A personal assessment of the transforming power of consultative democracy in the coming century.
Political advisor Ross (Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite, 2007, etc.) looks back at his disaffection with the British diplomatic service and resignation in the wake of the exposure, and subsequent suicide, of the government's top weapons-inspection scientist David Kelly. He had been intimately involved with Iraq sanctions and the buildup to war, as well as many other conflict situations, and he portrays the violence resulting from official "group think" with the Milgram experiment's proof of people's unquestioning potential for cruelty. The author provides many fascinating personal insights into the crises not only in Iraq, but also Afghanistan, Kosovo, Mauretania and Sudan. While many will be drawn to this aspect of his account, Ross' concern is not the past but the lessons to be applied now. In his view, the nation-state basis for the international diplomatic order has been undermined by the increasing power of particular interests acting through global institutions. Writing that society requires “authority in order to enjoy peace and stability,” Ross questions authority itself by pointing to some of the worst outrages in human history—e.g., Nazi Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union. In democracies as well, he writes, “the very rules and institutions established to protect us in fact do the opposite,” mainly because people tend to abdicate responsibility when they empower elected representatives to act on their behalf. Ross is an advocate for deliberative democracy—typified by Gandhi's nonviolent movement against the British in the 1920s and ’30s—which he distinguishes from terrorism, anarchism and representative government.
Intriguing but not entirely convincing. Stay tuned to see if the author's contentions play out in the next decade or so.