About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Iraq has a constitution, good. But is it democracy?

Despite allegations of fraud, the new Iraqi constitution has been approved, moving the country a step further away -- hopefully – from the current chaos. This is probably good news (though not quite as good as the Bush administration would like to portray the situation), but the obvious question hasn't really been asked by most people: is this democracy?

Considering that the constitution for the new Iraq has been changed up to almost the last minute, that the level of accessibility to unbiased information in the country isn't great for obvious logistical (and in part cultural) reasons, and that most people have not been able to read the document, can we count this as a triumph of democracy? Only in minimal part. A majority of Iraqi clearly want some constitution, presumably reflecting the hope that this is a necessary step towards a true democracy or, more modestly, away from the daily bombings and random violence. Let's hope these latter minimal objectives will be reached soon, but Democracy (with the capital D) is a long way off. Then again, that institution hasn't been faring particularly well even in the United States in recent years, so what right do we have to expect it to make giant leaps in war-devastated Iraq?


  1. I share your perspective that most voters likely had no idea specifically what they were voting for. How could they when changes were made at the last minute? In addition, the distribution of preliminary drafts for public review was inadequate even before the changes were made.(Of course, most in the United States fail to understand the issues on which they vote.) I also found it interesting that two of the three proviences in which a 2/3 no vote would nullify the constitution did actually reach such a majority and the third was 55% no. Plenty of trouble ahead!

    That said, I am hopeful for the Iraqi people. This may be a small step in reducing the chaos of their daily lives.

  2. Although the new constitution should be a good sign, I'm not very optimistic about the situation there, because I think democracy is something that has to be achieved from within the society, and not imposed and forced by an invading power. Maybe post WWII Japan was an exception? Well, I don't know enough of that history to judge it.

    Anyway, democracy is part of culture, and significant cultural changes are slow, I guess. It may hopefully come a day in our life times when we'll see a Middle Eastern democracy (besides Israel).


  3. To claim that Iraq is a democracy, or that it is remotely close to being a democracy is ludicrous. They had to close the borders, shut down travel within the country - the cities were armed camps (with Americans setting up and guarding polling places). The country was in lockdown for several days just to hold an election - this is not democracy - it is just another pipedream being passed off as reality by the Bush administration

  4. Do they even want a democracy, or a republic?

  5. Do they even want a democracy, or a republic?

    Good question, what do they want? My humble opinion is that they want to be something like Iran (maybe even join them? no, too much) - but they have to pretend they don't, with US forces and influence still there. But I'm not specially geopoliticaly savvy, so I might be saying BS. My opinion anyway, I'll be glad to be hear arguments to the contrary.


    PS - I don't know exactly what you mean "democracy OR republic". These two things are not mutually exclusive.


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