Why do most westerners believe in liberal democracy? Why do the vast majority of us believe that the best form of government requires competitive open elections, divided powers, independent judiciaries, a free press and all the other common attributes of modern democracy? Most of us would assert that we do so because we believe that liberal democracies systematically make more wise and humane decisions than do other types of government.
If most of us think this way, however, why does a significant segment of the Left in the West always argue that in any conflict between a liberal democracy and some form of autocracy the liberal democracy deserves most of the blame?
If leftists really believed in democracy they would default to the democracy in every conflict. Occasionally, of course, the democracy would be at fault but democracies would not make poor decisions systematically. The events by which the Left could lay blame at the feet of the democracy would be comparatively rare. Yet we see the opposite pattern throughout the 20th century and into the current day.
Before Hitler attacked Stalin, the Left held that WWII resulted from the corrupt social and economic order of the West in general. They asserted that both the democratic allies and the autocratic Axis shared equal blame in the war.
During the Cold War, leftists wrote entire libraries blaming the western democracies for the entire conflict. In the most common formulation, communists were non-doctrinaire realists whereas democracies routinely acted from irrational hysteria, xenophobia and greed. This formulation reached its bizarre zenith during the Indochina war, which pitted the Soviet Union, China under Mao, North Vietnam under Ho Chi Min and the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot, against the traditionalist people of Indochina and democratic America. The sides couldn’t have been clearer. On one side totalitarian autocrats, and on the other side the world’s second-largest and oldest democracy and its increasingly democratic proteges. The Left came down firmly on the side of the autocrats, granting them victory. The resulting megacide, ethnic cleansing, 20 more years of war and general crushing poverty and oppression should have been easily predictable for any true believer in democracy, so why was the Left so surprised by the outcome? Perhaps more important, why do so many still insist that abandoning the people of Indochina represented a superior solution to continuing to support the region’s evolution toward free societies?
Nothing more typifies the Left’s seeming distrust for democracy today than its position on the decades long conflict between democratic Israel and the autocratic Arabic states and sub-national groups. The Left’s position boils down to one simple refrain: Over the last 60 years, democratic Israel has systematically made more selfish, stupid and generally inhumane decisions than have the autocratic Arabs. According the Left, the autocrats, most of them in power for life, have for decades been the ones making the best decisions about the conflict. Israel with its competitive elections, multiple political parties, rotating leadership, independent judiciary and free press systematically makes the bad decisions that perpetuate the conflict. The Left believes that the collective reasoning of millions of Israelis from all walks of life and political orientations systematically makes worse decisions than do a literal few hundred autocrats on the Arab side.
Clearly, as a person’s views move leftward from the center the contempt for liberal democracy grows. Leftists pay lip service to it but when push comes to shove they come down on the anti-democratic side virtually every time. Most of the evils of the world during the last 60 years arose and persisted as a result of the Left’s eagerness to turn its back on democracy. I think that those who generally support democracy should challenge leftists to explain themselves every time they choose autocracy.