Taking heart
February 27, 2006 (as amended)

...and it should come as no surprise to Bush and Blair, wading as they impudently did into the cradle of human civilisation, minus even a legal footing as figleaf, that they are to learn one of civilisation's oldest lessons: Mind Your Own Business (and no-one else's). But - in what one day may be seen as inevitable as they were accidental - Bush and Blair's actions have actually produced some positive outcomes, somewhere, somehow.

Their acts have assured one thing at least - that idiocy as a foreign policy will be held in low esteem for generations to come. With time, laws may be passed that make such acts more difficult, or indeed impossible. Following the passage of each great constitutional crisis in history surely comes a law here, a law there that would have headed those crises off, if they had been enacted first. This is how constitutional law and policy has evolved over the centuries - it is the level-headed response to idiocy in power. It's not perfect, and we must accept that we live in an evolving system that is how it is, during the time we live in it. However it is older than all of us, and will outlive all of us as well. The job of our parliaments is to make the law here, the law there that is appropriate for our time. And some of these processes have already begun.

The mess that is now Iraq will provide for all future generations a textbook example of why using force to solve problems is a bad idea. The people who said it was a bad idea before it even started are now emboldened, and their wisdom has earned them respect. These people are thus becoming more influential, a fact which will sow solid pro-peace sentiment amongst the deepest of grassroots.

The mess that is now Iraq has also exposed the ineptitude, impotence and irrelevance of not only the Republican Party, but American hegemony as a whole. This will permit homegrown democratic institutions to flourish, again, not just in America but globally. American hegemony has been propping up tinpot dictators all over the world for decades, favouring American business interests over the interests of the local people, the environment and ultimately the global economy. The ending of these arrangements cannot come soon enough; that American business interests were instrumental in their demise is fitting.

Also being revealed is America's polygamous maintenance of "special relationships" with foreign countries. Like a cheating husband with an insatiable desire for behind-the-scenes action, America keeps each of its "client states" such as the UK and Australia close by suggesting they might somehow benefit, if they just assist the US in its latest imperialist endeavour. And like naive yet faithful wives, the client states tag along, not realising they are just one of many, falling for the same lines, swallowing the same excuses. Every country thinks it has a "special relationship" with the US - but this is just American seduction, and an age-old ruse used by two-timers everywhere. As "the war on terror" (TWOT) has unfolded, the inequities in these relationships have become increasingly apparent. The failure of the US invasion of Iraq, and subsequent redistribution of global power, is causing these client states to restructure their "special relationships". America's carefully woven web of duplicity is unravelling.

Case in point I: Blair's ID Card legislation bounced back and forth between the lower and upper houses of parliament for months. This is clearly a bug in the system. Australia's constitution treats this behaviour as a trigger for a dissolution of both houses of parliament and the holding of a general election, as it is symptomatic of an undecided electorate. However, the UK "patches" this bug with the controversial Parliament Acts, which the lower house can use to force legislation into law without the consent of the upper house. This is an arbitrary, undemocratic way of resolving the problem. The situation is additionally confounded by the fact that the UK's upper house is unelected in any case, another wantonly undemocratic feature of the UK parliamentary system.

Case in point II: Blair's Labour government was elected to power despite gaining less than 40% of the vote. This again is a clear anomaly, and has been used to support arguments for the introduction of preferential voting. The UK's system is positively creaking with age; its historical anachronisms undermine its purpose and its effectiveness, and leave the UK vulnerable to unscrupulous politicians and external manipulation.

Bush and Blair also seem to have inadvertently caused a spread of "critical thinking", where actual outcomes are compared against projected outcomes. Certainly, Bush and Blair's actions have destabilised world politics and increased the risk of terrorism, outcomes opposite to those they claimed. Judged with their own yardsticks, their policies have failed. This has opened people's eyes to systemic hypocrisy, and with these eyes, they will now examine other government policies. This is a tragedy for the establishment, which relies on a trusting, uninformed populace - and a certain victory for democracy.

There is also without question a powerful rise in interest in constitutional reform. The shallow, cynical systems that pass themselves off as western democracies have been exposed; this will cause change. Many people are speaking of the importance of the separation of powers, and how they might be more separated than they are currently. Additional checks and balances are being suggested. Reforming the process and funding of elections, and the funding of parties have been mentioned. Indeed a whole host of reforms have been proposed, some of them by extremely influential people including the authors of the recently issued Power Report. Again, this is a victory for democracy.

History, in its vicious, unpredictable, and beautifully poetic way, has served the West a dose of the very thing it was claiming to export. Rather than "spreading democracy" abroad, Bush and Blair's actions are strengthening democracy at home.

Admittedly this trend is more prominent in Europe than in America; but democracy has proved a resilient creature, over the millenia, and it's simply more probable that the trend will spread to America as well. That's just the way things have turned out in the past, and it seems likely that's just the way things will turn out now.

This is remarkable and unexpected, and is a source of pleasure and hope. It is diabolical, however, that it took the lives of so many Iraqis, the lives of "coalition" troops, the lives of many journalists, the smashing of a country, and the destruction of heritage we all share to achieve these minor modifications to our democracies. The forces that shape our systems do not require, and do not appreciate, the "shock and awe" of Bush and Blair's adventures. "Shock and awe" sounds like terrorism to me, it's just three words instead of one - the intent is the same. These are crimes.

When will they pay?

PS. Don't worry that various laws passed by Bush and Blair are rolling back the freedoms we enjoy. Any law that is made can be unmade. It's just a law - governments do this all the time to create loopholes for their mates. They will get kicked out of office soon. Then we can set about rolling back their rollbacks. It's not a big deal. Once upon a time we were all serfs. Slowly, parliamentary democracy took root. It is an unquenchable fire, the desire to be free - its power resulted in the democracies we until recently enjoyed, and its power will result in those democracies again.