Please note: This was written in England, and probably has more resonance with British readers.

Kakistocracy (kak-e-sto-kra-see): Government by the worst citizens.

The coming war has brought to light a discrepancy between the views of the world leaders and those they purport to represent. In so doing it has raised questions pertaining to the very nature of the democracies we live in. Is the purpose of democracy to elect a leader we trust to make all our decisions for us, with a number of checks to prevent him/her from going completely off the rails? Or is it a system by which we truly govern ourselves, with a few elected officials to handle the day-to-day matters of state? Should the Prime Minister/ President/ King/ Headmaster make his decisions according to what he believes is right, or according to what the majority of the populace believe is right? Or, as it appears now, according to what will get him re-elected? America’s policy of support for the Israelis is not really because of either of the first two, but because surveys show America’s Jewishpopulation produces a high voter turnout compared with the average American. The Bush Administration’s policy of cosying up to big business is more because George, his father and many of his cabinet are making their money from being on the boards on such companies.

Ahem. Sorry, back to what I was ranting about at the beginning: Democracy. I personally believe that all major choices should be decided via a referendum. Of course, when I say major, I do mean major, otherwise this could get real stupid real fast, for instance whether or not we should join the Euro merits a referendum, while whether or not security at Heathrow needs to be increased is something the Prime Minister, or even some Government aide, can handle quite easily. Personally I think that going to war is easily a serious enough proposition to need some sort of input from the people of Britain. It is, after all, our country. If the nations of Europe all decided to hold referendums on the war we would see some serious about-turning going on.

(The statistics coming up are all from a Gallup/Time poll) In France 60% of the population are opposed completely to war and a further 27% would only support a UN backed operation. In Germany those statistics are 50% and 39%; in Belgium, 68% and 23%; in Luxembourg 59% and 23% and in Russia, 59% and 23%. As you would expect, all of these countries are either against war or leaning to that side. This is where it gets weird: in Portugal 53% are completely opposed to war and 29% against a non-UN war. Their Government has pledged to support the war. So to in The Netherlands where 38% do not support a war and 51% only support a war with the UN’s seal of approval. The same in Bulgaria: 59% and 28%, Italy: 34% and 44%, Spain: 74% and 13% and Hungary with an incredible 76% opposed to war in any circumstance and a further 17% opposed to a non-UN sanctioned war. The undecided are Ireland with 39% and 50%, Norway with 57% and 23% and Finland with 44% and 37%. Poland and the Czech Republic were not polled but extrapolating from their nearest neighbours physically and culturally, i.e. the former Soviet bloc, you would expect that they are going to war, despite strong anti-war views among the people. You would be right. Finally there is England, who have pledged to follow Bush to the Middle East, UN or no UN. Here, 41% are completely opposed are 39% are opposed to war without international backing from the United Nations.

How does it feel to know that your opinion doesn’t matter? Why, with this level of uncertainty, and this level of opposition, are we going ahead with war, surely the last resort of any self-respecting nation? For a final thought before I finish, if nuclear weapons are the reason we are going to war with Iraq, why does this announcement only merit a tiny paragraph on the front page of The Telegraph: “The CIA said yesterday that North Korea had nuclear weapons and a missile which could carry them to the United States. This has been reported to the UN Security Council. Pg 14.” Why are we not going to North Korea?

(In case you were wondering, Pg 14 was about half a page including a large photo and was behind such earth-shaking events as the return home of a middle-aged teacher missing for 24 hours, the sale of one of Diana’s valentine cards from a few years ago and a scientist discovering the best way to kiss. The kissing article also received more space on the page and was longer.)

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