Sunday, July 17, 2005

Thomas Jefferson: Neocon

Christopher Hitchens wrote an interesting piece for the July 12th Wall Street Journal on Thomas Jefferson and his commitment to "export" democracy:

All through the years 2003 and 2004 one used to hear it: "So, you think your Iraqi friends are about to adopt Jeffersonian democracy . . ." (pause for hilarious nudge, sneer, snigger or wink). After a bit too much of this at one debate in downtown New York, I managed to buy some time, and even get a laugh, by riposting that Iraqi democracy probably wouldn't be all that "Jeffersonian," since none of my Iraqi comrades owned any slaves. But I was conscious, here, of trading partly in the stupid currency of my opponents. (I would now phrase matters a little more assertively: The United States has yet to elect a black or Jewish president, while the Iraqi Parliament chose a Kurd as its first democratically selected head of state, and did so even while the heaped corpses of his once-despised minority were still being exhumed from mass graves.)

If hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue, then the frequent linkage of the name "Jefferson" with the word "democracy" is impressive testimony, even from cynics, that his example has outlived his time and his place. To what extent does he deserve this rather flattering association of ideas?

The Export of Democracy


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I know of Jefferson, I would imagine if he were here today he would be more likely a Francophile pacifist or at least an isolationist. Federalists such as Hamilton or Adams would more likely be todays neo-cons.

4:28 PM  

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