View Full Version : Freedom or Democracy--Which Comes First?

12-02-05, 06:33 AM
Freedom or Democracy--Which Comes First?
Written by Lee Ellis
Friday, December 02, 2005

Strident debate seems to rage today about freedom versus democracy. Some seem to think America should be fighting for and attempting to establish freedom in the Middle East, especially Iraq, as opposed to establishing democracy.

To me, freedom is simply the result one can gain from a democracy or a representative republic. There has never been much freedom granted under any other type of government.

If we do not fight for democracy, we deny any opportunity of freedom in the future. Without democracy, dictatorship or oligarchy is likely. And, history shows, the granting of freedom(s) under autocracies is the exception rather than the rule.

A democracy or a republic is simply the gateway to freedom; it never guaranties freedom. But no other form of government offers such a gateway. Whether people choose to use the gateway depends on their own personal will and desire for freedom. It is a choice people make and pursue—as did the founding fathers of this country.

This is important especially because the establishment of democracy opens up the possibility for freedoms to flow where they have been denied.

When our American democracy was founded, for instance, no women had the privilege of voting. They waited more than 100 years to have that right institutionally recognized. Women were denied the vote in the United States until the required number of states ratified the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. Should we have forgotten the idea of becoming a democracy back in the late 1700s or early 1800s because our women were not free? No. In fact, I believe it is democracy that brought women the freedom to vote, not vice versa. That is, while women should never have been denied the right to vote, the establishment of democracy was a necessary first move in making that freedom available—just as democracy was necessary to secure the vote for non-property owners, just as it was necessary as a pre-cursor to the abolition of slavery.

Amy Kellogg of Fox News recently reported from Iran that people under 30 in that country are already expressing the need for democracy and freedom. As they take over the future, the Iranian government will be changed and freedom as well as democracy will flourish there, too—unless the current autocracy finds some way to continue to stifle it.

I think that as the desire for both democracy and freedom grow in Iraq and Iran, other Middle East countries are going to see the necessary changes that we saw in the growth of American liberty. All of this will have been ignited from the spark that set Iraq free, thanks to the Bush doctrine.

The only thing that will stop both democracy and freedom from developing in the Middle East will be the encouragement that Zarqawi and his Islamic terrorists keep getting from our main-line media and the left wing of the Democrat party. With this kind of Vietnamization of this war, we cannot only lose all chance of seeing freedom and democracy in the Middle East. Indeed, we might even see it lost here in America with our country becoming, in the future, another European socialist one with the same Islamic problems as are currently being seen in France and Spain.

Not all people like a democracy or the potential freedom offered by such, because it can deny power to those leaders who are corrupt and who look at any form of government as their own private enterprise calculated to give them immense power and wealth. We see this happening in many countries today.

Freedom takes time to grow. A democracy or a republic simply provides the fertile ground for the seed of freedom to flourish and sprout. Even after it takes root and spreads rapidly, there are still many willing to stomp it back into the ground.

We see this happening in this country today as some American leaders put power, ego, and wealth above what is best for America. After the president gave an inspiring speech assuring our nation that we would prevail in defeating the terrorism that continues to threaten us, people like John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, and Harry Reid quickly delivered messages of defeat to the world on national television, giving hope, once again, to those who want to see our efforts fail in the Middle East and the War on Terror.

Just as we cannot plant a tree and see it grow without the correct soil, weather, and nourishment, we cannot plant the seeds of democracy and freedom in the Middle East unless our own country maintains its role as a model of success and freedom for all to observe and copy. When democracies die, so does freedom. We had better fully plant and nurture this tree of Democracy in Iraq. Our lives and those of our grandchildren may depend on it.

About the Writer: Lee Ellis is a retired journalist and a former vice president of both CBS and Gannett. He resides in Indio, California, where he writes op-eds that appear in several local newspapers. Lee receives e-mail at indiolee@dc.rr.com.