students whose palms have been crossed by US intelligence fronts.

    The recent ‘democratic revolutions’ in Ukraine and Lebanon are very indicative of the above and incidentally in the latter case, once again showed US intelligence has little idea about the middle east. They thought they had it all sewn up in Lebanon, unfortunately for them they over looking two important facts, a large part of the Maronite community lower down the food chain does very well out of the Syrian presence. Indeed without it they would have become history, as it was the Syrian army which saved there bacon during the civil war; and more importantly the US forgot to invite the Shia’s to the party, repeating the mistake they have made in Iraq i.e. believing as these people only represent the wretched of the earth, they can be sidelined. In Lebanon the two main Shia Parties, Amal and Hezbollah are passionately supported by the overwhelming majority of Shia’s and in the case of Hezbollah, by many economically less well off Sunnis Muslim and Palestinian refugee’s. And rightly so as this organisation does some magnificent work providing education, health care and jobs to this community, yet all our media can see are terrorists which is rubbish, echoes of NI here.

  • slackjaw


    Excellent points.

    Mick F,

    In light of the above post, I suggest you reword your introduction to read:

    Appearing to supplant democracy in place of dictatorship is one of the cornerstones of current US/UK foreign policy.

  • George

    Just a thought,
    maybe there never was a moderate middle in Northern Ireland and what we have now is what was always the case only now the population can show it.

    After all, prior to the GFA the DUP and UUP joined forces to fight the “hated” Anglo-Irish Agreement as well as supporting the Orange Order in Drumcree.

    The SDLP for their part refused to recognise the RUC as the legitimate police force of Northern Ireland and stood aside when Bobby Sands ran in 1981.

    unusual to hear someone mention the good work Hamas do in Lebanon and the PA.

  • mickhall

    Just a thought,
    maybe there never was a moderate middle in Northern Ireland and what we have now is what was always the case only now the population can show it.

    posted by George.


    You make a really excellent point, perhaps it is no bad thing these days people feel they can express their political beliefs more openly. I wonder if the political views of the DUP and SF are that extreme, difficult to be reconciled yes, but extremist? IM not so sure. I was once told by the wife of an UUP leader that in private her husbands views were little different from Dr Paisley. IM sure if one takes away the armed struggle, the same could be said for many members of the SDLP vis a vis Mr Adams.

  • Alan McDonald

    As an American (albeit a liberal Democrat), let me jump on this (probably accurate but still very) cynical bus. I sincerely believe tht no one really wants a level playing field or a truly democratic process; what they want is a result that protects/promotes their own well being.

    I hoped that the GFA would provide a space for what we used to call “brotherhood” to grow. I hoped that enlightened self interest would replace the zero sum mentality. I certainly had no reason to hope for this, but that is how hope works.

    Needless to say, I also hoped that we would have defeated Geroge W Bush in the last election. Wrong again. All I can see is people voting for what they perceive to be their best interests or at least for the side that will do them the least amount of harm.

  • Belfast Gonzo


    Because of the inherently tribal nature of the Agreement, do you not think that it will alway send up as a zero-sum game here, because, as a couple of others here have suggested, everyone wants a ‘win’?

    Is tribal competition not entrenched by the GFA?

    My biggest fear is that Alan McDonald is right.

  • New Yorker

    Dear Mick,

    Thank you for your excellent 12:48 posting. I agree with nearly all you say. The big question many Americans who disagree with the invasion of Iraq have is – why did Bush really do it? Initially some thought to secure the oil flow, but after much discussion, there are major problems with that theory. The amateur psychiatrists think he did it because his father never finished the job. I tend to think he did it because he believed the neocon claptrap. But what do you and others think was the real reason for the Iraq invasion?

  • Alan McDonald

    New Yorker,

    My first thought on the reason W invaded Iraq is that he could. He needed to show that he could crush somebody, even if it wasn’t Osama.

    I remember reading a story about the wife of one of the NYFD firemen killed on 9/11. The night we started “shock and awe” one of her husband’s fellow firefighters came to her house and joyously announced that we (the USA) were paying back her husband’s killers. She was shocked and disgusted by the man’s stupidity, but he was representative of the American voters.

    Just as Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and invaded Grenada just to flex his muscles and prove his leadership, W invaded Iraq because he could.

  • New Yorker

    Dear Alan,

    You make a good point: He did it because he could get away with it. And, he has so far, in terms of the 2004 election. In relation to the invasion of Grenada and the traffic controllers, the Iraqi invasion has already claimed tens or hundreds of thousands of lives. Then again, a reporter on the Jon Stewart show last night had a piece on the enormity of his balls. And, also, you don’t worry about history when you don’t read books. I remember Vietnam and the protests, which had a real impact. We’re long overdue for similar activities.

  • Alan McDonald

    New Yorker,

    To get back to why this thread is here, I agree with earlier comments that, if democracy produces anti-American results, the USA will ignore or subvert them. Most recently we ignored Arafat as the elected leader of the PA, and in the ’70’s we subverted the elected government of Alliende in Chile.

  • IJP


    Good points all.

    The challenge for us in Alliance is to show that although single-community politics appears to be in the voters’ interests, in fact it most certainly isn’t.

    Politics based on the common good, at least here in NI, are in all our self-interests…

  • factfinder

    There are two Presidents of the US, the elected (by skullduggery first time)President and George Bush Snr who is the real boss. he has held power in US first as head of CIA for 8years then as Vice President for 8 years(do you seriously think ronald reagon was in charge) then President four years and now reincarnated in his son(do you seriously think JWB is in charge)with all his old cronies back in office 8 years later.
    During those 8 years Clinton had no control of the senate or congress so was pretty powerless as far as foreign policy was concerned.

  • Davros

    The events in the USA over the past few years are one of the few powerful arguments for the British Monarchy 😉

  • factfinder

    It would be a good idea to send the British Royal Family to USA. Firstly to punish them naughty yanks and secondly so the UK can be democratic.

  • Davros

    I think an awful lot of Americans would think it an improvement – it’s a great idea as long as we don’t have to take your President in return 😉

  • factfinder

    And thirdly so that the tabloids will have nothing to write about,go out of business, then everyon can read serious papers that will make people think with their brains and not catch misleading headlines as they wander from ‘page 3’ to ‘Sports’ section.

  • factfinder

    Which president? the real one or the clown?

  • Davros

    The clown would be harmless without the men behind him. We are well used to clowns LOL

  • factfinder

    Them clowns have a nasty bite when your ‘on one’.

  • aquifer

    “Behind all this is a deeper problem. Democracy is implicitly founded on the belief that electorates will act responsibly and rationally”

    above from the Geoffrey Wheatcroft article

    The NI electorate is acting at least rationally. Until the GFA settlement has had the details settled, or until after the NIO push through a veto-free working version, it makes sense to vote for your maximal British or Irish Nationalist position.

    The Brits, probably nervous about Canary Wharf style regressions, have tried to be hands off and to accommodate all the disparate demands of the extremists.

    Amazingly this may even be working, exposing the contradictions that were always an integral part of the military adventurist provo project. The Provos were going to have to have the Brits coerce the Prods on the basis of their unreasonableness, or perhaps to insist that the Brits repress the SF terrorist wing again to keep their outdated politics on life support. If Prods at least act reasonable and accomodate republicans constitutionally, and the Brit oppressors twiddle their thumbs or stick to prosecuting obvious criminality, the Provos could be in trouble in time. Although with a sectarian split media, their magical hypnotic victimhood mantra, and historic Houdini powers, who knows.

    National co-determination on an island basis cannot not easy after pissing off a million of the inhabitants and threatening the state governing another three and a half million though. Oh, and the island, like Cuba, is in a pond supervised by a superpower.

    We just cannot stop watching Houdini, but he must fear those kidney punches from his adoring fans.