Thursday, April 06, 2006

Criticism Of Pastorius


A guy whose opinion I very much respect sent me the following email:


About your recent blogging, I was kinda sad to see how down you've been on Afghanistan recently.. of course I understand and agree with the outrage, but (here's my 2 cents) it seems to me that times like this are when Glenn Reynolds's wise dictum "democracy is a process, not an event" really come into play. We can say Afghanistan is a "failure" because of the apostate case, because the apostate case is/was definitely an injustice. But doesn't that set up an impossible standard for democratizing countries whereby we must erase every injustice or it's a "failure"?

You can say "well we did it in Japan" etc., but

(1) no, of course we didn't erase every injustice in Japan,

and

(2) to the extent that we *were* able to impose a decent society on them, it was because we devastated them with the nukes & then had an imposing occupation force.

Similar with Germany.

But in this case we are simply not able to spare the troops & cost to occupy Afghanistan to that extent. (And devastating them would be counterproductive...)

The fact of the matter is that Afghanistan is now a democratic republic (however flawed), and the good news is that killing (even prosecuting) a person for apostasy is, by any logical reading, unconstitutional under the Afghan constitution. But (absent the willingness/ability to put the entire society under our boot and issue their constitutional rulings ourselves) we're going to have to let *them* come to that conclusion (because it's their institutions that will have to do the enforcing, or not). And that's the "process" part.

Apparently, they have not come to that conclusion yet. That's too bad, in fact it's shameful and wrong. That judge is *wrong*, those prosecutors are *wrong*, to allow prosecution of apostates, and of course it's depressing that no decent voices in Afghanistan's institutions have seen fit to stand up and point that out. But neither did we come to the conclusion that slavery was wrong, for decades. That doesn't mean the US "not a democracy" or a "failure" during that time. It had the *engine* for change/improvement, which is the important thing. And now, Afghanistan does too.

That doesn't mean I'm saying we can kick back and say "whatever happens it's all cool". Democracy is a process!

Notice that part of that process is international pressure on them to improve their institutions. You (I think it was you?) lamented that it required international pressure to help save that guy. Actually, that was a good development. The government of Afghanistan is (at least to some extent) amenable to international pressure!

Wow! Isn't that good?

When they are doing something objectively evil, we can and should shame them. If it were still the Taliban in power, of course, they wouldn't care less. But now....I guess I'm saying, you've become far more pessimistic than me. It's made for good blogging on your part, but makes me kinda sad.


Often, my readers are more reasonable than me.