Home > Afghanistan, Humour > Cargo cult democracy in Afghanistan

Cargo cult democracy in Afghanistan


Just after World War II a number of cargo cults started in the South Seas. During the war they had seen airplanes arrive with cargo to equip the troops. Once the war ended the troops left and the cargo stopped arriving. Seeking to remedy the situation they created airstrips. They carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in bamboo control towers. They waved the landing signals while standing on the runways. They lit signal fires and torches to light up runways. But it didn’t work. No airplanes landed. These cargo cults followed all the apparent precepts and forms of aviation, but they missed something essential, because the planes didn’t land.

A similar thing is happening in Afghanistan. There is a cult that has created ballot boxes and ballot papers. They’ve created polling stations and electoral registers. They’ve even created an electoral commission. And they think democracy will magically come to Afghanistan. But it’s not working. They’ve missed something essential.

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  1. Nick Webb
    Sep 16, 2009 at 10:20

    What do you think they’re missing?

  2. Martin Budden
    Sep 18, 2009 at 17:18

    Democracy is a system of government. That system contains many parts, including an electoral system. The electoral system is an important part of democracy, but by no means the only part. Students of political science may argue about the details, but all will agree that a democracy must contain at least some of the following: rule of law, an independent judiciary, vesting of power in elected officials, freedom of speech and association, a credible opposition, a free press and a bureaucracy that is not too corrupt. Of these rule of law is the most important: if voters’ safety and freedom from intimidation cannot be guaranteed then any vote is a sham.

    For me the acid test of a democracy is this: can the people in power be removed without violence?

    And that’s where it really falls down in Afghanistan. There is absolutely no possibility of democracy until the Afghans are asked the fundamental question: “Do you want the occupying forces to leave the country?”

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